Killer Summerby Lynda Curnyn
Three friends. One dead body. The summer they'll never forget
Sharing a beach house on Fire Island seems like a killer way for best friends Zoe, Sage and Nick to spend summer together. But just as they're dreaming of sunset margaritas and late-night barbecues, the body of their house hostess washes up on the beach. Talk about a buzz/p>/strong>… See more details below
Three friends. One dead body. The summer they'll never forget
Sharing a beach house on Fire Island seems like a killer way for best friends Zoe, Sage and Nick to spend summer together. But just as they're dreaming of sunset margaritas and late-night barbecues, the body of their house hostess washes up on the beach. Talk about a buzz kill .
Now all Zoe can think about is why the "grieving" husband is planning parties rather than mourning his wife. Nick suddenly has secrets he can't tell a soul. And Sage is trying to score booty as if it's her last summer on earth which it just might be. Because despite the ocean views and endless parties, Zoe, Sage and Nick have stopped wondering if the good times will last and started wondering if they will .
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What a way to spend a Saturday night.
Kismet, Fire Island, 10:00 p.m.
I’d always heard that when you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes.
In my case, it was a song. Janis Joplin. Good ol’ Janis. She was always there when I needed her. Of course, “Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose” has a whole new meaning once you’re floating facedown in the tide.
The water was so cold. Even colder now that I had been left alone. But as I learned, just moments before I took my last breath, I’ve always been alone.
Who knew death would make an existentialist out of me?
Kind of ironic that my husband was once a lifeguard. That was when Tom was a teenager spending summers on the shores of North Carolina. He used to brag to everyone in earshot that he had saved seven lives over the course of two summers. Oh, Tom was everybody’s hero. At one time, he was even mine.
But not now. Definitely not now.
Of course, I probably deserved to drown. I wasn’t, after all, the best wife.
God, what a waste. My life. My marriage . . .
Even my death was a disappointment. Tom once told me that something like three thousand people a year die in drowning incidents. Well, la-di-da. Now I’m a fucking statistic.
I just wished I had some clothes on. I knew there was a reason I never skinny-dipped before. Too many opportunities for humiliation. This was worse than humiliating. It was downright pathetic.
I can just see the headlines now: LONELY MILLIONAIRE’S WIFE DROWNS DURING DRUNKEN FIFTY-YARD DASH. I wasn’t even that drunk. Or swimming. But after ten years of marriage and more than my share of disappointment, I have discovered that nothing is ever what it seems.
How I would have spent my summer vacation
There’s nothing worse than being alone on the ferry to Fire Island on a Saturday night. Okay, there is something worse. Being on the ferry to Fire Island with two bags too many when you’re really only going to get one day of beach time. If I even got that, I thought, looking out the window at the dark, overcast sky.
I wasn’t even sure why I had bothered, though I did have some niggling thought that it had a lot to do with the three voice-mail messages I had received from my best friend, Sage.
“At least come out on Saturday morning,” was the first. This in response to my message, declaring that I wouldn’t be done with work until late Friday night. A rather pathetic declaration on my part, considering the financial compensation I was receiving for this particular job. I’m a documentary filmmaker -- an award-winning documentary filmmaker, I might add. But before you get too impressed with me, note that the award was received four years ago for a piece on the homeless and that my current film was a digital short for dogsnatchers.com, paid for by a sixty-four-year-old widow who’d had her King Charles spaniel snatched in Washington Square Park. Not the kind of thing PBS will be airing any time soon. Still, it was a job, and since I hadn’t had a job in about three months, I wasn’t about to argue for beach time with the one person I had come across of late who was willing to bankroll me.
“You’re not done yet?” was the second message from Sage. Sage is a sales rep for Edge Leather, which means she has the good fortune of being able to do a job she loves between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. In fact, when I missed our last two beach weekends, she acted like I had committed a federal offense. I suppose she had every right to be offended, seeing as she did put up half the money for my share when I couldn’t come up with the cash.
