by Noreen Wald


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941962329
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication date: 03/08/2016
Pages: 214
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.45(d)

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Death Rides the Surf

A Kate Kennedy Mystery

By Noreen Wald

Henery Press

Copyright © 2016 Noreen Wald
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-941962-32-9


Monday evening, October 30

There were funerals where you knew, with cold certainty, that the corpse wouldn't be the only person you'd never see again. Kate Kennedy had just returned from one.

The deceased, Jane Kuloski Whitcomb, flew with Kate almost fifty years ago when they'd been stewardesses. Over the decades, they exchanged Christmas cards and photos of their kids, and met a few times when Jane would come back to New York to visit her mother.

Somehow Kate, who prided herself on her powers of observation, hadn't noticed Jane had become a practicing snob. Then last winter, Jane — who'd married a dermatologist, not a detective — moved from the Midwest to Palm Beach and attempted to revive their old friendship. Kate discovered that not only did they have nothing in common, she didn't even like Jane.

Of course, that awakening hadn't kept Kate from attending Jane's requiem mass, where she'd shared a pew with two of the other — and much more famous — Kennedy family cousins.

"Shriver or Smith?" Marlene Friedman, Kate's forever best friend and former sister-in-law, sounded like Chris Matthews as she and Kate strolled down Neptune Boulevard, trying to walk off calories after devouring platters of fried shrimp and hot fudge sundaes at dinner.

Kate picked up the pace. "I'm not sure. They all look alike to me. Lots of teeth. I think the young man — well, he must be in his forties — might have been one of Bobby's brood."

A pale gold harvest moon rose in the early evening sky. The moist, salty air held a hint of South Florida autumn, as waves on either side of them crashed against the beach.

Under the spotlights, one of the two guys at the end of the pier appeared to be struggling with a large fish. A bearded, younger man stowed bait and beer in a small motorboat. A mellow Frank Sinatra sang "My Way," but the lyrics faded out as Kate and Marlene approached the men. The bearded man waved. He looked familiar. Probably a regular at the Neptune Inn.

Kate waved back. Sometime over the last year, after the intense, constant grieving for Charlie — who'd never lived in the condo he'd chosen — had morphed into a dull ache, always with her but bearable, Palmetto Beach had become home.

Marlene shook her head, her platinum twist holding firm in the sea breeze. "Really, an honest-to-God celebrity sighting and you can't even identify which Kennedy you saw."

"I was at a funeral, Marlene." Kate laughed. "I couldn't ask for an autograph."

Marlene's frustrated expression indicated that was exactly what Kate should have done. "So, if you didn't relate to any of the mourners, maybe I would. Widower Whitcomb walks, talks, and has money, right? How bad can he be? And I could use a chemical peel. A dermatologist's almost as good as a plastic surgeon."

Kate laughed. She and Marlene had put Kate's granddaughter Katharine's unrequited love story on hold during dinner, though Marlene did report on her morning visit to the boy's grandmother who ran the only tanning salon/talking skull operation in South Florida.

"Shark!" The slimmer of the two fishermen standing at the edge of the pier dropped his pole. "Jesus Christ. Is that blood?"

The motor on the small boat revved up, and the bearded young man at the tiller veered south toward what appeared to be, by the light of the moon, a body floating face down.

"Call 911, quick!" the slim fisherman yelled, and then hopped into the bearded young man's moving boat.

The heavy set man peered into the water. "Looks like one of them goddamn surfers." He gestured toward the beach. "That's a piece of his board over there."

As the man punched in the numbers on his cell phone, Marlene screamed. An ungodly, piercing wail. Kate watched in horror as the bearded man stopped the boat and the slim man reached over port side into the sea and pulled a bloody stump on board.


Two nights earlier, Saturday, October 28

"I hate school, I hate my mother, and I hate being a virgin," Katharine Kennedy said. "Please don't tell me to go home. I'm moving to Florida, Auntie Marlene, and I'm shedding excess baggage: classes, college, chastity. I know you of all people will understand and support me. And I need you to intercede with Nana. I'll live at Ocean Vista till I find a job. In the cab from the airport, I passed a help-wanted sign. Pink Platinum is hiring."

Starting over? As a lap dancer?

Katharine had just turned eighteen. If Marlene provided refuge for her best friend's granddaughter, Kate would kill her.

"Jennifer and Kevin must be worried sick, Katharine. Let's call them. Then you can stay here for fall break while we sort this out."

The girl's freckled face flushed, her auburn curls bouncing as she shook her head. "If you turn me in to my parents, Auntie Marlene, I might be forced to tell Nana about you."

Good God! Could Katharine somehow have discovered that her now dead and revered grandfather, Charlie, and her "Auntie Marlene" once had a four-martini fling almost a half century ago?

Katharine smiled, then gestured toward the hallway. "Shall I put my bags in the guest room?"

Like a flamboyant, frightened Willie Loman, Marlene rehearsed what she would say, determined to sell her best friend on the idea of her granddaughter moving in.

