Secrets of Beddelac Island is a cozy mystery by murder mystery author, Joni Green. Beddelac is an island paradise that holds many secrets. Murder mystery author, cozy mystery, murder mystery kindle books, murder mystery series, fiction books, fiction author, beach mystery books, cozy mystery book
The hole was good and deep, and the shovel disappeared into its inky darkness. She ripped off her bloody jacket and threw it in the pit, too. Burning might be better, but she couldn’t risk a fire getting away from her. The wind picked up strands of hair and blew them across her face. Grains of sand stung her skin like crazy.
She smiled. It was easy to hide what she’d done. The soil was loose. She stood up and inspected her work. Nice. She stared back at the house. It looked dead. Not a soul stirred. The windows were black. Lifeless. Everyone was asleep. Even better. It would be a cinch to sneak back in unnoticed.
A shiver skittered up her spine.
If only he would come, she thought.
It would be alright – if only Kevin would come.
She walked into the dark house, bumping into a table and knocking over the photograph of Aunt Lydia as she passed by.
Years later . . .
“What’s the matter with you?” Brenda said.
“Nothing,” Zack said, taking the hatchet and burying it underneath some blankets in the back of the van.
It was safe.
And even better, his wife hadn’t suspected a thing.
They’d never argued so heatedly before in their entire marriage. Brenda could not believe the hateful things her husband had said to her. But she was also shocked by the cruel things that spewed out of her mouth in response. Zack wasn’t himself. Neither was she. Edgy. Irritable. They both were. In fact, the whole family was.
It’s the snow, thought Brenda. It has to be the snow. It has everyone wired.
She hastily packed the remaining bags and threw them into the back of the van. She rushed to get the kids’ coats on. She made herself move in overdrive. Everything was so slapdash. She cursed herself for putting this off, but procrastination was one of her strong suits. She hardly knew which way she was going. What had she forgotten? Plenty, probably.
“Hurry up, Brenda. We’re running late!”
Why couldn’t he wait one more day? Just one more day? The world wouldn’t come to an end. There was still plenty of time left for this vacation.
Zack was already warming up the car. His gloved hands drummed a steady rhythm on the steering wheel. His fingers were a blur, beating out his inner impatience. His mouth was set in a grim, straight line.
“We should have been on the road hours ago,” he said in a flat voice. “It’s not like I didn’t have all my stuff packed and ready.”
“You don’t have two little monsters to deal with either,” she said.
Zack rolled his eyes.
“Why do you always wait until the last minute? Hurry up, will ya’? I’m wasting a ton of gas.”
“I’m going as fast as I can, Zack. It’s not like I’m swamped with help or anything.”
Zack remained silent. He’d worked his keister off getting the van ready. Tires. Oil. The whole nine yards. The kids were her responsibility. He took a deep breath and looked up at the gray sky. He’d been telling her all week to do a little along, but Brenda was so easily distracted. She’d go off in twenty directions and fail to finish one thing. But then again, he thought, he knew she was like that when he married her. He’d laughed at her then when it seemed cute. Now, after so many years of marriage, his humor was wearing thin.
He didn’t look her in the eyes. That would come later, Brenda guessed. After things calmed down. After the apologies. After they’d made up in the bedroom.
She didn’t say a word either. No sense starting World War III all over again. She felt totally exhausted, and they hadn’t even started on their holiday.
Why couldn’t you wait until tomorrow?
The seatbelt buckled against Kaylea’s stomach with an unusually loud ‘snap.’ Jimmy was already secured in his and contented himself with rolling a small toy car up and down his leg. She got in, adjusted her belt, and shut the door. A bit harder than she’d meant to, but she still gave Zack the silent treatment.
Then, Kaylea started to cry. The baby hated to ride. Brenda had never figured out if it was the motion of the van or the fact that Kaylea was strapped in like a prisoner in a straitjacket. Didn’t matter the reason, she guessed. She glanced over at Zack. The bongo drums on the steering wheel routine had stopped, but he had a funny look on his face. Brenda prayed he wouldn’t explode. His fits of anger were starting to get as bad as hers.
Were they both unraveling?
Zack saw stars before his eyes. A steady, throbbing pain was beginning to boil over right behind his eyes. It had started with their first fight earlier that morning. Brenda had done so little to get ready for the trip that Zack feared his kids would be running around the cabin like naked savages. She was so lazy. Just this once, he’d hoped she wouldn’t disappoint him. He loved her. He loved his kids, but he couldn’t help but wonder what his life would be like without all this hassle.
