DEATH STORMS THE SHORE

DEATH STORMS THE SHORE

by Noreen Wald

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943390977
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication date: 01/20/2016
Pages: 226
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.48(d)

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Death Storms the Shore

A Kate Kennedy Mystery


By Noreen Wald

Henery Press

Copyright © 2016 Noreen Wald
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-943390-97-7


CHAPTER 1

"Don't ya just wanna kill him?" Rosie O'Grady, a retired Radio City Rockette, asked Kate Kennedy. "Such a phony-baloney." Rosie's raspy Bronx accent came across loud and clear.

Kate's Westie, Ballou, ran back and forth along the shoreline, scattering sand on Rosie's pedicure. He'd been yapping and agitated since Kate and Rosie had set up their beach chairs. The little dog was trying to tell her something. But what?

A few feet away, the object of Rosie's murderous wrath, Uncle Weatherwise, South Florida's answer to Willard Scott and Al Roker, and Ocean Vista's newest resident, held court at the water's edge.

Rosie's question, though amplified by the sea breeze, fell on Weatherwise's partially deaf ears. The fat man smiled and nodded in response to his fawning fans' patter as white-capped waves crashed against his feet. Kate doubted he could hear a word anyone said.

'Trust me, Kate, he's no good." Unlike her neighbors, longtime admirers of the seventy-something local television icon, Ocean Vista's Program Chair Rosie, eighty-four and still kicking, had cast the lone dissenting vote when the condo board approved Walt Weatherwise's owner/member application.

Nodding, Kate tried to appear neutral, though she'd disliked Weatherwise at first sight, sensing something strange, yet eerily familiar, about the smiling, rotund weatherman.

Rosie wiped away sweat beads dancing across her upper lip. Late August in Palmetto Beach — even with the setting sun, their beach chairs planted in damp sand, and their feet washed with an occasional wave — was like being burned at the stake ... by choice. Kate missed Jones Beach, where summer's twilight held a hint of autumn.

"Weatherwise's teddy bear TV image is a cover. He's full of it and full of himself. For starters, he's not from the Midwest. Back when I was a hoofer, he used to pal around with the mob in Manhattan."

"The mob?" Kate asked, surprised. "Really?"

Rosie arched her right foot, disturbing Ballou's relentless pacing. Whining, he made a sharp turn, walking over his mistress's toes, in dire need of a pedicure. "Weatherwise is a wiseguy. I know, Kate. I dated Albert Anastasia, before he got bumped off in the old Park Sheraton's barbershop."

Kate smiled, remembering that a lifetime ago her father, who'd worked two blocks away on Fifth Avenue, had his hair cut at the hotel too.

A gust of warm wind blew Kate's favorite Southampton straw hat into the water. An agile Rosie scrambled out of her beach chair to rescue it.

"Thanks." Kate smiled at the lithe octogenarian and plopped her hat back onto her bead. Maybe her yoga exercises weren't enough. Maybe she should enroll in Rosie's dance class.

Lucy Diamond, the condo's bylaws chair, sauntered over to Weatherwise's circle. The tall brunette was not one of his fans. "Just call me Uncle" had blown into his first condo board meeting and brewed up a tempest in a coffeepot, demanding that Lucy's committee amend the bylaws so that he could plant medicinal marijuana on his terrace. Lucy, a retired federal prosecutor, hadn't been amused.

"He's a lousy weatherman too." Rosie raised her voice, shaking a head full of steel-gray curls. "We shoulda canceled this year's clambake. These old bones tell me we're in for a storm." Today? She stamped her foot in the sand.

Ballou ran back from the ocean, dug his feet into the sand, and barked sharply at Kate. What was wrong with the Westie?

Could Uncle be off track with Hurricane Harriet? He'd predicted landfall in Key West tonight. The residents in the Keys had been evacuated.

Walt Weatherwise was renowned for tracking a hurricane's path, and his colorful forecasts leading up to a storm's hit or miss got higher ratings than the final episode of M*A*S*H.