With Marlene's checkered past, Katharine might have unearthed any number of unsavory secrets, but that brief boozy bedding of her best friend's husband atop a pile of coats during a cocktail party had always led Marlene's guilt parade. The act of adultery should top her long list of sins, considering she'd been engaged to Charlie's twin brother at the time. A doubleheader, commandment-breaking, grievous matter. A mortal sin, even if she wasn't Catholic. A sin she fully expected to go to hell for, unless God had a sense of humor and had sent Katharine here as a kind of hell-on-earth punishment.

If Marlene could find out why Katharine was really here, lying to Kate might be easier. Based on her own experience, she felt certain there must be a man in the picture. Marlene's heart ached at the thought of her beloved Katharine chasing after some guy, then being hurt if he rejected her.

Men, not money, were the root of all evil. Marlene laughed. Maybe she should have that embroidered on a pillowcase or a t-shirt; she'd probably sell a million of them.

Putting her past on hold — three marriages, six engagements, and she'd need a calculator to add up the total number of men she'd dated — Marlene picked up the phone and presented her pitch to Kate.

"I still don't understand. Why did Katharine come here?" Kate asked.

With decades of experience, Marlene translated. Kate was really asking why Katharine had shown up at Marlene's condo door instead of at her grandmother's. So Marlene, though she seldom did, measured her response. "Oh Kate, your granddaughter knows I'm a sucker for a sob story. You might have sent her packing."

"And you think I should let her stay?"

"Well, yes. Katharine's not herself. Something is eating at her. Something serious. We need to find out what's wrong. That may take a few days."

"She hasn't been returning my phone calls." Kate sighed. "I figured she was caught up in college life. A school as large as NYU can be overwhelming and, you know, she's living on her own with a roommate in the West Village. I almost wish she'd followed Lauren's lead and gone to Harvard, but she so wanted to study theater." Marlene could hear the worry in Kate's voice. She took a sip of Scotch, wishing she had a cigarette. "Come on, Kate. Lauren's smart and beautiful, but she has no spark. She's like your stuffy in-laws, the Lowells. Katharine's not only the spitting image of her father and grandfather, she inherited their spirit as well. And like Charlie, your granddaughter's a real New Yorker. She'd have hated Harvard."

"It doesn't sound as if she's happy at NYU either."

"I don't think her problem has anything to do with geography, Kate."

"Then why did she run away to Florida? Why is she talking about finding a job here? Why would a real New Yorker leave the city she loves?"

"Cherchez l'homme." Marlene's accent sounded more Queens than Paris.

"A man?" Kate's voice rose. "She's barely eighteen. How can you think Katharine came to Florida because of a man?"

"Are you so old you don't remember your seventeenth summer, Kate? You spent a hell of a lot of time under the boardwalk at Rockaway, doing God knows what with that Latin lover from Ridgewood."

Dead silence. Had Marlene gone too far? She counted to ten. Nothing but silence. She plunged. "Come back, Kate. I feel like I'm talking to myself here."

"Okay." Kate sounded resigned. "Tell Katharine she can stay with me. You and I will figure out how to deal with Jennifer and Kevin. Then we'll figure out who this man is and why Katharine followed him to Florida."


Ballou always knew when Kate needed comforting. She hung up after talking to Marlene and the little white Westie settled in at her feet, licking her left hand.

Though Kate hated to admit it, Marlene might be right about Katharine. The girl had been acting strangely ever since she started college. No wait, even before that. Ever since late July when Katharine had returned from a week in Acapulco. On the telephone, her bouncy voice had taken on an edge of sadness and the stories she'd once shared so openly with her grandmother seemed edited.

Maybe all teenagers abridged their adventures sooner or later. Still, Kate had sensed a secretiveness that might well have stemmed from a budding romance. Had Katharine met a man in Mexico? Kate thought about a young woman who'd vanished while vacationing in Acapulco over the summer. Her mother was still all over TV, pleading for information. God, that could have been Katharine.

Kate petted Ballou, running her fingers through his soft fur, grateful for his devotion. His feelings were never shrouded in secrecy.

Kate sighed. Stop it. What had she expected? To be privy to her granddaughter's sex life? She felt herself flush, watching her pale arm redden, the fine hairs standing straight up. Odd how only the hair on her head had turned silver while all her other body hair remained chestnut.

Here she was, staring at seventy, and Marlene could still strike a nerve with a crack about Kate's seventeenth summer. God, would she never grow up? Would she be worrying about what had or hadn't happened a lifetime ago?

She wondered if Marlene ever regretted her past, then realized there weren't enough hours in a day for her former sister-in-law to properly reflect on her long-ago transgressions. Kate laughed out loud, startling Ballou.

"Come on, Ballou, we're having company. Katharine's going to stay with us." The Westie loved her granddaughter. Kate could picture his excitement when the girl arrived. "Let's go make up the guest room bed."

