The third novel in a haunting series from best-selling, award-winning author Elizabeth George!
The first fire may have been an accident, but what about the second? And the third—the one that killed someone. Becca King and her friends wonder if one of the newcomers to the island is to blame. Perhaps it’s Isis Martin’s brother, Aidan, just home from a school for troubled teens. Or Parker Natalia, a talented musician fired by his bandmates for unknown reasons.
Meanwhile, Becca’s education in the paranormal continues, as fellow psychic Diana Kinsale encourages her to explore her growing extrasensory abilities.
Beautiful Whidbey Island may seem like a tranquil haven, but all is not as it seems.
About the Author
Elizabeth George, described by Entertainment Weekly as “the queen of the mystery genre,” is the author of the bestselling crime novels about Inspector Thomas Lynley. Her books are known for complex plotting, elegant writing, and well-developed characters, all of which she also brings to her novels for teens.
The first book in the Whidbey Island saga, The Edge of Nowhere, was a finalist for both the Edgar and Agatha Awards. The second book, The Edge of the Water, and the third, The Edge of the Shadows, continue the story in the island setting, which is notable for its beauty and mystery.
Elizabeth George lives on Whidbey Island. She says, “Whidbey Island deserves to be ‘someone’ in a story. I only hope I’ve done it justice."
Visit Elizabeth George at www.elizabethgeorgeonline.com.
Date of Birth:February 26, 1949
Place of Birth:Warren, Ohio
Education:A.A. Foothill Community College, 1969; B.A. University of California, Riverside, 1970; M.S. California State University
Read an Excerpt
Island County Fairgrounds
The third fire happened at Island County Fairgrounds in August, and it was the first one to get serious attention. The other two weren’t big enough. One was set in a trash container outside the convenience store at a forested place called Bailey’s Corner, which was more or less in the middle of nowhere, so no one thought much about it. Some dumb practical joke with a sparkler after the Fourth of July, right? Then, when the second flamed up along the main highway, right at the edge of a struggling little farmers’ market, pretty much everyone decided that that one took off because an idiot had thrown a lit cigarette from his car window right in the middle of the driest season of the year.
But the third fire was different. Not only because it happened at the fairgrounds, which were just yards away from the middle school and less than a quarter mile from the village of Langley, but also because the flames began during the county fair when hundreds of people were milling around a midway.
A girl called Becca King was among them, along with her boyfriend and her best girl friend: Derric Mathieson and Jenn McDaniels. The three were a study in contrasts, with Becca light-haired, trim from months of bicycle riding, and wearing heavy-rimmed glasses and enough makeup to suggest she was auditioning for membership in the reincarnation of the rock band Kiss; Derric tall, well-built, shaven-headed, African, and gorgeous; and Jenn all sinew and attitude, hair cut like a boy’s and tan from a summer of intense soccer practice. These three were sitting in the bleachers set back from an outdoor stage upon which a group called the Time Benders was about to begin performing.
It was Saturday night, the night that drew the most people to the fairgrounds because it was also the night when the entertainment was, as Jenn put it, “marginally less suicide-inducing than the other days.” Those other days the entertainment consisted of tap dancers, yodelers, magicians, fiddlers, and a one-man band. On Saturday night an Elvis impersonator and the Time Benders comprised what went for the highlight of the fair.
For Becca King, with a lifetime spent in San Diego and just short of one year in the Puget Sound area, the fair was like everything else she’d discovered on Whidbey Island: something in miniature. The barn-red buildings were standard stuff, but their size was minuscule compared to the vast buildings she was used to at the Del Mar racetrack where the San Diego County Fair took place. This held true for the stables for horses, sheep, cattle, alpacas, and goats. It was doubly true for the performance ring where the dogs were shown and the horses were ridden. The food, however, was the same as it was at county fairs everywhere, and as the Time Benders readied themselves to take the stage after Elvis’s final bow during which he nearly lost his wig, Becca and Derric and Jenn were chowing down on funnel cake and kettle corn.
