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Bitter End
About the Author: A freelance writer and novelist, Anne Stephenson spent much of her childhood reading about other people's adventures. Now she makes up her own.

It was two o’clock in the morning on the eleventh of August and no one, except Louise Tellier Hannington Brown, had any idea where I was.

She’d called me out of the blue a week ago, unhappy with her lawyer, her husband’s lawyer and her impending divorce. I should have hung up immediately but we’d known each other since high school and I owed her one.

“If you think Ted’s hiding something on his boat, Louise, why don’t you just go down to the marina and check it out?”

I heard the flick of a lighter on the other end of the line. Louise smoked when she was agitated. I drank coffee. Pouring myself another cup, I walked out onto my back deck. It was going to be a scorcher.

I wiggled my bare feet in the sun. The nail polish might be a little chipped around the edges, but, all in all, I was doing pretty well.

Unlike the rest of us, Louise had been racking up her assets the old-fashioned way. Ted Brown was her third, and wealthiest, husband to date.

Brilliant and ruggedly good-looking, Ted had been at the forefront of the high-tech industry, launching first one company with his partners, and then another. Now he wanted to kick back and cruise the Caribbean. Without Louise.

“His lawyer’s slapped me with a restraining order! Can you believe it?” She exhaled angrily into the phone.

“What’d you do? Beat the guy up?” I watched Marm, my three-year-old ginger cat, chase a black squirrel out of the yard.

“I got tired of leaving messages on his machine so I went down to the marina. The guard wouldn’t let me past the front gate …”

“… and?” The squirrel was back, sneaking along the fence, a kamikaze rodent in black fur, searching for his target.

“What was I supposed to do? Say ‘thank you very much’ and go home?”

Apparently, she’d torn a strip off the guard, thrown her BMW into reverse and blocked the entrance to the parking lot, refusing to leave until the club manager had threatened her with the police. They’d called Ted. He’d called his lawyer and now Louise was calling me.

I went inside for a notebook. I’d worked off and on for years as a chartered accountant before specializing in the relatively new field of forensic accounting. I learned my trade at one of the biggest firms in the country, tracking “hidden” assets and investigating fraud. Now I was on my own, picking up enough business to pay my rent and my share of raising the kids.

Meagan and Patrick, my fifteen-year-old twins. At the moment, they were vacationing with their father in Cape Cod. Which suited me well. If I was going to get involved with Louise, I’d rather they were safely out of town.

To be honest, I felt a little squeamish about delving into Ted and Louise’s personal affairs, but under the latest family law legislation, she had a claim on half the assets Ted had accumulated during their six-year marriage.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why Louise wanted access to the Yellow Goose. Ted’s financial declaration, according to her calculations, was out by a few million dollars. If he was hiding something, it would, in all likelihood, be aboard the Yellow Goose, the one constant in his life.

“I can’t just sail into a strange marina.”

“Why not?”

“At the very least, it’s trespassing.”

“It’s not as though you haven’t been there before …” if sarcasm was a liquid, Louise’s phone must be dripping with it.

I picked up a pen and started doodling. “You talking about the Somerset Yacht Club?”

“Don’t play dumb, Stevie. It doesn’t suit you.”

Oh, but it did. When it came to affairs of the heart, I was a total incompetent. Just ask my ex-husband, John Carston.

I’d married him when I was twenty-one, juggling kids and career to put him through law school. Twelve years later, we’d divorced. I’d kept his name and the kids. Since then, I’d had a few serious relationships, but none of them had panned out.

Then a year ago last spring, I’d bumped into Ted at the local boat show. He and Louise had split after a major row, and I was at loose ends having been without a partner for about a year. His offer to go sailing was irresistible. But by the end of the summer, he was back with Louise and I was in dry dock. The next spring I’d bought a boat of my own, the Indigo Blue, a twenty-four-foot Shark with a sweet cut to her jib.

This story appears in our MAY 2016 Issue
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Reader Discussion

Great story!
By Benjamin Clark

Loved your story; very well written. I was with the protagonist all the way and I thought the ending was great.
By Barbara Hunt

Well done! The ending makes the story. Impressive.
By Nancy Sweetland

Really liked your story. Loved the pace and you engaged me into the mystery through an interesting protagonist.
By Janice Alonso

Writing is clear and I was pleasantly surprised to find the sailing terminology minimal and not a problem in the storyline. Ms. Stephenson is a good writer, and I felt only a slight stiffness in her style, which will probably disappear with some experience to lend some ease. I would be glad to read more of her work and see how she develops.
By Carolynn Padgett

I found "Bitter End" to be a pleasant diversion and I will probably reread it a couple of times. For me, that's a lot of investment for a piece of fiction, but I think she's worth it1 I recommend "Bitter End" as a short story mystery, and Anne Stephenson as a writer.
By Carolynn Padgett

I liked the story. Loved the "revenge" ending.
By Frances Dunn

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