Detective Lieutenant Beston, you simply must understand, it was never about the money,” she says, her husky voice resonant with enough sincerity to assail, but not assuage, my suspicion. “I agreed to sail away with Vaughn because I love him, and trust he loves me.”
There’s a slight chance she’s telling the truth, though my bet is she’ll never set sail again—or see a cent of his money. The evidence is piling up.
Amanda Mulher is one complex lady. Somewhere between thirty-five and forty, she poses a slew of contradictions for a guy like me. Her understated, classic wardrobe broadcasts good taste, yet a smoldering sensuality just below the surface suggests so much more. If you take a good look, those expensively tailored suits are hiding something. And that’s what I’m paid to do, take a good look at every last detail. I’m damn good at it, too—and I’m not talking fashion.
She’s not a high-priced call girl—old news given the hordes of working “ladies” here in Grand Bahama. She’s not one of their “altar” egos, either. By that, I mean the hordes of trophy wives holed up in gated communities along the shore. No, Ms. Mulher’s in a class by herself. Like no one I’ve ever met. Because of that, I can’t scuttle a hunch she’s not who she says she is. Maybe I’m out of my league, but my instincts tell me there’s more to her than I’ve gotten out of her. Yet.
I’ve seldom seen a woman so comfortable in her own skin. Even after hours of questioning, every glance, every gesture, is captivating. Not studied or provocative, just charming and incredibly self-possessed. She’s more than at ease; she’s savoring every moment life has to offer—even while being grilled for hours in this dump.
There’s fun to be had with Amanda Mulher. That’s for sure. She’s got a terrific wit, she’s smart, and she treats me as if I’m the only man in the world. I’m not the greatest authority on feminine wiles, but even I can tell she’s quite the package. No doubt, she’d make some guy truly happy—until she killed him, that is.
What I’m trying to say is I’m pretty damn sure she murdered Vaughn Kreisler. He’s been missing for nearly two weeks, and things don’t look so good for him making a comeback. According to the Boston FBI, he left one hell of a life behind, a multimillion-dollar company he started from scratch, a society wife with an impeccable pedigree, a waterfront house in Marblehead, Mass., a townhouse in Boston, and a winter getaway in Kauai. The way I see things, it would take one hell of a woman to get him to slip his mooring line. I think I know who, and, the more time I spend in Ms. Mulher’s company, why.
Kreisler’s disappearance is a sensation back in the States. The tabloids run something on the case almost every day. It all began when his wife found a note at the summer place that said, “Forgive me.” That was it. They’d recently separated, but even before that she’d paid little attention to his frequent absences, so she just figured he’d had an attack of remorse.
Three more days passed before she stumbled onto the fact that he’d vanished without a trace—at least that’s what she told the Feds. She found a hell of a lot when she finally put two and two together. He’d closed his bank accounts and sold his shares of the company, as well as several investment properties. What’s more, all proceeds had been wired offshore.
There was some consolation in the midst of all this: a brokerage account in her name with a recent deposit of fifty mil. A pleasant surprise for most folks; but it appears the little woman isn’t satisfied. When you think about it, why wouldn’t she try for more? If he’s proved dead, she gets it all. If they divorce, she could get as much as half. Seems worth the extra effort to me.
With all the cars accounted for, no trace with private jet services or public airlines, and his fifty-footer still moored off the Corinthian Yacht Club, the wife was at a loss. Then a yacht broker called to ask how they liked their brand-new eight-eight-footer, the Last Chance.
Dawn over Marblehead, as the saying goes. Lois Kreisler called the police. The locals got lucky right from the start. They learned Last Chance was delivered at night—fully provisioned down to the last detail—and departed at dawn the very next morning for points unknown.
Apparently, an old duffer overnighting at the next mooring got up early to hang it over the side. Midstream, he was taken aback to see a tall, beautiful, buxom woman board Last Chance. As he finished up and settled in to watch, the goddess raised her sails, dropped the mooring pennant—tossed it from the bow like a bridal bouquet is the way he told it—then, with no help, tacked through a harbor crowded with high-end yachts. All this without auxiliary power, against the tide in a light breeze, just as the sun rose, as if she had something—or someone—to hide.
The theory is Kreisler was below decks. The question is why wasn’t he at the helm of his brand-new yacht? Lots of millionaires get kidnapped for ransom, and some don’t live to tell the tale. As a result, the Feds consider him a missing person—until he turns up somewhere dead or alive, that is. This makes the woman sailor a person of interest to the FBI and, subsequently, yours truly. How much do you want to bet the babe at the helm was our Ms. Mulher?
According to the Feds, Lois is furious about the other woman and insists Kreisler’s still alive, or—if you read between the lines—will be until she kills him herself. I don’t mean to sound so negative; it’s just I’ve learned to expect the worst. An occupational hazard, I guess. As some smart-ass once said, “An optimist is frequently disappointed, a pessimist sometimes pleasantly surprised.” I’ll take pessimism every time—you’ve got no place to go but up.