The Mystery of Seagrass Island (Chapter 4)
Traffic going back onto the island was backed up but eventually they got across the long bridge which stretched across a small bit of the Atlantic Ocean. Here salt water and fresh water mingled together and a wide variety of wildlife was present including the alligators that Margie watched laying on the banks sunbathing. Their world was fine. They had no worries. We could learn a thing or two from the animals, she thought.
As they drove closer and closer to their home, the amount of clean up that was going to have to happen became clearer. Police officers stood around directing traffic and answering questions as needed.
Margie and Lloyd were thrilled to see that their house still stood. It was 150 years old and had withstood many other storms but you just never knew. The new storm shutters that they recently installed had held up wonderfully and were so easy to lock down when the time came to leave. There were a few large branches in the yard from the neighbors pine trees but their collection of palm trees looked as fine as ever.
“Well, Margie, what do you say about going in and checking on stuff and then seeing what we can do for our neighbors?” Lloyd said.
Margie smiled and said, “I think that is a wonderful idea, Lloyd. I’m sorry if I don’t tell you often enough, but you are such a wonderful husband and I am proud to be your wife.”
“Awww, shucks,” said Lloyd bashfully as he got out of the car, happy to be home.
After putting away their luggage, Margie and Lloyd sat on their back porch admiring the view and sipping on ice water. The familiar sounds of the birds singing in the trees was soothing. It was hard to believe that a hurricane had recently ravaged the island.
“Hellooo!” a high pitched voice called out as it rounded the side of their rambling island house. “Anyone home?”
Margie and Lloyd both recognized the short auburn hair that bobbed around the bottom of their porch rails.
“Oh, hi Anna,” said Margie. “It is so good to see you.”
They met on the steps with a hug. Lloyd tried not to sigh too loudly. He did not appreciate Anna’s company as much as his wife did. She seemed far too frivolous and fancy for his tastes.
“Did you lose anything in the storm? Is Kiki okay?” Margie asked referring to Anna’s small lap dog which she treated like a baby.
“Oh yes, he is waiting for me in the jeep right now. He doesn’t much care to walk around the rubbish,” she said distastefully as she carefully stepped over some limbs lying on the ground. “I actually came to ask you a favor, if I could?”
“Why, of course,” said Margie and Lloyd groaned quietly. Margie must have heard him as she shot him a look of warning.
“What can we do for you?” Margie smiled sweetly.
“Well,” said Anna, “you know we were getting ready for that big art show? What am I thinking? Of course, you do! You were entering it. It took me forever to convince you. You aren’t going to back out are you?”
“No, no, no, but that wasn’t what you were going to ask me now was it?” Margie said, trying to bring Anna back on topic.
“Oh yes, no, that wasn’t it! I have some paintings that I wasn’t able to remove before the storm and I’m hoping they survived it. They are on the far side of the island in the old museum. I just couldn’t get to them. I know they are old but I thought they would make a lovely showing for the history of the island. The way it was, you know, that sort of thing.”
“Of course, of course,” said Margie.
“Could you and Lloyd be dears and go pick them up for me? I am trying to restore the Arts Center so that we can go on with the show! I’m hoping we will be ready in two weeks. There is a bit of water damage and the flowerbeds outside are ruined. I have hired several people to fix it but they simply cannot do anything without my presence it seems. They have to be told every little thing to do. It’s quite exhausting!” she exclaimed.
At that moment, Kiki began yipping. “Mommy’s coming!” Anna yelled. “Well, ta-ta! I must run. Thank you so much! You are both so special!” Anna ran back towards her jeep while waving at them dismissively.
Lloyd looked at Margie. “You realize that we didn’t really agree to do that?”
“Well, I did tell her that she could ask us a favor. At that point, I guess it was a done deal.” Margie laughed.
“Okay,” said Lloyd. “We might as well get this over with. Do you still have the keys to the old museum?
“Yes,” Margie said. “Anna gave me a key to just about every building related to arts on the island I think, in case she wanted to send me somewhere. She told me that I was her ‘go to girl’,” laughed Margie.
Lloyd smiled. “Well you’re my ‘go to girl’! I guess we should go to it.”
As Lloyd and Margie traversed the island, they found that getting to the other side was quite a challenge. Several of the roads were closed down but finally they were directed and redirected onto the proper path.
This side of the island faced the ocean and took the brunt of the storm. There were shutters hanging loose and water standing everywhere. Most of those who lived there had not returned to stay yet. Only a few people seemed to be wandering through collecting belongings and taking pictures of the damage.
Lloyd and Margie got out of their car and walked up the concrete steps leading to the faded stone façade of the front of the old museum. It had seen better days. There was a musty, stagnant odor in the moist air. The sun was out in full force drying everything.
Margie put the skeleton key into the door and it turned easily, needing only a slight jiggle.
“Here let me,” said Lloyd and stepped in front of his wife to push the door open wide.
He put his arm out instinctively and Margie heard his sharp intake of breath.
“What is it?” she asked and pushed forward, placing her hand upon her mouth in shock and to keep from screaming.
Sunlight dappled through the cracks in the storm shutters that covered the windows. The dust danced in the stale air suddenly disturbed by the opening of the door. All of the paintings hung safely on the walls but on the back wall, a solitary figure hung from a rope tied to an exposed ceiling beam. His neck was obviously broken and his toes pointed gracefully downward as if forever frozen in the middle of a dance. The lanky frame and the dirty blond hair were too familiar.
“Is that…Bess’s friend, Seth Logan?” Margie asked hoping that it wasn’t.
“Yes, dear, I’m afraid it is,” said Lloyd. “Let’’s call the police. This isn’t our business.”
“But, it is if it involves our daughter,” said Margie vehemently.
“But I don’t think it does,” said Lloyd. “Look at that chair rolled over beneath his feet. I don’t see any signs of anyone else having been here. I’m afraid the boy may have taken his own life.”
“Oh, no,” said Margie. “But where’s the note? Wouldn’t he have left a note?”
“Maybe he called someone instead? Maybe it is in his pocket?” suggested Lloyd.
Margie looked at Lloyd with a question in her eyes.
“No, dear, I’m not going to check his pockets. We can’t tamper with the crime scene. We are retired, remember?” Lloyd said firmly.
“You’re right,” said Margie. “I just want to know what happened for Bess. We have to tell her, you know?”
“I know. Let’s go wait outside.” Lloyd led Margie back out to their car, where he used his cell to phone the police. After the police arrived, they gave their statements and headed back home.
To be continued…