Kate stood too, irked that she couldn't get up and out of a beach chair with the dancer's grace. A darkening sky and turbulent sea made her wonder if Rosie was right. Did Ballou smell danger? Should Palmetto Beach residents have gone shopping for duct tape along with their neighbors to the south? And, instead of roasting corn and clams in a brand new garbage can — that Kate had shopped for herself — should they be getting ready to evacuate?

The moonlighting lifeguard, hired for the evening's festivities — as Marlene Friedman, Kate's former sister-in-law, lifelong best friend, and condo president had explained, "Every year at least one old goat with a bellyful of beer swims out too far and decides he's drowning" — was on his cell phone, his left hand gesturing toward the sea, his mouth moving, his words inaudible.

"Yo, Kate!" Marlene, wearing a scarlet polka-dot tankini, a deep tan, and a frown, waved an ear of corn and shouted over the garbage can. During a fleeting moment of romantic interest in Uncle Weatherwise, Marlene had volunteered to serve as sous chef at the clambake. "Raindrops are falling on my ..." The wind whipped away the last of Marlene's lyrics and blew Kate's beach chair into the ocean.

"My God, look, the water's up to my knees!" Lucy's alarm proved contagious. The crowd around Uncle Weatherwise moved like lemmings in reverse, away from the sea.

The rains came — hard, driving, relentless. The navy sky went black. A siren roared. Soaking wet, Kate clutched Ballou's leash with one hand and reached for Rosie with the other. The wind, now wicked, lashed across Kate's face. She staggered, losing her balance in the wet sand. Rosie grabbed Kate's arm, helped her up, then, with Ballou glued to Kate's heels, they trudged toward Ocean Vista, the wind at their backs pummeling them.

"Everyone off the beach!" the lifeguard shouted through a megaphone. "Now. Move it! Get off the beach!"

Napkins, plastic pitchers, plates, and small beach chairs were flying around with the squawking seagulls. A plastic knife struck and stuck in Lucy's forehead, drawing blood. Kate, wanting to scream herself, thought Lucy could be heard in Boca.

Marlene, overweight but toned, dropped her beach bag and half-carried Lucy toward the condo.

Wiping sand from her eyes, Kate saw Uncle Weatherwise reach the pool first. His long legs made the fat man leader of his fans. Or, maybe, former fans: Weatherwise dashed straight toward the condo's back door, letting the pool gate swing shut. Skinny Bob Seeley, the condo's finance chair, a surprising second, held the gate open for those behind him. Marlene dragged Lucy through the door, then returned to relieve Bob.

Proud of Marlene, Kate reached down, lifted Ballou, and said, "Come on, Rosie, we're almost home." Then she whispered in the Westie's ear, "I should have listened to you, Ballou."

"Ain't I the one who got us here?" Rosie's rasp came out as close to a shout as decades of unfiltered Chesterfields allowed.

Kate, feeling guilty for taking the credit, laughed. A mistake. Sand coated her teeth like toothpaste.

Why hadn't she gone to Martha's Vineyard with Kevin and his family? Her daughter-in-law, Jennifer, had predicted, "August in Florida, Kate? You'll be sorry." A seer as well as a stockbroker?

Ocean Vista's residents, on what seemed like a daily basis, dismissed clouds by quoting the Palmetto Beach Chamber of Commerce's party line: "If you don't like the weather in South Florida, wait five minutes." And, often as not, to Kate's annoyance, the sun would appear. Even in her panic, she savored the reverse irony.

"The U.S. Weather Service," the lifeguard's voice broke as he yelled into his megaphone, "now reports that Palmetto Beach is in the direct path of Hurricane Harriet."

CHAPTER 2

They had less than ninety minutes to evacuate.

Kate spent six of those minutes in the shower. No way would she leave full of sand. She washed, then finger-combed her short silver hair, and put on moisturizer and lipstick. How long would they be gone? She threw her cosmetic case in her toiletries bag and checked her watch. Seventy-five minutes left to transport all of Palmetto Beach's residents over to the mainland.