The crowd, who turned up to watch the Time Benders every single year, was gearing up its excitement level for the performance. It didn’t matter that the act would be the same as last August and the August before that and the one before that. The Time Benders were a real crowd pleaser in a place where the nearest mall was a ferry ride away and first-run movies were virtually unheard of. So a singing group who performed rock ’n’ roll through the ages by altering their wigs and their costumes and re-enacting the greatest hits of the 1950s onwards was akin to a mystical appearance by Kurt Cobain, especially if you had any imagination.
Jenn was grousing. Watching the Time Benders was bad enough, she was saying. Watching the Time Benders at the same time as being a third wheel on “the Derric-and-Becca looove bike” was even worse.
Becca smiled and ignored her. Jenn loved to grouse. She said, “So who are these guys, anyway?” in reference to the Time Benders as she dipped into the kettle corn and leaned comfortably against Derric’s arm.
“God. Who d’you think?” was Jenn’s unhelpful reply. “Y’know how other county fairs have shows where has-been performers give their last gasp before they finally hang it up and retire? Well, what we got is unknown performers re-enacting the performances of has-been performers. Welcome to Whidbey. And would you stop feeling her up, Derric?” she said to their companion.
“Holding her hand isn’t feeling her up,” was the boy’s easy reply. “Now if you want to see some serious feeling up . . . ?” He leered at Becca. She laughed and gave him a playful shove.
“I hate this, you know,” Jenn told her friend. She was returning to the previous third-wheel-on-the-looove-bike topic. “I shoulda stayed home.”
“Lots of things come in threes,” Becca said.
“Well . . . Tricycle wheels.”
“Triplets,” Derric said.
“Those three-wheel baby buggies for joggers who need to take their kids with them,” Becca added.
“Birds have three toes,” Derric pointed out. Then, “Don’t they?” he said to Becca.
“Great.” Jenn reached for more funnel cake and jammed it into her mouth. “I’m a bird toe. Lemme send that out on Twitter.”
Which would, of course, be the last thing Jenn McDaniels could have done, since among them Derric was the only one who possessed anything remotely close to technological. Jenn had neither computer nor iPhone nor iPad nor laptop, because her family was too poor for anything more than a third-hand color television the size of a Jeep, practically given away by the thrift store in town. As for Becca . . . Well, there were a lot of reasons why Becca remained at a distance from technology and all of them had to do with keeping a profile so low that it was invisible.
The Time Benders came forth at this point, climbing onto the stage past amplifiers that looked like bank vaults. Their wigs, pegged pants, white socks, and poodle skirts indicated that—just like last year—they’d be starting with the fifties. The Time Benders never worked in reverse.
The crowd cheered as the show began, lit by the rest of the midway with its games of chance and its creaking thrill rides. The best of the fifties blasted forth at maximum volume. Over the noise, Jenn shouted at Becca, “Hey, you probably won’t need that thing.”
That thing was a hearing device that looked like an iPod in possession of a single ear bud. It was called an AUD box and, despite what Jenn thought, Becca didn’t use it to help with her hearing. At least not in the way Jenn thought she used it. Jenn and everyone else believed that the AUD box helped Becca understand what was being said to her by blocking out nearby noises that her brain wouldn’t automatically block: like the noise from other tables that you might hear in a restaurant but normally be able to ignore when someone was talking to you. That was what Becca let people believe about the AUD box because it did, actually, block out some noise. Only, the noise it blocked was the noise inside the heads of the people who surrounded her. Without the AUD box she was bombarded by everyone’s thoughts, and while hearing people’s thoughts could have its benefits, most of the time Becca couldn’t tell who was thinking what. So since childhood, the AUD box was what she wore to deal with her “auditory processing problem,” as her mom had taught her to call it. Thankfully, no one questioned why the AUD box’s loud static helped her in understanding who was speaking. More important, no one knew that without it, she was one step away from reading their minds.