The knot inside his brain was tightening. For a fleeting second, he wondered if he might have a tumor. The pain was worsening. A cranky, crying baby only made it worse. Would his head burst? He had to make it go away. He had to. He needed this trip to the backcountry. Back to nature. Away from the stress of everyday problems.
He closed his eyes and gripped the wheel. The feeling passed. He relaxed a little. The pain eased off. He cranked the car and carefully crept out of the driveway.
What a way to start a vacation, Brenda thought. What a rotten, crummy way.
In one way, she wished they weren’t going. How she longed to be nestled snug in her bed with Zack’s warm body beside her and nothing to do but piddle around the house and play with the kids the whole time. We had been happy once, she reflected. Why did it seem like a lifetime ago?
Brenda gave Kaylea a bottle, and she settled down for a nap.
“I thought you threw those things away two months ago,” Zack said. “You’re going to ruin her teeth.”
“I saved a couple for the ride,” Brenda said. “I know how cranky she gets.”
What a little angel, Brenda thought.
“It’s okay,” she said. “When we get home, they all go in the can. I promise.”
“Are we there, yet?” Jimmy asked, fifteen minutes into the journey. “Daddy, are we almost there?”
“A little while yet to go, Champ,” Zack said.
“Aw, smack my donkey with a feather flyswatter. We’ve been riding for a million-gazillion hours!”
Brenda smiled, in spite of her black mood. Her lessons with Jimmy about ways to creatively curse were paying off.
“Look, Babe,” Brenda said, “I’m sorry. Let’s forget it. We’re all antsy. It’s the snow.”
“Umm,” he said.
“Just be careful, honey. The roads aren’t the greatest.”
“You gonna teach me to build fires in the fireplace, Daddy?” Jimmy asked. “And chop wood? You promised, Daddy.”
“You betcha, Champ.”
“The jury’s still out on that, Jimmy,” said Brenda. “I think you’re a little young, yet.”
“Aw, Mom. Kaylea’s the baby. Not me. Dad!”
“Don’t worry, son,” Zack said. “By the time we get there, I’ll have your mom in such a good mood she’ll be wrapped around my finger.”
“We’ll turn you into Paul Bunyan,” Zack said.
“I think I feel a conspiracy in the making,” Brenda said.
“Con-spur-racy,” said Jimmy. “Daddy, are you con-spur-ra-seeing mom?”
Brenda laughed out loud. She couldn’t help it. The dour mood was lifting. This might not be so bad, after all. The whole family could use a break. Nobody could deny it. Zack had been busting his butt at work, and this new promotion would finally give them a little breathing room financially.
This trip meant so much to her husband. He would never come out and admit it, but Brenda knew Zack. He needed it. She did too. She fiddled with the radio and found something she liked, turned the volume down some, and settled back into her seat.
Zack was driving slowly. Great. He was taking her words of caution to heart. There was plenty of time. Nice and slow. Everything would be okay. She didn’t realize she’d drifted off to sleep until the piercing noise of screaming kids broke the revelry of her dream.
The car was spinning out of control!
Zack held the wheel in a white-knuckle death grip trying to make steering corrections that would keep the van on the road. But it was no use. They were whirling around in 360º circles. Brenda screamed along with everyone else. Would their torture never end, she wondered, in the split seconds it took Zack to lose control on the patch of black ice?
The car toppled over and over like a barrel floating down Niagara Falls. Brenda lost consciousness. When she came to, she looked over at Zack. His side of the van was crushed into the mountain. They were upside down, and it was eerily quiet. The snow was falling silently through her broken window – fluffy flakes of wetness.
How can it be so still?
There was a blurry mist inside her brain. As her muddled mind cleared, she remembered.
She had to act.
The interior of the van was drenched in blood. It looked like she was sitting in the middle of a war zone. Kaylea was screaming at the top of her lungs. Jimmy was whimpering. Brenda felt like her body had gone through a blender. She willed herself to move. She groped for the handle. Her hands felt like flippers. Her fingers were cold and unwieldy. The door stayed put. Stuck. Unlatching her seatbelt, she pulled hard and forced the door open with her shoulder.
Pain seared through her like a hot knife. Maybe she had a broken collar bone, but she did not have time to notice. She stepped outside, and her footing slipped away. She fell flat on the ice. Fat snowflakes plopped on her face. She blinked them out of her eyes. It took her a few seconds to recover from having the wind knocked out. She was still punch drunk. The wind picked up.
What was that smell?
It was hard to say. Her brain was still trying to shake off the fuzzies, although it seemed the fog was clearing a little.