Policemen had been driving their patrol cars up and down A1A, sirens blaring, shouting instructions, asking residents to line up in front of their condos as soon as possible, stressing the Neptune Boulevard Bridge was backed up for miles and evacuees must carpool six to a vehicle, and, most frightening, that the bridge would close at nine p.m.

She and Marlene were to meet in the lobby in ten minutes, then carpool with Rosie O'Grady, Lucy Diamond, Bob Seeley, and Walt Weatherwise, in the latter's SUV. Not Kate's idea. Rosie's. And how bizarre was that?

Prioritizing, she tossed Ballou's dog food and her Pepcid AC into a large green cloth Barnes & Noble shopping bag and, stumped, wondered what else she should take. Tissues. Underwear. A sweatshirt. Money. ID.

Kate felt grateful to be living in Ocean Vista. Public high schools and other large hurricane shelters didn't accept pets. Most condos on the beach would be enforcing the strict evacuation rules that had been agreed upon, then signed and sealed at closing: Residents were required to leave their pets with family or friends on the mainland before proceeding to a shelter.

But Ocean Vista had a secret weapon: Bob Seeley, an elder at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Coral Reef. And St. Thomas's pastor had offered its high-school gym as refuge for the Ocean Vista residents and their animals.

Coral Reef was fifteen miles west of 95. Should she bring a pillow?

Would she be coming back?

The misanthrope in the apartment next to hers didn't think so.

When Kate, holding Ballou, had been struggling to open her front door with a wet, sandy hand, her neighbor popped out into the hall, screaming that no one would ever make it, the island and everyone on it would be swept away, and Ocean Vista would crumble into the sand. Then, vowing to go down with the condo, she'd darted into her apartment.

What if Harriet left Kate with nothing? Images of Katrina's and Rita's destruction and their ravaged victims flooded her head. Could she, too, end up homeless? Could the wind hammering her windows become strong enough to destroy Ocean Vista?

Kate scurried, unexpected tears spilling down her cheeks, pulling photos of her granddaughters from the bookcase's bottom shelf, shoving them into the tote bag. She rushed to the bedroom, Ballou at her heels, grabbed Charlie's wedding ring from her top bureau drawer, then ran back to the living room.

She stopped short in front of the TV.

"The hospital evacuation is well under way, though the Neptune Boulevard Bridge is backed up for two miles to the south." Uncle Weatherwise's stand-in sounded deadly serious. "Chief Wilson has ordered all A1A residents to leave their homes immediately. The police expect to have everyone off island by nine p.m. The eye of Hurricane Harriet should hit around eleven. Please leave now." He seemed to be staring at Kate. "Do not delay."

Confirming the weatherman's warning, rain slammed against the sliding glass doors that led to her balcony. Kate watched water seep in, staining her wall-to-wall off-white carpet. She dashed to the linen closet, grabbed a pile of towels, and tried to stem the tide. Useless; her ocean view was now a liability rather than an asset.

She'd had Channel Eight on all through her evacuation preparation. The station's somewhat subdued hurricane-countdown watch — less of the usual hype and soap-opera style coverage that dragged on for days, and often ended in anticlimactic shortfalls or total misses — scared Kate more than the high drama.

Uncle's stand-in, a nerdy young man dressed in a slicker, ready to evacuate himself, tried hard to reassure his audience. Throughout his reportage, his voice remained calm and soft, but a slight tremor transmitted his fear.

Ready to roll, Kate yanked her cell phone out of her sweatpants' pocket and dialed her sister-in-law. Her fingers shook. She sank into a chair. Ballou licked her hand.

"We're out of here," Marlene said.

Kate held the Westie on a tight leash as they left the apartment. Like Scarlett O'Hara locking the Yankees out of Aunt Pittypat's house in Atlanta, she bolted the door behind her.