Becca said, “Yeah, I’ll turn it down,” and she pretended to do so. Up on the stage, the Time Benders were rocking and rolling through “Rock Around the Clock” while on either side of the stage, some of the older audience members had begun to dance in keeping with the music’s era.
That was when the first gust of smoke belched across the heads of the crowd. At first, it seemed logical that the smoke would be coming from the line of food booths, all doing brisk sales of everything from buffalo burgers to curly fries. Because of this, the Time Benders audience didn’t take much note. But when there was a pause in the music and the Time Benders were getting ready for the sixties with a change of costumes and wigs, the sirens hooting from the road just beyond the fairgrounds’ perimeter indicated something serious was going on.
The smell of smoke got heavier. People started to move. A murmur became a cry and then a shout. Just at the moment that panic was about to set in, the regular MC for the show took the stage and announced that “a small fire” had broken out on the far side of the fairgrounds, but there was nothing to worry about as the fire department was there and “as far as we know, all animals are safe.”
The last part was a serious mistake. “All animals” meant everything from ducks to the 4-H steer lovingly brought up by hand and worth a significant amount of money to the child who would sell it at the end of the fair. In between ducks and steers were fancy chickens, fiber-producing alpacas, award-winning cats, sheep worth their weight in wool, and an entire stable filled with horses. Among the audience for the Time Benders were the owners of these animals, and they began pushing their way in the direction of the buildings in which all the animals were housed.
In short order, a melee ensued. Derric grabbed Becca and Becca grabbed Jenn, and they clung to each other as the crowd surged out of the midway and past the barn where the crafts were displayed. They burst out behind it into an open area that looked onto the show ring and to the buildings beyond.
At the far side of the show ring, the stables were safe. The fire, everyone saw at once, was opposite them on the side of the show ring that was nearer the road into town. But this was where the dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, and rabbits had been snoozing in three ramshackle sheds that flaked old white paint onto very dry hay. The farthest of these sheds was up in flames. Fire licked up the walls and engulfed the roof.
The fact that the fire department was directly across the street from the fairgrounds had the effect of getting manpower to the flames in fairly short order. But the building was old, the weather had been bone dry for nine weeks—almost unheard of in the Pacific Northwest—and there were hay bales along the north side of the structure. So the best efforts of the fire department were directed toward keeping the fire away from the other buildings while letting the one that was burning burn to the ground.
This wasn’t a popular move. There were chickens and rabbits inside. There were dozens of 4-Hers who wanted to save those animals, and the news that someone had apparently released them at some time during the fire only made the onlookers crazed to get to them before they all got trampled. Soon enough there were too many fire chiefs and too few onlookers and enough chaos to make Derric, Jenn, and Becca head for the safety of the stables some distance away.
“Someone’s going to get hurt,” Becca said.
“It ain’t going to be one of us,” Derric told her. “Come on, over here.” He took her hand and Jenn’s, and together they made their way beyond the stables to where a woods grew up the side of a hill to a neighborhood tucked back into the trees. From this spot they could watch the action and listen to the chaos, and while they did this, Becca removed the ear bud from her ear and wiped her hot face.
As always, she heard the thoughts of her companions, Jenn’s profane as usual, Derric’s mild. But among Jenn’s colorful cursing and Derric’s wondering about the safety of the little kids whose parents were trying to keep them away from the fire, Becca heard quite clearly, Come on, come on . . . get it why don’t you? as if it was spoken right next to her.
She swung around, but it was dark on all sides, with the great fir trees looming above them and the cedars leaning heavy branches down toward the ground. At her movement, Derric looked at her and said, “What?” and then shifted his gaze into the trees as well.
“Is someone there?” Jenn asked them both.
“Becca?” Derric said.
Out of here before those kids . . . was enough to give Becca the answer to those questions.