Her bloody hand scraped at the exterior handle on the van’s side door. She wrenched it open to get to her babies. Kaylea was safe in her car seat, screaming at the top of her lungs in a piercing wail. Perhaps, she was alright. Brenda started talking softly to the frightened child, calm soothing words of reassurance.
“You’re okay, baby girl,” she said. “Mama’s here. It’s going to be alright. Shhh. You’re okay.”
Her frozen fingers struggled to unlatch her little girl from the restraints of the car seat. Both hands were still working as if they belonged to someone else. At last, her fingers obeyed her commands, and the baby was free. She held her close. Brenda skated and slipped and slid her child to safety across the other side of the road. She glanced up and down the lonely stretch of highway.
Why couldn’t you have just waited until tomorrow? Why? Why? Why?
She shook the question from her head. Kaylea screamed in anger as Brenda turned to head back to the wreckage. She ignored her baby’s cries.
What was that?
Her head cleared.
Brenda tried to run toward the wreckage but ended up on her knees. She cursed the ice that would only let her move forward at a snail’s pace. Jimmy and Zack were in their seats. Jimmy, still whimpering, looked at his mother. His eyes were wide with fear. His face was chalky white.
How badly was he hurt?
It was impossible to tell.
“Zack! Jimmy!” Brenda screamed. “Get out!”
Jimmy began unbuckling his seatbelt. She helped the little boy out of the van.
“Watch the ice, baby,” she said. “It’s as slick as glass. Go to Kaylea! Go! Look after your sister, Jimmy!”
Zack’s face was ashen. He stared at Brenda and shook his head.
“It’s no use, Babe. I can’t move. I’ve tried. God knows, I’ve tried, but I’m trapped,” he croaked.
Brenda clawed at the seatbelt that hogtied her husband down. The smoke was thick and acrid.
“Help me, Zack,” she yelled through her tears.
In the instant before she might lose it, she felt the buckle release under her bloody hand. She reached across the driver’s seat to help Zack. His leg was wedged against the crumpled metal of the van and the rocks on the side of the mountain. She was coughing and crying all at the same time. The flames were licking the underside of the dashboard.
Oh god, oh god, oh god.
From out of nowhere, two strong, gloved hands pulled her from the wreckage.
“Get outta’ here! It’s gonna blow!” a stranger was screaming.
Brenda was frantic.
“Nooooo,” she said, losing her footing and falling onto the passenger seat.
The stranger jerked her from the burning hulk of metal and half-dragged, half-carried her across the other side of the road to safety.
There was a loud crack from an explosion. A black ball of fire and smoke billowed from the wreck. The heat from the fireball was wilting. The man felt the woman go limp in his arms.
She had passed out.
“How do you think she’ll do?” Brenda’s father asked as they drove away from the beach house. “I’m really worried about her.”
“Me, too,” Sarah said. “It’s going to take time.”
“These things don’t mend overnight,” Ned said.
Sarah bit at a stray piece of skin that hung to her finger.
“I won’t lie to you. I’m worried,” he said.
The skin ripped down her nail. She grabbed a Kleenex from her purse to stem the bleeding.
“That episode Brenda had when she left for college still makes me shudder,” Ned said. “I called in a lot of favors to make that one disappear. It was one of her worst.”
“We should never have forced her to leave the island,” Sarah said.
You know how she feels about this place.”
“Second guessing doesn’t do anyone any good,” he said. “Besides, we’re not perfect. We’re only her parents, and we did what we thought was best for her at the time.”
“I suppose,” she said. “It’s funny, but I think Brenda would have been perfectly content to grow old on Beddelac.”
“I think she would have gone mad,” Ned said.
The clouds were hanging low in the sky, steely gray and heavy. They had a claustrophobic feel about them, as if at any moment, they would fall from the sky and smother everyone on the earth below.
Ned kept his hands on the wheel. It was so easy to get distracted. Keep your mind on the road, he kept repeating to himself. The crease between his eyebrows deepened. He pursed his lips. The corners of his mouth made a marked turn south, and his eyes darkened. He had more pressing worries to think about. He stared straight ahead. Sarah sighed but didn’t press him.
Brenda’s timing was impeccable, he brooded.
It was meant to be a sarcastic thought, but there was some truth in it. She couldn’t have possibly picked a worse time to fall apart. Rumors were swirling. His colleagues were going to start an investigation into some campaign contributions Ned had received during the last election. There were allegations he’d used them for personal expenses.
Peabody let that slip last week. Not that Ned hadn’t had a sick, sinking feeling they were going to nail him. He should have been more careful, but at the time, he had a feeling of invincibility that made him seem untouchable. He was riding a wave of incredible good fortune. Now, the ocean had drained dry. Political winds were shifting. It was suddenly chic to be a goody two-shoes again.
