The Mystery of Seagrass Island (Chapter 7)

Anna picked up a painting and turned it over. Taped to the back was a small envelope with a note inside. She pulled the note out and handed it to Margie.

“Have you read this?” Margie asked.

“Yes, of course,” said Anna. “That’s why I thought you should read it before I showed it to anyone else.”

Margie unfolded the note and read it aloud, “’Peanut Butter Jelly Fish. Ask Bess.’ Why, that sounds like nonsense,” Margie said. “Are they talking about my Bess?”

“I don’t know,” Anna said. “But I do know that Bess and Seth were friends.”

“How did you know that?” Margie asked. “I just found out a few days ago.”

“I didn’t know you didn’t know,” Anna said with a squeaky voice. “It seemed harmless to me. They were kind of cute together.”

“Together, as in a couple?” asked Margie.

“Maybe,” said Anna. “I can’t say for sure. I saw them having lunch a few times and Seth brought Bess here to the Arts Center once.”

“Really. What did Seth do here at the Arts Center?”

“He was a curator. He helped me to acquire paintings and sometimes even helped restore them. He had a degree in art restoration.”

“I have heard that Seth was also an amateur environmentalist,” Margie mused. “Do you know if he had a problem with the new research facility?”

Anna put her hands on her hips and turned away from Margie. “Why are you asking me that? How would I know what my employees thought?” She turned back around, her smile firmly in place.

“Okay, one more question. Is it true that the Arts Center received a large donation from the research facility?”

Anna’s jaw dropped. “Are you interrogating me? I thought we were friends. I brought you over her to show you this note that looks like it might suggest that your daughter was involved with a murder and this is how you repay me?”

Margie tried to soothe her. “Anna, I’m just doing my job.”

“I thought you were retired from the police thing anyway,” Anna said.

“Well, so did I,” said Margie. “But not quite yet I’m afraid. They’ve asked Lloyd and me to look into the murder. By the way, how did you know it was a murder?”

Anna stepped back. “Gossip of course. You can’t keep any secrets on this island.” She smiled sweetly at Margie. “No worries. I’m not mad at you, hon. I understand now and you just go ahead detecting if that is what you really want to do with your golden years. I, on the other hand, have an art show to prepare. Don’t forget that I need your entry soon. Spend some time painting, it’s a healthier pastime.” She ushered Margie out of the back room and headed off to talk to the workers.

Margie thought about what Anna had told her. She pulled a small notepad out of her purse and wrote down some details to save for later. Margie’s phone suddenly buzzed with a text from Lloyd. “Meet me at the Jungle Shack for lunch in 20 minutes?” it read. Margie texted back a “yes” and drove off to meet him.

Lunch was a spicy Lowcountry Gumbo full of shrimp, sausage, onions and peppers. As they took large drinks of water to cool off their taste buds, Margie asked Lloyd what he had found out. “Well, when I finally got through the security gates, which wasn’t easy by the way, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Richard Normandy,” Lloyd said.

“Oh, and what did you think of him?” asked Margie curiously.

“Not much to be honest. He seemed cordial enough. He showed me around his lab a little and then we sat in his office and had coffee. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary except the amount of security. It seems like they are taking an awful lot of precautions to protect research about wildlife. Jellyfish in particular.”

Margie looked up from her gumbo. “What did you say?”

“Jellyfish,” Lloyd repeated.

“That’s interesting,” Margie said.

“Why?” Lloyd said.

“Do you remember that Anna wanted to show me something? It was a note that she found on the back of one of the paintings that was hanging in the old museum. The note said, ‘Peanut Butter Jelly Fish. Ask Bess.’”

“Bess,” Lloyd said rather abruptly. “Our Bess?”

“That was the same reaction that I had. It may very well be. Anna said that Seth and Bess were seen together having lunch and going to the Arts Center.”

“That’s not good,” Lloyd said. “I don’t like that it even looks like she may be involved.”

“Me either,” Margie said. “I think it is time to have a long talk with our daughter.”

“Agreed,” Lloyd said.

After they finished their lunch, they went back home. As they pulled in their driveway, they recognized the bright red car parked haphazardly out front. Bess was waiting inside for them.

“Mom, Dad,” she said as she hugged them. “I just thought I would come for a visit. I know I just saw you recently but can’t a girl get homesick?”

“Of course, dear. You know you are always welcome. It would be nice if you would always stop by to see us when you are on the island,” Lloyd said.

Margie shot him a look. “How are you, dear?”

“What? Not well. Not really,” Bess said as tears welled up in her eyes.

“Oh, honey, sit down and tell us all about it,” Margie said.

“Ever since you told me about Seth, I just can’t shake the thought that something isn’t right. Seth wasn’t depressed. I just can’t believe that he took his own life.”

“You’re right, dear. He didn’t,” Margie said gently.

Bess looked up as her eyes widened. “He didn’t? How do you know?” she asked.

“The police came by yesterday and asked your father and me to investigate. They found poison had been injected in him.”

“I knew it,” said Bess. “I just knew it. But why did they ask y’all. You guys are retired, right?”

“Well, they are a bit overworked because of the hurricane cleanup and we agreed to just do this one favor.”

“We’re curious about your relationship with Seth, Bess,” Lloyd said. “Your mother’s friend, Anna, said that you and Seth have been seen around town together.”

“We were just friends, Dad,” Bess said. “I don’t know why there are so many busy bodies here. I just want to lie down for a little while if that’s okay.”

“Of course it is,” Margie said.

She and Lloyd watched as Bess plodded into the guest room deep in thought. “We’ll have to ask her some more questions after she rests,” said Lloyd.

“I know,” said Margie and she rubbed her temples at the beginning of a headache. “This isn’t going to be easy on her.”

“Or us, either, it seems.”

To be continued…