The Mystery of Seagrass Island (Chapter 9)

As Margie was driving back home, her phone rang.

“Hello, Lloyd. How was your day?” she answered.

“Hi Margie. Mine was very interesting actually. Don’t worry though, I took good notes. How about a cup of coffee while we catch up?”

“Sounds great. Starbucks?” asked Margie.

“Great minds think alike,” Lloyd said as he rang off.

Lloyd was already there at a window table with two coffees when Margie arrived. Margie sat down and pulled her chair up closer.

“Interesting, eh? Let’s hear it.”

“Okay,” Lloyd said, trying to contain his excitement. “The coroner said that the poison that killed Seth was from Box Jellyfish. It was injected into his jugular vein and caused cardiac arrest within moments. I knew I didn’t like Richard Normandy the instant I met him. There’s something not right about him. I think we have enough to bring him in for questioning and get a search warrant.”

“Wait a minute. I agree that this sounds really bad for him but it’s all too easy. I don’t like Richard either but I don’t think he is stupid enough to kill Seth with something that would implicate him so quickly,” Margie said.

Lloyd scratched his chin. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, but we can’t ignore the facts.”

“How about tonight we do a little reconnaissance mission?” Margie asked. Lloyd’s eyes lit up at the prospect.

“When I was at the research facility today,” Margie continued, “the only really interesting thing that happened was that I looked into one of the labs and noticed that our mysterious red-haired girl was there. Remember, she was the one in the van and with Seth at the restaurant that night?”

“Oh, yes, I remember. So we stake the facility out and watch who comes and goes?” Lloyd asked.

“Yes. Let’s find out who Richard Normandy is working with and tomorrow, when we bring some of them in for questioning, we’ll already know who we want to talk to,” Margie said.

“And maybe even what we want to talk about,” Lloyd added.

Lloyd and Margie finished their coffees and headed back home. When they arrived, they found Bess still asleep in her room. As Lloyd and Margie were putting some warm stew and yeast rolls on the table, Bess wandered out of her room still rubbing her eyes.

“How are you doing, dear?” Margie asked, a concerned tone in her voice.

“I’m okay,” Bess said. “Just in time for supper?”

“Yes, let’s all have a meal together,” Lloyd said.

They were enjoying the food and chatting about Bess’s job and her apartment when Lloyd decided to ask some more pressing questions. “So what are your plans, Bess? How much vacation time do you have left?”

“Well, not much actually, Dad, but I got an email last night and have been asked to finish up my report on the pollution issue that Seth reported so that we can close the case. I was told to make it quick, so I can take a couple of days now on company time,” Bess said.

“That’s good, since you seem really exhausted. Did you sleep all day?” Lloyd asked.

“Well, actually, I was up a bit last night so I was just catching up today,” Bess said sheepishly.

“You should have woken us up. We would have kept you company,” Margie admonished.

Bess smiled. “I know you would have, Mom, but actually I wasn’t here. I went out to do a little research.”

“Research at night? That sounds more like the kind of work your father and I do,” Margie said as she glanced knowingly at Lloyd.

“Well, yes. Sometimes I do get to do this sort of thing. I wanted to see if I could find out anything else about the fish and the research facility,” Bess said.

“And?” Lloyd asked.

“Well, I can tell you that I did see several people standing out back on the dock behind the research facility. I’m not sure what they were doing. I took a couple of pictures, if you would like to see them?”

“Yes,” said Lloyd and Margie at the same time.

“Okay, okay, hang on,” Bess said.

She got her camera off the kitchen bar, flipped it on, and scrolled to the pictures. They could see Richard Normandy and at least three other employees dumping something out of a large tub into the water.

“Interesting. Is that all you got? Any idea what was in the tub?” Margie asked.

“Not at all,” Bess said. “I did go over there and take a sample of the water after they left but nothing came up on the tests I ran.”

“Well, we will all put our heads together tomorrow and see what we come up with.”

“Thanks. It’s kind of nice for us to all be working on the same project,” Bess said.

Margie smiled and squeezed Bess’s hand. “We love you, dear. Everything is going to be okay.”

Lloyd stood up. “Let’s all help with the dishes,” he said.