Okay, so maybe that was the real reason I was on this ferry. It was hard to say no to Sage, which was probably why I’d let her slap down the remaining deposit in the first place. At this point, I wasn’t even sure I needed a day of beach time, much less a summer. After a Saturday spent explaining to Adelaide Gibson why I thought we should edit down the six hours of home footage she had given me featuring Fifi running in the park, Fifi lying on Adelaide’s French provincial sofa, Fifi nipping playfully at Adelaide’s designer pumps, I just wanted to go home and sleep through next Wednesday.
“You better be coming out tonight.” That was the last message I’d received, about four this afternoon. I could only assume the reason I hadn’t heard from Sage since was because she was either mad at me for blowing off two of the sixteen beach weekends she begged me to take on, or because she’d given up on me.
Or because she knew I wouldn’t say no to Maggie, who had also left me a message this afternoon. “I’ve decided to make grilled spicy lamb with coriander sauce,” she’d announced merrily to my voice-mail box, “and we have no coriander in the house!” Maggie Landon is probably the only person I’ve ever known who might find a lack of coriander in her beach house peculiar. I might not even have known her either, if it hadn’t been for Sage, who managed to wrangle us shares in her boss’s beach house. No easy task, mind you, since Maggie and her husband, Tom, hadn’t even opened up their house to shareholders until this summer. But for Sage, who had a way of seducing everyone over to her point of view, it was a no-brainer for her to land sixteen weekends in an oceanfront house for her, me and Nick, Nick being Sage’s other best friend and beneficiary of her endless -- and somewhat strenuous -- generosity.
Truth be told, until I’d gotten that message from Maggie, asking me to pick up not only coriander, but a Vidalia onion and “a crisp, citrusy white” because she had also discovered, much to her horror, that she only had a chardonnay at the house, I was thinking about staying home. I had missed two of the three weekends of our share so far -- what was one more? But apparently the market at Kismet, the hamlet on Fire Island where our house was located, didn’t carry most of these items, and since, as Maggie went on to say, I was the only shareholder still on the mainland, she “surely hoped” it wouldn’t be a problem for me to pick up a few things. So of course I went to the market for her, even though, as a vegetarian, I wouldn’t even be able to partake in the main course. I had been forbidden by Sage to deny our happy hosts anything. Sage had only two conditions when we took these shares: that we have a good time, and that we not offend Tom and Maggie. As for offending her boss -- well, I think I might have already done that tonight. As for having fun . . .
I wasn’t even sure I knew how to do that anymore.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the beach. Sage, Nick and I had practically grown up on it, the beach being one of the perks of our long-suffering Long Island youth. I’d left lazy summer days on the beach behind when I moved to Manhattan during college, but three summers ago Sage had joined the ranks of those urbanites who flee to the shore and had been badgering me to get on the bandwagon ever since. I hadn’t been able to allow myself such an indulgence -- not with my income. But I had come out as Sage’s guest last summer, and during one brief shining moment, I had even bought into the dream while sitting on what was likely the very same ferry.
Except last time I wasn’t alone. Wasn’t sitting in the damp, half-empty bowels of the boat, breathing in a nauseating mix of sea and fuel. That evening I was with my then-boyfriend, Myles, on the top of the ferry with the wind in my hair, the sun setting and splitting the sky open into a spectrum of color that always induced a kind of silent wonder in me. Myles had felt it, too. I could tell by the way his fingers paused in the midst of the gentle circle he was making on my shoulder. Once the sun had dipped beneath the horizon, we both looked at one another and vowed to come back next summer. “Maybe we can even get our own house,” he had said, a bit of a heady claim, since, at the time, our combined income didn’t even come near the median household income required to support a Manhattan existence, much less a Manhattan-plus-beach-rental existence. But we had just turned the bend on our second year together and were still in that blissful state where everything seemed possible.
By February, when it came time to put down the first deposit, even a shared oceanfront room seemed too much for Myles. “I don’t know, Zoe. Sixteen weekends is a big commitment,” he’d said.
By April, the relationship I had once imagined would see me through the rest of my life was over.