Hayley Cartwright looked around for her sister Brooke, who’d claimed that she was leaving the family’s booth at Bayview Farmers’ Market just long enough to do her business in the rest room. Total lie. She’d been gone thirty minutes, leaving Hayley and her mom to run the booth all by themselves when it was, minimally, a three-person job. Brooke did the bagging and the weighing of veggies, Hayley wrapped the flowers and boxed the jewelry, and their mom took the money and made change. But with Brooke gone, Hayley was left dancing from one side of the booth to the other and trying to keep her eye on everything but especially upon the jewelry, which was fashioned from sea glass, difficult to make, and her main source of personal income.
Not that people actually shoplifted from the Cartwrights, at least not people who knew them. Taking even a dime from the Cartwrights was close to the same as emptying the family’s pitiful bank account, and everyone on the south end of Whidbey Island who knew the family also knew that. So most of the time people lined up patiently to pay for the flowers and veggies that the Cartwrights grew at Smugglers Cove Farm and Flowers. They chatted to each other in the warm early September sun, petted the myriad dogs who accompanied the market-goers among the colorful stalls, and listened to the music weekly supplied by one or another of the local marimba bands.
This day, though, a girl unknown to Hayley had been pawing through her necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and hair pieces for at least ten minutes. She’d also been trying them on. She was very pretty, with a swimmer’s broad shoulders and shapely arms and legs that were on full display beneath her tank top and shorts. She wore her hair in an odd Cleopatra style—if Cleopatra had been extremely blonde—and her bangs dipped almost into her eyes, which were so cornflower blue that only colored contact lenses could have achieved the hue.
She saw Hayley watching her as she was putting a third necklace around her ivory-skinned throat. She’d already donned four of the bracelets, and she was reaching for one of the more complicated pairs of earrings quite as if there was nothing strange about decking herself out like a jewelry tree.
Seeing Hayley observing her, she said, “I c’n never decide a single thing when I’m by myself. It’s absolute murder if I’m trying on clothes. My grandam is here somewhere”—here she looked around the crowded market distractedly—“and I guess I could ask her, but she’s got the most wretched taste, which you’d more or less have to expect from someone who carves up trees for a living. Not that there’s anything wrong with carving up trees, mind you. I’m Isis Martin, by the way. Egyptian. I mean the name is, not me. Isis was the goddess of something. I can never remember what but I truly hope she was the goddess of hot desire because I’ve got a seriously delicious boyfriend back home. Anyway, what’re these made of and which do you think looks best on me?” During all this, she’d put on a fourth necklace, odd because she was already wearing her own, a gold chain with elongated links that disappeared into her tank top and must have cost a fortune. She was peering into the stand-up mirror that Hayley provided, and she paused in her inspection of Hayley’s necklaces to put on lipstick that she excavated from a basket-weave purse.
Hayley liked the purse but was afraid to say this, for fear of setting the girl off again. So she said, “It’s sea glass. I make them. I mean, I make all the jewelry.”
“Sea glass?” Isis said. “You mean ‘sea’ like from the ocean? So do you get it from . . . like . . . I mean, are you a diver? I tried to learn to dive. My boyfriend before my current boyfriend? He and his family were into diving in a major way and they took me to the tip of Baja for spring vacation one time? They tried to help me learn to dive, which was a total joke because I am so, like, totally claustrophobic.”
“I find it on the beach,” Hayley told her when Isis took a breath. She looked over the other girl’s head to see if Brooke was anywhere in view. No such luck, which meant she had to get back to bagging and weighing. She glanced over her shoulder. The line of patient shoppers was extending and her mom was beginning to bag and weigh. She looked harried. She cast Hayley a supplicating glance.
“On the beach? Way cool,” Isis said. She reached for a fifth necklace. “I love the beach. Maybe I could go with you sometime? I’ve got a car. Well, my parents had to give me something to come up here, after all. I wouldn’t be any good at looking for sea glass, though. I’m blind as a whatever without my contacts and I generally don’t wear them at the beach because of the sand and how it can blow into your eyes if you know what I mean.”
“It’s over past Port Townsend,” Hayley told her. “The time to find it is winter, after a storm, more or less.”