Her white-on-white condo, decorated by Edmund, a doctor who moonlighted as an interior designer and her son Peter's partner, was as neat as if an anal-retentive owned it. Kate sighed; maybe one did. Bottom line: there were worse faults than always being prepared for a house guest. She would have to make a quick trip to the supermarket in the morning. Katharine liked bacon and eggs for breakfast.

And she'd call her son and daughter-in-law in the morning too. From what Marlene had said, Katharine was in her guest room, either sound asleep or feigning it, and Kevin and Jennifer weren't yet aware that their daughter had left New York. No sense getting everyone upset at bedtime.

A half hour later, Kate sat in an ecru terry cloth chaise on the balcony, sipping decaffeinated Lipton tea, Ballou at her side. A diamond tiara of stars sparkled atop a gold harvest moon in an inky sky, like priceless jewels displayed against a black velvet drape.

Chilled, she zipped up her blue cotton sweater, then reached for the teacup. How often had she shivered in South Florida? She could only recall one other time, that first lonely New Year's Eve after Charlie had died, when the sounds of revelers drifting up from the rec room and the bright moon and twinkling stars had left her cold and depressed.

Why had Katharine gone to Marlene? Kate felt hurt and, yes, damn it, jealous. The phone rang. Jumping up, she tripped over an indigent Ballou, dropping her favorite teacup, spilling its contents, covering her bare foot with tepid tea. But the Belleek cup didn't break. "Thank God for small favors," Kate said, her voice so cranky, Ballou stopped yelping.

"Hello," she grumbled into the phone, standing on one foot while trying to dry the other with a paper napkin, contorting her body into what felt like an advanced yoga position.

"And a pleasant good evening to you too, Kate." Nick Carbone, the oldest homicide detective in the Palmetto Beach Police Department, maybe the oldest in America, mocked her tone.

"It's after ten, Nick. Evening has turned into night." Gracious, wasn't she?

"And at your age, I guess you need your beauty sleep."

Ouch. Though overweight and often overbearing, Carbone was about a decade younger than Kate; tonight that statistic bothered her more than usual.

"Though I think you look great." He seemed sincere. Could that be possible? "Er, can you have lunch with me tomorrow? I thought we'd try Sea Watch. You like it there, right?"

How did Nick know that? She couldn't recall ever having mentioned it. And how could she say yes? Go out to lunch on Katharine's first day with her? If Kate accepted, it would be their third date, if what they were doing could be called dating. What the hell were they doing? A short, slim widow with enough mileage to accurately be described as a little old lady, still missing her dead husband, and a fat know-it-all detective with two ex-wives, fighting against retirement like Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

"Kate?" Nick's voice, Brooklyn brusque at best, sounded strained to the breaking point.

A surge of mixed messages flashed through Kate's mind, then tumbled off her tongue. "My granddaughter Katharine's here. At Marlene's, but she'll be with me tomorrow. I hate to leave her, but I would like to have lunch with you." Would she? She supposed so.

"Bring Katharine along, if she doesn't have other plans." Nick's voice had softened and was far less tense. "She's the redhead, right?"

"Yes, she looks just like her grandfather." Great, Kate, remind your suitor that you're still in love with your dead husband. Well, why not? She was, wasn't she?

"Okay. Let's see how it shakes out." The edge had returned. "Give me a call tomorrow morning. The early snowbirds have arrived. We'll need a reservation if we're going to Sea Watch." Nick hesitated, then added, "And why don't you invite Marlene too?"

A generous offer. Four for lunch at Sea Watch didn't come cheap. And dragging her granddaughter and sister-in-law along made it definitely not a date.

"Thanks, Nick. That's very kind." She smiled as she heard the warmth in her own voice. "I'll call you either way."

She felt even better when Nick's good-bye returned the warmth.

The breeze coming from the open balcony door fluttered the sheer curtains. Kate put down the phone and stepped outside, straightening the cushion on the chaise and gathering up the teacup and saucer.

"Don't be stupid, man." A voice from the beach, loud and clear in the still of the night. A voice with a Cuban accent.

Kate crossed to the stone railing and stared out across Ocean Vista's swimming pool to the Atlantic. Rough tonight. She could hear waves crashing against the shore. The full moon served as a giant flashlight. Its glow, together with the lamps around the pool, softly illuminated the beach. She could make out two surfers and their surfboards at the water's edge.

The handsome Cuban and the surly, good-looking blond belonged to a group who called themselves the Four Boardsmen of the Apocalypse. They'd appeared about a month ago, chasing waves and driving Ocean Vista's owners crazy; however, since the beach belonged to the town of Palmetto Beach, the young men had as much right to ride the surf as the seniors had to swim or, in most cases, wade.

It must be close to midnight. Why would they be surfing at this hour?

A redhead ran along the shore, joined the boys, and wrapped her arms around the blond. Kate started. The moon shone on her granddaughter's face as Katharine locked lips with the surly surfer.


Excerpted from Death Rides the Surf by Noreen Wald. Copyright © 2016 Noreen Wald. Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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