"Yes, I was the first responder to the scene," he said solemnly and with an air of authority. "I arrived less than oh-five minutes after the call. But there was nothing I could do, he was already DOA."
"Well, I've no doubt you would have done everything you could have," said Antonia sympathetically. She patted his shoulder warmly. "But obviously there's not a whole lot you can do when someone suffers a massive heart attack and dies before you get there."
"Right," said Matt, nodding, his face oddly empty of emotion.
"If it was a heart attack," said Sylvia. She nudged her spoon into her husband's crisp and took a huge bite for herself.
"Mom," warned Matt, rolling his eyes. "Let's not go there." Sylvia shrugged and put her hand to her lips to block the view of food while she talked with her mouth full. "Didn't you say, sweetie, that you thought he died of a bee sting?"
Matt squirmed uncomfortably. "Official cause of death was a heart attack."
"Yes, but one that was brought on by a bee sting," prompted Sylvia. She dove into her husband's dessert for another bite.
"Yes, I did suspect that," said Matt officiously. "He had a red welt on his cheek at the two o'clock position, and his face was inflamed concurrent with an allergic reaction. But that idea wasn't pursued."
"Why not?" asked Antonia, vaguely intrigued by this new information, gossip or not. She motioned for a busboy to refill the Powers' water glasses.
Matt rolled his eyes. "The family didn't want to. Didn't want an autopsy. But it was December, and who gets stung by a bee in December?" He was indignant.
Antonia nodded. "I guess that is strange."
"They thought I was an alarmist, being swayed by the whole reputation of the inn..." he continued.
"Um, Matthew..." his mother interrupted. She widened her eyes and shook her head.
Admonished, Matt abruptly stopped speaking. Sylvia shifted uncomfortably in her chair, and Len shoved a large bite of crisp into his mouth. Antonia glanced at each of them quizzically.
"What is the reputation of the inn?" she asked finally.
Matt looked past her at the wall. "Um, nothing, just an old superstition."
"What's the superstition?" pressed Antonia.
Sylvia sighed. "It's nothing, just a silly thing. And we all know that old stories like that are nothing more than stories. Someone wanted to concoct a ghost story and that's all it was."
"But what was it?" asked Antonia again.
"I wouldn't worry about it, dear," said Sylvia in a cool, reassuring voice (one that she probably used on her third graders at the John Marshall School). "I tell you, it's nothing."
"You can't leave me hanging!" Antonia said in a light voice, although underneath, her heart was racing. "Come on, now, help me out. I bought this place sight unseen eight months ago on the advice of my friend Genevieve. I moved all the way from Petaluma to East Hampton, a town that I had never stepped foot in. Then I poured every last penny I could to get it up and running. I have eight guestrooms and a restaurant, and a dozen full-time employees. I need to know every facet of the inn's reputation so I know what I'm up against."
Antonia blinked her long lashes several times and smiled brightly, in an effort to alleviate the panic she was feeling. Ever since she'd bought the inn, she had been experiencing moments of extreme nervousness and self-doubt, basically questioning her impulsivity. Had she made a mistake? Perhaps she should have been more suspicious of how quickly the sister of the deceased had accepted her low-ball offer. She had congratulated herself on a steal, but maybe she had
been the one who was swindled? She wished she would have done more research, but she always became completely restless whenever she was in front of a computer. Honestly, she found the internet to be a colossal waste of time in regard to everything excluding searching for recipes or antiques. But perhaps if she had taken time to Google Gordon Haslett's death, she wouldn't be having this conversation.
The Powers family all glanced at each other uneasily. Finally, Len spoke. He held his fork in the air, indicating he would be brief so that he could return to his dessert.
"The story about the Windmill Inn is that the owners die under suspicious circumstances. Now, it's just a story, makes the place more dramatic."
"I actually think one of the previous owners conjured it up just to attract some business," added Sylvia quickly. "I mean, I taught some of the kids of one of the owners, there was nothing there, oh dear, now wait..."
She stopped speaking, as if remembering something.