“What’s past Port Townsend?” Isis peered at her reflection, then laughed. “Oh, I bet you mean the beach where you get the glass. God, I’m a flake. I c’n never remember what I’m talking about. Where’s Port Townsend? Should I go there? D’they have any decent shops?” She handed Hayley a sixth necklace, one that she hadn’t tried on. She picked one of the bracelets already on her arm along with a pair of earrings she’d not inspected and a barrette that matched nothing at all. “I think this’ll do it. Did you tell me your name? I can’t remember. I am such a ditz.”
She began disentangling the rest of the necklaces she’d donned as Hayley said that her name was Hayley Cartwright and, yes, Port Townsend had some really cool shops, if you could afford them. Hayley herself couldn’t, but she didn’t add that. She just wrote up the sale of the necklace, bracelet, earrings, and barrette, and she helped the other girl remove from herself everything else she’d donned. She told Isis the price, and the girl dug a thick wallet out of her woven purse. It was crammed with all sorts of things: newspaper clippings, folded notes with scribbles all over them, coffee reward cards, pictures, and cash. A great deal of cash. Isis pulled out a wad of it and distractedly handed it over.
She said, “Could you . . . ? Just take what you need.” Then she laughed. “I mean take what I owe you!” And she fixed the new necklace around her neck and scooped up some of her hair behind the barrette. She did this latter action with a lot of skill. She might be bird-brained, Hayley thought, but when it came to her appearance, she knew what she was doing.
Hayley counted out the appropriate amount of money and handed the rest back. Isis was admiring the barrette in her hair. The sea glass around her neck, as it turned out, was an inspired choice. It exactly matched the color of her eyes.
Isis took the rest of the money and crammed it into her wallet. She had a section of pictures inside this that was three fingers thick. She said, “Oh, you’ve got to look at him,” and flipped open to the first. “Is he totally hot or what?” She showed Hayley a picture of a boy whose hair stood out from his head in a way that made him look like a cartoon character recently electrocuted.
“Uh . . . he’s . . . ?” Absolutely nothing came into Hayley’s mind.
Isis laughed in delight. “He doesn’t really look like this. He just did that to piss his parents off.” She shoved the wallet back into her purse. “Hey, d’you want to get a lump-whatever? I can’t remember what it’s called but there’s a lady over there selling them and they look totally like something I shouldn’t be eating in a million years. Which, of course, is why I fully intend to buy two or three. What are they called?”
Hayley laughed in spite of herself. There was something beguiling about Isis Martin. She said, “Lumpia?”
“That’s it. I can tell I need you to help me navigate these mysterious island waters. I’ve been here since June. Did I tell you that? Me and my brother . . .” She rolled her eyes expressively, and at first Hayley thought this was in reference to her brother until Isis made the correction with, “My brother and I. Grandam goes berserk when I say ‘me’ as the subject of a sentence, so sometimes I do it on purpose. She thinks I don’t know it should be I. Well, I’m a congenital idiot, but I do know me is an objective case pronoun, for heaven’s sake. So d’you want a lumpia or two or six?”
Hayley said, “Sorry. I can’t leave . . .” She waved around her. “The booth, you know. My sister’s supposed to be here, but she’s disappeared.”
“Siblings. What a trial. Well, maybe another time?”
“You go on, Hayley.” It was Hayley’s mom speaking. She’d been on the edge of the conversation all along. “I can handle things here. Brooke’ll be back.”
“It’s okay. I don’t—”
“You go, sweetheart,” her mom said firmly.
Hayley knew what that meant. Here was an opportunity to be “just a kid,” and her mom wanted her to have that opportunity.