Ned gritted his teeth. The money was gone. And it was a large amount. Too much to be discreetly put back. Not without some pesky watchdog noticing and calling him out. Coming on top of the spotlight that a deranged daughter would bring . . . Ned cleared his throat and swallowed the bile that rose up suddenly.
“Even though he’s dead, I still can’t help but blame Zack for most of Brenda’s problems,” Sarah said.
“He was a deadbeat.”
“He never was understanding and sympathetic where she was concerned,” Sarah said.
Sarah’s voice droned on and on. It lulled him into a stupor. The car drifted. Ned overcorrected but maintained control. Sarah ignored the bumpy ride. Ned was a horrific driver. But it was no use saying anything. Sarah was a much worse driver than he was. He’d only throw that fact up to her.
“If he hadn’t insisted on traveling that day, none of this would have happened. Where was Zack’s common sense?”
“Never had any as far as I could tell,” he said.
“It was practically a blizzard. If he didn’t care about himself or Brenda, you’d at least think he would have thought about his children and their safety.”
“I wish she’d never married that jerk,” he said.
“Jerk, is right,” said Sarah.
“What she saw in that loser, I’ll never know,” Ned said.
Ned spat out of the open window.
“I know,” she said. “I never understood, either. Still, all their problems aren’t all Zack’s fault, I guess. Brenda was to blame, too. Not about the wreck, but about other things.”
“What do you mean?”
“Why did she ever let herself get pregnant again after Jimmy? Jimmy was an accident.”
“Do we really have to discuss this?” he asked.
“It’s the reason I believe she married Zack. She did it for you, Ned.”
“How do you figure that?” Ned asked. “You can’t blame me for that.”
“I’m not blaming you exactly.”
“I’m the one who talked to her until I was blue in the face. I’m her father, for goodness sake! I never wanted her to marry that sleazebag and move across the country.”
“I know, dear. It’s not your fault. But I believe it’s all tied up to your followers.”
“What are you talking about?”
“They are very conservative and moral people,” Sarah said. “Folks may claim we live in an enlightened age, but frankly, I don’t think a grandchild born out of wedlock would have sat well with your constituency.”
“You’re probably right,” Ned said, thinking about the possibility of those hearings.
It was ironic. How had he let himself fall so far into the mire? He shook his head. It was unbelievable. But Sarah was still droning on. What was she saying? He tuned back into her conversation.
“But Kaylea wasn’t unplanned,” Sarah said. “Brenda wanted desperately to have that second baby, and I don’t understand why.”
“She’s crazy. That’s why.”
“It seemed like the worst time of all to have a new baby to me.”
“I think I see where you’re going,” Ned said.
“The interest on Zack’s college loans was eating them alive,” Sarah said.
Ned was letting Sarah’s voice fade into the background. It was pretty evident where her logic was going. He remembered that first night with Barb. She’d made him feel like he hadn’t felt in so long.
“Don’t you agree?”
“Huh,” Ned said.
“They had Kaylea at the wrong time.”
“They’d just bought that big house. They were already starting to have problems. I could tell by the way he was acting, Zack was having second thoughts. How could a second child have possibly made their situation better?”
“I tried to warn her not to bite off more than she could chew,” Ned said, trying not to think of Claire.
He missed her so much it hurt.
“I asked her why she didn’t take precautions after Jimmy,” Sarah said. “All I could ever get out of her was that she liked the way pregnancy made her feel.”
“Made her feel? What kind of reason is that?” Ned said.
“An insane one.”
“It’s like she loves digging herself deeper into a hole,” Ned said. “And I’ll be damned if I could get her to see things sensibly. Talking to our daughter is like talking to a brick wall, sometimes.”
Sarah picked at the button on her collar. Was it a hot flash or just hot in this car? The heat felt like it was boiling up around her neck. It had to be a hundred degrees in here. Or else it just felt like it because her body was baking in a hot flash.
She would have loved to turn the AC on. It was hard to breathe, but she knew Ned would only gripe about the poor gas mileage. It wasn’t a point of not being able to afford the extra gas or even helping the environment so much as a control thing. Sarah fanned her face with a flyer she kept in the car for that purpose and tried to forget she felt like she was on the verge of passing out.
She determined she’d suffer in silence if it killed her. Ned was in a black mood, and it involved more than Brenda. It was impossible for Sarah to guess exactly what else was bothering her husband. He never confided in her anymore. The rift that had slowly come between them felt wider than the Grand Canyon. Maybe a cigarette would help.
