The Mystery of Seagrass Island (Chapter 10)

The Seagrass Island Police Station was buzzing with much more morning activity than usual. Lloyd and Margie had been there since eight waiting for Bess and Ariana. They had already finished two cups of coffee and found out more than they really needed to know about Sergeant Martinson’s family and Corporal Lightly’s dog. They were just getting worried when Bess walked in.

“Bess, we thought you were right behind us,” said Margie.

“Sorry, Mom, I had to make a quick stop but I’m here now. Where’s Ariana?” Bess asked.

“We were about to ask you that,” Lloyd said.

“I’ll give her a call and see what’s holding her up,” Bess said, reaching for her cell phone. “Hmm…,”she said after a minute. “It’s going straight to voice mail.”

“Well, let’s see if the Sergeant here will loan us a room so we can talk and then he can send her in when she arrives,” Lloyd said.

“Okay,” Bess said with a shrug. “But I don’t see the point until she gets here.”

“Well, maybe you have forgotten to tell us something Bess?” Margie asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Bess as they walked toward the back of the station.

Margie closed the door behind them and Lloyd handed Bess a cup of coffee. They all sat down at the table in the center of the room; Margie purposefully sat down on the side with Bess so she would feel more comfortable.

Lloyd took out a notebook. “Let’s review what we know so far. Seth called the EPA and reported seeing dead fish which he thought had been poisoned with pollution from the research facility. Seth talked to you and to Ariana?” Lloyd said pointing at Bess.

“Yes. We both knew Seth,” Bess said.

“And now Seth is dead,” Lloyd said.

“Dad!” Bess protested while Margie shot him a look.

“Okay, just stay with me. I’m just laying out the facts. The research facility has a lot of security which makes me wonder what they are really doing. Bettina was friends with Richard. She went to the research facility on a regular basis and now she is dead. Bettina was also in the middle of a family squabble and had a poem on her written by her niece which appears incriminating.” Lloyd paused to take a breath.

“These two deaths may or may not be related,” Margie said.

“True. We need to bring Richard Normandy in for questioning about Seth’s death,” Lloyd said.

“Yes, and I need to question Bettina’s niece, Dawn, about her aunt and the poem but I thought it might be better to wait until we had a definite cause of death from the coroner. I was told that we would hear something by ten this morning and it is almost ten now,” Margie said.

“Bess, I think it is time to find out where Ariana is,” Lloyd said.

“I’ll call work and see if she has checked in there.” Bess walked over to the window to place her call. After a quick conversation, she came back over to the table with a frown on her face. “She hasn’t checked in this morning.”

“Bess, tell us what you and Ariana found out at the research facility,” Margie said.

“Okay,” said Bess. “But I don’t know as much as Ariana. She was going to show me her report last night. Ariana was posing as a lab assistant. She told me that they were studying the Box Jellyfish, which normally doesn’t inhabit these coasts. However, several had been found here even though they are usually attracted to warmer waters. It seems that Richard’s research team was artificially heating up the waters on the east side of the island to attract these jellyfish. The water was, however, growing some type of bacteria as a side effect of the extra warmth which was clouding the ocean and causing some species of fish to have trouble breathing. This was the likely cause of the dead fish that Seth found. We also have had a large number of shark sightings reported in the area…more so than usual. It could be from the number of dead fish available as food or the warm waters could be attracting them as well. It is definitely something that the EPA is concerned about. Initially, we were just going to shut them down but the EPA is receiving pressure from somewhere else to look away. Ariana and I were not amused, and not sure that we wanted to play along until we knew what was really going on.”

“I hate to ask the obvious,” said Margie, “but why does Richard Normandy want to attract the Box Jellyfish?”

“That is what Ariana was going to tell me. She finally found out what they are doing with the jellyfish.”

“Great, and now she is missing,” Margie said.

“That’s it,” Lloyd said. “I’m tired of waiting around.” He walked to the door. “Sergeant Martinson,” he called, “We have enough on Richard Normandy to bring him in for questioning. Can you arrange that?”

“Right away, sir,” said Martinson.

“I’ll call the coroner then,” said Margie as she pulled out her phone.

After a few “Uh huhs” and some nods that the coroner clearly could not see, Margie hung up. “Hmm…that is very interesting.”

“Tell, tell,” said Lloyd, and Bess nodded in agreement.

“Bettina didn’t drown. She was poisoned just like Seth,” Margie said.

“What?” Lloyd asked.

“Yes,” said Margie. “What is going on indeed?”

The door opened and Sergeant Martinson walked in escorting Richard Normandy. “We found him in the coffee shop next door,” said Martinson with a smile.

“Dr. Normandy,” Lloyd said. “Have a seat.”

Richard sat down in the chair with a very unhappy look on his face still holding onto his cup of coffee. “What is going on here?” he asked. “I should tell you that I have already called my lawyer.”

“Well, that’s almost an admission of guilt,” said Bess sharply.

“What is she doing here?” Richard asked pointing to Bess. “She’s always snooping around my facility and talking to my employees.”

Bess flashed open a badge. “That is because I have been investigating you, Dr. Normandy,” she said.

Richard squinted and looked at the badge carefully. “EPA? Why would the EPA be investigating me?” he laughed. “I practically work for them.”

“What do you mean?” Margie asked.

“The Department of Defense is subsidizing my work. They’re both government agencies.”

“And why would the DoD be helping to pay for your research?” Lloyd asked.

“I can’t tell you that. You don’t have the clearance,” Richard said smugly.

“We are investigating the murders of two people related to your research so someone had better give us clearance pretty quickly,” said Lloyd with a slightly frustrated tone.

“Two murders?” Richard asked with a confused look.

“Yes, oh, you didn’t know that Bettina was murdered last night?” Lloyd asked.

Richard’s face suddenly went pale. “I need to speak to my lawyer,” he said quietly. “I will tell you, though, that none of this started happening until your daughter started poking her nose around.” He looked at Bess resentfully.

“Why I…,” started Bess but Margie put her hand over hers and shook her head.

Bess stood up quickly. “I’m going to find Ariana,” she said.

Richard looked at Lloyd. “So, yet another person linked to your daughter is missing,” he said snidely.

Lloyd looked as if he might punch Richard in the face but then a cool mask fell back into place. “You can sit in here and wait for your lawyer.” Lloyd and Margie got up and followed Bess out of the room leaving Richard alone.

To be continued…