• • •
BROOKE FINALLY SHOWED up when they were disassembling their booth and getting ready to drop the unsold veggies at the nearby food bank, a feature of the island that most visitors to Whidbey didn’t know about. Tourists to the island came to soak up the atmosphere: the razor-edged bluffs rising up from beaches studded with sea shells and jumbled with driftwood, the pristine waters where a crab pot brought up fifteen Dungeness within two hours, the deep forests with shadowy hiking trails, the picturesque villages with their clapboard, seaside charm. As to the homeless population and the needy families . . . To visitors, they remained unseen. But people who lived on the island didn’t have to look far to find people in need, because many of them were neighbors, and when Brooke groused about how “totally dumb it is to be giving our food away when we should be selling it somewhere and making some money,” their mom cast a look into the rearview mirror and said to her, “There are actually people worse off than we are, sweetheart.”
Brooke’s response of “Yeah? Name ’em,” was out of character. But a lot of her remarks had been out of character lately. Their mom called this a stage that Brooke was going through. “The middle school years. You remember,” she said to Hayley as if Hayley had also been a Mouth with Attitude when she’d been thirteen. Hayley, on the other hand, pretty much believed that Brooke’s attitude had nothing to do with middle school at all. It had, instead, everything to do with the Big Topic that no one in their family would ever discuss.
Their dad, Bill Cartwright, was falling apart. It was a slow process that had begun in his ankles and had now worked its way up his legs so that they didn’t do what his brain asked them to do any longer. Time was when their dad would have been with them at the farmers’ market, working the booth. Time was when he would have shared the labor at Smugglers Cove Farm and Flowers, too. Hayley’s mom would have been raising the horses that she no longer raised and growing the flowers while he raised goats and worked in the huge vegetable beds as the girls took care of the chickens. But that time had passed, and now what went on at the farm was whatever the women could manage, minus the littlest Cartwright woman, Cassidy, who was only competent at collecting eggs. What couldn’t be managed by the women simply no longer occurred on the farm, but no one mentioned anything about this or anything about doing something that might help them out. It was, Hayley thought, an extremely dishonest way to live.
They were heading north on the highway on the route home, when Julie Cartwright asked Hayley about “the chatty girl who bought the jewelry.” Who was she? A day-tripper from over town? A vacationer? Someone from school? A new girl friend, perhaps? She didn’t look familiar.
Hayley heard the hopefulness in her mom’s voice. It had two prongs. The first was to change the topic of conversation in order to alter Brooke’s mood. The second was to direct Hayley toward getting a normal life. She told her mom that the girl was Isis Martin—
“What kind of weirdo name is that?” Brooke demanded.
—and she’d been on the island since June. She lived with her grandmother and her brother and . . . Hayley realized that despite all of Isis’s chatting, those were actually the only two facts she knew aside from her having a boyfriend. Isis had bought four lumpias and, cleverly, had decided that she could only eat two of the pastry-like stuffed delicacies. She’d handed the other two over to Hayley, saying, “Do me a fave and snarf these, okay.” It had been breezily done. Hayley had found herself liking the girl for doing it.
After eating and when Hayley had said she needed to get back to the market stall, Isis had scribbled down her smart phone number and handed it over. She’d said, “Hey, maybe me and you c’n be friends. Call me. Or text me. Or I’ll call you. We can hang. I mean, if you c’n put up with me.” She’d excavated in her straw purse for an enormous pair of sunglasses with rhinestones along the ear pieces, saying, “Aren’t these the trippiest ever? I got them in Portland. Hey, give me your number, too. I mean, if I haven’t totally put you off with my babbling. It’s ADD. If I take my meds, I’m more or less focused, but when I forget . . . ? I’m a verbal shotgun.”
Hayley had given the other girl her phone number, although her cell phone was as basic as they got, so there would be no texting. She also told her the family phone number to which Isis had said, “Wow, a land line!” as if having this was akin to having kerosene lamps.
“Anyway,” Hayley said to her mother, “she was sort of ditzy, but in a good way.”
“How lovely,” Julie Cartwright said.
When they arrived at Smugglers Cove Farm and Flowers and trundled up the long driveway toward the collection of barn-red buildings, they found Hayley’s dad on the front porch along with Cassidy. They were on the swing looking out at the farmyard. Cassidy had a death grip on one of the barn kittens. Bill Cartwright had a similar grip on the chain from which the swing did its swinging.