Charlie had dropped dead still clutching the pen he'd used to close on the condo. Kate had so resented living here alone. Ocean Vista had been Charlie's dream retirement, and since they'd sold her beloved Tudor in Rockville Centre, she didn't have anywhere to go. Over the last year, she'd come to accept, even feel part of, Palmetto Beach. Be careful what you wish for. Would Kate retroactively get what she'd wanted? Or worse, what she deserved?

Ballou and Kate rode the elevator alone. He nuzzled her cheek. She allowed herself three sobs. One per floor.

Pandemonium reigned in the lobby. Well, with all the faux marble, gilt-framed minors, and glass floor-to-ceiling front doors, it appeared to have been decorated for just such an occasion. Kate took perverse pleasure in her snide thought.

Hordes of her neighbors, all clamoring at once, clustered around the huge center fountain celebrating mixed myths: An alabaster statue of the Greek Goddess Aphrodite cavorting with the Roman Cupid. Dozens of Roman Cupids.

Her friends' fear, matching her own, sobered Kate; she felt ashamed for being so damn judgmental.

"Kate." Marlene startled her. "Over here. Turn left at the first potted palm."

The thick crowd made it impossible to find any landmark. She headed toward the strained sound of her sister-in-law's voice.

Marlene wore a plum jogging suit with matching sneakers. Her lipstick and eyeshadow were color coordinated too, and she'd styled her platinum hair in her trademark French twist. She carried a tote bag the size of a small trunk and her feet were surrounded by a matching set of Louis Vuitton luggage.

"There will be five other people in the car, Marlene."

"So?"

"Whadda ya, crazy?" Rosie O'Grady popped out from behind the fake plant "Or just a selfish old broad? There ain't no room in Weatherwise's car for all those suitcases. Talk about dumb blondes."

A wide-eyed but silent Marlene stared at the older woman. Had she been rendered speechless? Kate stifled a giggle.

"Please allow me to help carry the bags back to your condo, Marlene." Bob Seeley, ever polite, spoke with a sense of urgency. "As you know, I'm assisting in the evacuation effort, and the police have just advised me that Walt Weatherwise is third in line to pick up his passengers at the front door."

Without a word, Marlene placed a smaller suitcase on top of a larger one, and pulled them toward the elevator. Bob grabbed the duffel bag and followed in her wake.


Kate, squeezed in the backseat between Marlene and Lucy — the latter opting to sit as far away from Uncle Weatherwise as possible, had claimed the right rear passenger seat as her own — squirmed, but couldn't get comfortable. A Mercedes SUV with a front bench seat should provide more room for their fat-cat customers.

In the front, the tall but slim Rosie sat in the middle, the too thin Bob Seeley to her right. With Uncle's girth spilling over into Rosie's turf, Kate had no complaints.

Conversation turned out to be as constricted as the passengers: Weatherwise babbling about the storm and its poor coverage with him out of the loop; Rosie and Marlene jabbing at each other; Bob and Kate acting as peacemakers; and Lucy's silence getting on everyone's nerves.

And, after more than an hour in the car, its windshield pelted by rain and the ever-increasing wind whistling through its windows, they weren't going anywhere.

"We still haven't turned onto Neptune Boulevard." Rosie had stated the obvious.

Marlene groaned, but a sharp rap on the driver's side stifled her retort.

Uncle Weatherwise opened the rear window. Kate started as rain soaked the SUV's backseat.

"Everyone out of the car," a cop shouted. "Hurry up, folks. We're forming a human chain and walking across."

The nine p.m. bridge closing deadline was less than ten minutes away.

CHAPTER 3

A soaked Kate, linked hand to hand between a young policeman — who had Ballou tucked under his left arm — and Marlene, stumbled, twinging the human chain to an abrupt halt.

"Don't look down," she told herself, startled to hear her own voice, not realizing she'd spoken aloud. Tonight, the Intracoastal Waterway far below the bridge seemed as rough and forbidding as the North Atlantic.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Death Storms the Shore by Noreen Wald. Copyright © 2016 Noreen Wald. Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
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