“I know what she was thinking, Sarah,” Ned said.
He shook his head.
“She thought dear old daddy’s pockets would be deep enough to get her out of any mess she made. If her butt was in a sling, no worries, Daddy would fix everything.”
“We spoiled her tremendously,” said Sarah.
“She’s not a child.”
“She was always so head strong,” Sarah said.
“Some things in her personality were beyond our control. Still, I’ll never understand why she falls off the cliff, sometimes. That episode in San Francisco nearly cost me the election.”
“I know,” said Sarah, blushing at the thought.
Funny, how things that happened decades ago could still affect her so much.
“There’s only so much I can do for her. I love her, but I have to let her go, you know?’
“Umm,” she said.
“I have tried and tried to get that girl to stand on her own two feet. I told her when she married Zack, she was on her own.”
“I remember that conversation, Ned.”
“When I gave her away at her wedding, I gave her away,” he said. “She was all Zack’s, just the way she wanted it. I really don’t think she thought I meant it. But I have you and me to think about. And most importantly, there’s my career.”
“I know,” she said, shaking her head, sadly. “You’re absolutely right, and what could we do? She has to make her own mistakes. We can only do so much.”
“I hate to say it, Sarah, and don’t you ever repeat this to a living soul, but I can’t say I’m too sorry Zack’s gone,” Ned said. “I really can’t. That guy was only trouble. Pure T trouble.”
“I feel the same way. I just wonder what will happen to those two little kids.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I really can’t concentrate on that right now.”
“Thank God for the island house. That’s all I can say.”
Sarah remembered looking back at the little boy standing on the front porch as they’d driven away. She waved, but Jimmy just stared at the car as it got smaller and smaller. His face was gray. His expression was flat. The large bandage he wore around his forehead looked like a turban.
“Missy’s going to have her hands full,” she muttered.
“Missy will be fine,” Ned said. “She’s been a trusted member of our household for over twenty years.”
“She’s not as young as she used to be,” Sarah said.
“Neither are we,” said Ned. “We’ve got to hurry. If we miss the last ferry, we’ll be stuck here overnight.”
“Kaylea was no pleasure,” she said.
“All she wants is for someone to hold her.”
Brenda’s mother sighed. Ned was right. They needed to get back home. The Delmarins were throwing a banquet for Ned’s re-election campaign kickoff, and it would be a disaster to miss it because they were delayed on the island. Harold Delmarin was one of Ned’s staunchest supporters.
Brenda had made her bed when she married that horrible lowlife. Shuttling off Brenda and her kids to the island was a good thing, Sarah reminded herself. It would give Brenda a chance to heal.
Her only child certainly seemed to be falling apart again since the accident. There was a darkness in Brenda that no one could seem to lighten. Ned said it was for the best. Brenda’s grief had been so over the top. The press had mentioned it several times in their releases over the last few days.
Sarah shuttered when she thought of the scenes her daughter had made at the cemetery. Brenda’s grief had gone beyond the natural displays of a mourning widow. They were embarrassing.
Brenda was inconsolable. Sarah remembered her Aunt Lydia. Sarah’s mother had whispered many times of Lydia’s sudden disappearances. Sarah learned later that Lydia had been committed to mental institutions. She saw the shadow of Aunt Lydia hovering over Brenda. Things like that ran in families, so they said.
She glanced at Ned intently watching the road and speeding up to ensure they made it on time to catch that last ferry. The last ferry. The last link to civilization. The closer they got to the other side of the island, the more the ache in her shoulders eased off. The stress was enormous. Her fear for Ned was palatable.
He couldn’t afford to have questions about his daughter’s sanity brought up now. The election was looming. He’d worked too hard for everything he’d achieved to have Brenda throw a wrench in his plans now. He was seriously considering running for president during the next election cycle. But first, he had to win this contest and silence his critics.
The kids would adjust, she reminded herself. Kids were resilient. She didn’t worry too much about Jimmy and Kaylea. The island was a whole different world from what they were used to, but they were young and malleable. Brenda might not fare too well. She hadn’t so far. Sarah meant what she’d said. Missy was going to have her hands full. But hiding them away at the beach house was the only solution Ned could think of.
“This is making the best of a bad situation,” he said.
Ned only hoped Brenda would come around and prove him right. If she didn’t, he didn’t know what would happen to her. A dark vision of an incredibly large building flickered in front of his eyes.
Sarah’s Aunt Lydia.
I hope you enjoyed this part.
Murder mystery author, cozy mystery, murder mystery kindle books, murder mystery series, fiction books, fiction author, beach mystery books, cozy mystery book