He struggled to his feet, and everyone did their usual thing of pretending not to notice. This was becoming progressively more difficult since he had begun using a walker. He worked his way to the edge of the porch as his women clambered out of the car. He called out, “Hayley, would you get that young man out of the vegetables? He wouldn’t take no for an answer,” which made Hayley look in the direction of the vegetable beds stretching out gloriously with the beginning of the autumn harvest.
She saw Seth Darrow’s 1965 VW before she saw him. The restored bug was parked to one side of the barn. Seth himself was crouched at the near end of the sweet potatoes. He had to be dealing with the watering system, she decided. They’d been having trouble with it all summer and he must have stopped by the farm, had a conversation with her dad during which the watering system had come up. It would be just like Seth to set off to deal with it.
“I tried to tell him I’d be getting to it tomorrow,” Hayley’s dad said.
“Oh, you know Seth,” her mom said airily. “Brooke, go ask him if he’d like a tuna sandwich please.”
“No way. I want a tuna sandwich.” Brooke tramped up the front walk, blasted across the porch, said, “You know, you’re going to kill that stupid cat,” to Cassidy, and entered the house with a bang of the screened door.
Julie Cartwright said with a sigh, “I thought if she saw the dog, it might distract her.” Away from food was what she didn’t add. Brooke was putting on weight—far more than was natural—but it was another subject they didn’t talk about.
The dog in question was Seth’s golden Lab, Gus. He was snuffling around the squash.
“I’ll go,” Hayley said.
“Tell Seth I’ll have a sandwich ready for him,” her mom told her, which was code for “let him finish what he’s doing.” This surprised Hayley. They generally didn’t accept help from outsiders and, despite Seth being her former boyfriend, he wasn’t a member of the family.
Deep into his repair of the watering system, Seth hadn’t heard the rest of the Cartwright family arrive. He didn’t even look up till Gus came loping along the pathway between the beds once Hayley entered through the tall gate in the fence that protected the area from the island’s marauding deer and rabbits.
He was dressed for work, Hayley saw. Instead of his usual garb of baggy jeans, sandals, socks, T-shirt, and black fedora, he wore his carpenter’s overalls, heavy work boots, and a baseball cap from which his long hair pony-tailed out of the one-size-fits-all opening at the back. Had he not been garbed like this, Hayley would have known he’d just come from work anyway, for his ear gauges were flecked with sawdust and his hands were newly nicked from construction.
He said, “Hey,” and paused to raise the baseball cap slightly. “Came by to give you some news and your dad said . . .” He nodded to the work he was doing.
She said, “Thanks, Seth. Mom’s making you a sandwich for afterwards.” She bent to pet Gus, who was bumping around her legs to get her attention.
“Coolness,” he replied. Then, “Gus, cut that out.”
“It’s okay,” Hayley said. “And . . . thanks, Seth. He can’t really get out here. I mean, he can but not to do anything hard.”
“Yeah. I could tell.” He squinted up at her, seemed to evaluate what might happen if he said what he wanted to say next, then said it anyway. “I wish you guys could catch a break, Hayl.”
“You and me both.” She watched him for a minute. He was working with wrenches, pliers, and wires, and she had no clue what he was doing. She said, “So why’d you stop by? You said you had news?”
“I passed the GED.”
She felt her face brighten. “That’s great, Seth.”
“My tutor’s totally relieved, let me tell you. The whole math thing was touch-and-go. And she still thinks I can’t read worth beans, which is more or less true. But my mom’ll be doing a naked celebration dance in the moonlight. I’m gonna sell tickets. That’s not the best part, though.”
“No?” It seemed to Hayley that there couldn’t be better news. Seth had dropped out of school in his junior year, had avoided studying for the GED throughout what would have been his senior year. Only in the last six months had he pulled himself together. The fact that he’d surmounted both his fear of failure and his catalogue of learning disabilities to take the equivalency test and pass would be a very big deal to his entire family.