Of course, backing out of the beach house was not an option for me at that point. “What are you gonna do in the city all summer by yourself ?” Sage demanded. When I pointed out that I wouldn’t exactly be alone, that surely some of the eight million people who lived on the island of Manhattan wouldn’t be fleeing to the shore, she simply rolled her eyes at me. She knew as well as I did that out of those eight million people, there were only a handful I could truly claim as company. Actually, less than a handful. When Myles had dumped me, he’d taken with him the smattering of friends I had adopted as my own. Now I was left with Sage and Nick, Nick being more Sage’s friend than mine, but who was counting?
“When was the last time we did anything together?” Sage said, and it was this last comment that had me slapping down the first five hundred bucks for a deposit, whether out of guilt at being one of those women who had ditched her friends in favor of her boyfriend, or because I believed what I needed most in the post-Myles phase was the solid bolstering of a summer spent with friends.
“Is this yours?”
I looked up to see an overly freckled, lanky teenager holding a somewhat bruised Vidalia onion. “Uh, yeah,” I said, my gaze dropping to the shopping bag I’d placed on the floor beside my seat. It now gaped open, making me wonder what other vital ingredients I had lost. Not that it mattered. Because the other bit of ridiculousness was that I had missed the earlier ferry because I couldn’t locate a jar of coriander in a timely manner. The first two stores I’d tried had sold out of the stuff. Who knew coriander was in such high demand? Though I did finally find a bottle at Gourmet Garage, I had missed my train and was out of the running for anything but the late ferry. Which meant that, despite all my efforts to please Maggie, I had failed miserably. I had left her a message, but whether she’d had to postpone her gourmet meal until ten when my ferry arrived, or whether she’d been forced to bag the whole thing and was sitting fuming at me over a badly cooked burger at one of the two restaurants in Kismet, was anyone’s guess.
“Um, thanks,” I said, taking the onion from the kid with a grateful smile, though what I had to be grateful for at the moment was beyond me.
“Where’re you going?” he said, making me realize that this kid was not some eager do-gooder but none other than an employee of the Fire Island Ferry Company. At least that’s what his T-shirt said.
“Kismet. Roundtrip.” I hadn’t even arrived yet and I couldn’t wait to get home. He handed me a ticket and I forked over the $12.50 fare. That was another thing I hadn’t remembered when I’d signed on for this share. Between the train, the ferry and the taxi between the two, the commute alone cost nearly thirty bucks. After I handed over my cash and watched the boy amble over to the few remaining passengers, I knew why I didn’t remember how much this trip cost. Myles had paid that first time we’d come out.
I would despise Myles for walking away from me after I had suffered through law school with him if I didn’t understand why he felt it necessary to walk away. He had recently turned thirty. His father had just died. I knew these were the kind of mind-altering events that might make a person do irrational things. I should know. My father hadn’t died, but he’d left when I was ten and was as good as dead to me, because I hadn’t seen him since. And I had rounded the corner on thirty a full two months before Myles did. Yes, I’d felt the chill of age coming on, the clutch of anxiety that comes from not having lived up to my own expectations. Not that I felt a need to dump him.
Okay, so now I was angry. And even more nauseous as the ferry jumped over a wave that would have surely sent a spray on my face if I had been sitting on the top of the ferry in the setting sun like I had that time with Myles. But there was no sun -- not even a star -- and there was, of course, no Myles. I wasn’t even sure there would be Sage, since my cell phone battery died on the train and I couldn’t let her know I was on my way. Sage, who acted as if her whole happiness this weekend was dependent on my arrival, if those messages she’d left were any indication. Sage, who had likely hooked up with the bartender, or the guy she’d been flirting with who worked the docks, or any one of the other myriad men she had at her fingertips, and forgotten all about me. Sage, whose biggest worry in life was whether or not there was fresh lime for her tequila.
“Kismet,” the scrawny fare collector bellowed, practically in my ear, now that he was done collecting fares from the few other idiots braving this late night ferry ride. “The first stop on this ferry will be Kismet!” I looked out the window, trying to figure out just how far from the dock we were, but all I could see was the darkness and what seemed liked endless water.