After they had finished cleaning up, Lloyd and Margie went to bed fairly early and Bess told them that she was not far behind. When all the lights were out and the house was quiet for a while, Lloyd and Margie quietly got up and dressed all in black. They both strapped a flashlight onto their utility belts.

“We haven’t worn these in a while,” noted Margie as she noticed how tight hers had become. “I may have to stop having pastries with my coffee.”

Lloyd leaned over and kissed Margie in the dark. “You’re beautiful,” he whispered.

“You can’t even see me,” Margie said.

“I don’t have to,” Lloyd said. Margie smiled.

They crept through their own living room trying not to awaken Bess. After they were in the front yard, they walked out to their car, which they had purposefully left parked in the road.

The drive to the research facility was quiet. No one else was out and about. They parked the car at the local dog park, which was a few blocks away, and walked to the water’s edge. Looking down the coastline they could easily see the research facility. A few lights still glowed in the offices on the first and third floors. Moonlight was bouncing off the top of the tall metal fence surrounding the back of the building. The wooden dock stuck out into the ocean but at low tide there was enough beach exposed to walk up to it.

“Let’s see how close we can get. We’re just two old timers out for a walk on the beach,” Lloyd said.

“I wish we had a dog. It would look much less suspicious,” Margie said.

“Oh well, you can just hold my hand,” Lloyd said with a grin.

They took off down the beach but as they grew closer, they could hear voices. Lloyd and Margie walked up into the dunes and took cover behind some sea oats as the voices got very loud. They watched as the red-haired girl unlocked the gate across the dock and stepped out in the moonlight.

“It’s hard to believe, isn’t it, Bess?” she said.

Margie’s brow furrowed.

“Bess?” Lloyd said in confusion.

Bess then stepped through the gate as well and they both walked to the end of the dock. “Yes, it is,” Bess said. “But I don’t know how we could come to any other conclusion than what we did.”

Margie looked at Lloyd and they both had concerned looks on their faces. “What’s going on here?” whispered Margie. “I thought Bess was home in bed.”

“Well, I guess she is thinking the same thing about us,” Lloyd said.

“What do we do now?” Margie asked.

“Let’s follow her and listen,” Lloyd said.

“I am not going to stake out my own flesh and blood,” said Margie indignantly.

“Shush! You’re making too much noise,” Lloyd said.

“You haven’t heard anything yet,” Margie said as she put her hand down in the sand to help balance herself as she stood up. But she was surprised when her hand did not meet sand, instead it pressed against something cold and clammy. A wave of nausea passed over Margie as she realized that her hand was on a motionless face and even when she pulled her hand back, she could still feel the wet flesh on her palm.

“Lloyyyd!” Margie said in a squeal that was loud enough to make the voices on the deck stop. “It’s a body!”

“Where? What? Who?” Lloyd said in succession.

“I don’t know! Shine your light on it,” Margie said.

“Fine! The gigs up for all of us then!” Lloyd said.

“It was over the minute I found a body!” Margie said. “Now shine the light!”

Lloyd flicked on the beam from his light and aimed it into the sand and grass. The peaceful expression seemed out of place on the face of a woman who usually was not at peace. Even Bess and her friend on the dock could see the red hair sticking up and the recognizable face laying lifeless illuminated by Lloyd’s light.

“Oh, Bettina!” Margie breathed.

Bess yelled and jumped off the dock running towards her parents and the red-haired girl followed. “Mom! Dad! What are you doing here? What did you do?”

“We found a body! That’s what we did! What are you doing here? And who is this?” Margie said pointing at girl beside her daughter.

Bess looked puzzled for a moment and then remembered her red-haired friend, who happened to be kneeling down to the body to pull something from Bettina’s hand.

“Wait,” Lloyd said and took out gloves from his utility belt. “Let me,” he said as he pushed the girl’s hand aside and pulled the paper free. He opened it up and spread it on top of Bettina’s damp body. As he shined the flashlight on it, Bess read it aloud so everyone could hear.

by Dawn LaRae

Wrapped up in pain, unlovable, since birth,
I am your hostage in this petty battle.
You care not how I tremble, shake or cry,
Claiming I am selfish, crying out with pain,
All the while, you poke me with an iron from the fire.
How unfair this life is, how cruel and how cold,
Death is welcome here, yours or mine, either will suffice.

To be continued…

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