Everyone gets what they deserve, I guess.
Beach Blanket Boomerang
“It’s not that I don’t want to…”
I paused as I pulled on my jeans, giving Chad’s hard-on a meaningful look. “Well, that’s clear at least.”
“C’mon, Sage, you know what I mean.”
“I’m not sure I do,” I replied, bending to search the floor for the tank I had tossed off in a frenzy of passion. Passion? That was a laugh. This kid wouldn’t know real passion if it bit him in the ass. Maybe that was the problem, I thought, locating my tank top and yanking it over my head. He was a kid. Twenty-two, I think he said. I turned to the bed again, my eye roaming over his sulking yet adorable face, his well-muscled chest and perfect abs.
Had twenty-two looked that good when I was twenty-two? Clearly, I hadn’t appreciated it enough back then.
It was a damn shame. I wasn’t sure what was more of a shame -- that he was so hot or that I had spent the past two weekends at the beach trying to seduce him only to get nowhere. At least I hadn’t had to spring for dinner tonight -- which was usually what happened when you went out with these young guys. Chad had gotten off work at seven, but the minute I saw him waiting for me at the dock, I was hungry for something else. So we had a couple of drinks at The Inn, a local bar, then headed back to the beach house he shared with his friends. His friends had conveniently not been around when we came through the door, practically tumbling over one another to get to the bedroom. And I was just three minutes away from getting that gorgeous piece of equipment of his inside me when suddenly he brings up the girlfriend. The girlfriend. He might have mentioned the girlfriend before he had me naked and panting on his bed.
“At least you had an orgasm,” he offered.
I stared at him. This was obviously some strange side effect of living your formative years during the Clinton presidency. Apparently his little girlfriend wasn’t an issue when he had his head between my legs. But the minute I maneuvered for more than oral sex, suddenly it’s, “I can’t. I have a girlfriend.”
Blah, blah, blah.
Sliding my feet into my flip-flops, I said, “Sorry, Chad, but I’m more of a penetration kind of girl.”
And because I didn’t want to hear another word about it, or because the sight of that beautiful body was starting to make me feel wistful, I left.
Once I was outside, blanketed by the heat, I felt better, though I couldn’t remember a hotter June night in my short history of Fire Island summers. Not that I was complaining. At least we were getting the most out of this summer share. Or I was anyway. I was betting that Zoe hadn’t made the last ferry out tonight and was forfeiting yet another weekend at the beach in the name of work. I wondered why I had even bothered browbeating her into a share. Or Nick, for that matter. I guess I had some stupid idea that a summer out at the beach with my two best friends would be fun, though I was starting to think Zoe and Nick were like my little friend Chad. They didn’t know a good thing when they had it. Zoe was probably still filming poodles, and Nick . . . if I knew Nick, he was probably down at The Inn or The Out, the only two bars in town, chatting up anyone who would listen about his latest get-rich-and-maintain-his-integrity scheme, a record label he was developing. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he found investors here. Nick could be pretty charming. In high school he had convinced the football coach he could create software that might predict the most successful plays based on the stats of the players. Of course, he got caught smoking pot in the woods behind the school a week later, losing any support he had gained for the project. But that was classic Nick. He was brilliant enough to be the next Bill Gates, except he tended to use that B.S. in Business Administration of his for b.s. more than anything else.
It was starting to get on my nerves.
But then, I was on my last nerve tonight, even more so when I saw the lights of our beach house twinkling in the distance. God, it was a beautiful house. An oceanfront, sprawling three-bedroom ranch hovering high above the beach.
“Maggie’s Dream.” My boss, Tom, had named it for his wife. Though now that I thought about it, Maggie’s Dream would have been a lot better sans Maggie.
There was a price to pay for an ocean view. And my price, I had discovered, was Maggie.
I had met them both at the beginning of last summer, at the beach, of course. Maggie seemed fine then -- from a distance anyway. She was simply the smiling, semi-Stepford wife of Tom Landon. I adored Tom immediately. Maybe because we had so much in common -- we both worked in the garment industry, though I was in retail at the time. Our acquaintance turned quickly into a business relationship when I bought some products from Tom’s ladies’ wear line, Luxe, to put in the store I managed. But The Bomb Boutique was a bit too downtown hip for me to carry more than a few well-styled pieces from Tom’s line, and then it was mostly accessories -- handbags and the odd belt. We became friends, though, so much so that I used to tease him about how he needed to add a little hipness to his line if he hoped to win over customers like The Bomb. As it turned out, I won Tom over. By the end of the summer, he approached me about a new venture he was working on, an urban leather outerwear line. And with the promise of a fat salary as the head sales rep for Edge, he lured me on board. It was the best decision I’d ever made. I loved my job. In fact, I lived for my job. Even had dreams of managing Edge myself some day.
Those dreams ended when Maggie came to work for Edge. Suddenly Ms. Stay-At-Home Wife wanted a career, and Tom -- sweet, generous Tom -- handed her mine on a silver platter.
Copyright © 2005 Linda Curnyn
Meet the Author
Lynda Curnyn is a native New Yorker who hasn't migrated very far from her Brooklyn birthplace. She spent her adolescence on Long Island but escaped to downtown Manhattan just as soon as she could.
After getting a liberal arts degree from New College at Hofstra University, she went on to New York University for her master's in English literature, even contemplated a Ph.D. before she realized she didn't want to spend her 20s in the library. So she did what all good English majors do -- she went into publishing, and was hooked. As an editor of women's fiction for Silhouette Books, Lynda works with some of the industry's top authors.
When a senior editor suggested to her that she might try her hand at writing a novel for the Red Dress Ink program, she laughed. Then she wrote. And wrote and wrote. And soon enough she had finished her first novel! Now she is a self-professed writing addict and happily writing a book a year for Red Dress Ink.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I purchased this book from the Bargain section at Barnes & Noble & it wasn't even worth $4.98!!! I couldn't even finish it & it is very rare that I don't finish a book that I start. It was a ridiculous story line & very far-fetched/unbelievable. Dumb. Don't waste your time or money.
Zoe, Sage and Nick look forward to sharing the beach house for the entire summer on Fire Island, New York as guests of documentary filmmaker Maggie Landon. However, even before they can use their first drops of suntan lotion, Maggie¿s naked corpse is found on the beach............... Maggie¿s spirit watches her friends and her spouse go on as if nothing happened to her. Her spouse Tom even has the audacity of throwing summer parties. No one mourns for her and in fact everyone seems happier without her. However, Zoe feels guilty about not seeming to care and wonders how Maggie¿s husband keeps partying when he should be grieving and wondering who killed his wife unless he knows. She also observes that Nick is not himself as if he struggles with secrets perhaps dealing with Maggie. Finally Sage acts as if Maggie possessed her soul trying to score as because any moment she might go to the great beyond. Zoe needs to learn the truth even if it means putting a damper on the summer including breaking her heart.................. Ironically the unpopular Maggie in the afterlife is the best character of this chick lit amateur sleuth tale as her commentaries on the reactions to her murder are amusing and fun. Zoe runs a fine second as her conscience guides her and she could have carried the tale. Instead the alternating chapters between the cast jars the reader though providing differing perspective especially explicit descriptive that is not always needed. Still Zoe¿s investigation into her friends and Maggie¿s lament make for an overall humorous fun tale................... Harriet Klausner
Maggie was not the most loveable person in the world, but was it enough to get her killed? Apparently so; her nude body is found floating near the beach house she, her husband, and his friends time share. No one, not even her husband, mourns her all that much, though everyone is shocked. This, naturally, causes her free floating spirit some consternation. However, liked or not, and even though life is better without Maggie, Zoe is determined to find out who 'done' it. The price of her quest might be a broken heart, at the least. ............................................. Besides being generally crass, the author employs an annoying technique known as 'head hopping' that jarringly shifts from one character's view to another from chapter to chapter. Between this and overly graphic language, what could have been an amusing book, largely due to Maggie's Sunset Boulevard-ish commentary, is as irritating as Maggie herself is supposed to have been in life.