Seth said, “Triple Threat is playing at Djangofest this year.” He was trying to sound casual about it, but Triple Threat was his gypsy jazz trio, Djangofest was a five-day international festival celebrating the intricate music of French guitarist Django Reinhardt, and to be invited to play at one of the many venues around the village of Langley during the festival had long been one of Seth Darrow’s dreams.
Hayley said, “Oh my God! Seth, that’s amazing! Have you told your parents? Your grandpa? Where’re you going to be playing?”
“My mom and dad know but that’s all. Aside from the guys in the trio, ’course. We didn’t score a good time—Wednesday afternoon at five at the high school and who’s gonna show up then but—”
“I’m showing up. And so’s your family. And so’s Becca and Jenn and—”
“Well, yeah. S’pose.” He sounded indifferent, but Hayley could tell he was pleased. He said, “Anyways . . . This is looking pretty good now.” He was referring to the repair he’d made. He heaved himself to his feet and brushed off his hands. This put him eye-to-eye with Hayley, as well as closer than she was comfortable with. They were friends now, not what they’d once been. It had to be this way, and while she knew that he knew it, she sometimes felt from him a longing for more.
She took a step back. She covered this by looking toward the house where her dad was at the edge of the porch watching them. She frowned at his posture, at how he had to cling to the walker to stay upright now, at how he heaved one leg and then another just to move a few feet.
Seth seemed to read what she was thinking. He said, “Not good, huh?”
“How can I?”
She gestured to the farm around them: the huge fields, the paddocks empty of horses and goats, the long low chicken barn down by the road. “You know,” she told him.
He followed her arm’s semicircle, gazing at the sights and considering what they actually meant. He said, “You decide where you’re applying yet, Hayley?”
Hayley knew where he was heading. But she had no intention of applying for universities. No one in her family knew about this. Neither did Seth. She wanted to keep things that way until it was too late to do anything about it.
She said, “I’m pretty close,” which was a total lie.
“Where’s it gonna be?”
“Don’t know. Like I said, I’m close but not there yet.”
But Seth was no fool. He heard something in her voice and he said, “Don’t play that game, Hayl. You got the smarts. So use ’em.”
She looked at him. “It’s not as easy as that and you know it, Seth Darrow.”
Seth ended up going to his grandfather’s house for two reasons, only one of them having to do with his good news. The other one was inspired by eating the tuna sandwich he’d been promised by Mrs. Cartwright. He devoured it while sitting at the family’s kitchen table. There, he’d caught sight of the local newspaper discarded on a chair.
He never read the South Whidbey Record, because his reading skills were the pits. He wouldn’t have thought to read the paper then in the kitchen except for the fact that a picture on the front page attracted his attention. It wasn’t the most recent copy of the Record, he saw, because the story was about the fire at the fairgrounds. The fire had happened in the middle of August, and since it was now the beginning of September, he had to wonder why the paper was still lying around. As he was attempting to answer that question, he saw the picture.
Becca King was in it. So were Derric Mathieson and Jenn McDaniels. They weren’t especially close to the camera, but they were completely visible in the crowd because they were moving away from the fire and everyone else was moving toward it. Becca was especially visible. Wondering if she knew about this was what took Seth to his grandfather’s place.
Becca had lived there since the previous November. First she’d been hiding out in a sturdy, snug tree house built by Seth far back in Ralph Darrow’s forest. Now she was in Ralph’s house itself, trading housework and cooking for a room. She was also charged with keeping an eye on Ralph Darrow’s diet, which veered in the direction of Whidbey Island vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream, nuts, and chocolate sauce for dinner if someone didn’t pull the plug on that one.
Seth’s grandfather lived on a huge spread of land off a road called Newman. You rumbled up a hill to get to it. Then you parked in an open space just below the crest, followed a path around the hilltop itself, and finally descended a trail toward a meadow. It was in front of you, then: a huge garden featuring rhododendrons the size of military tanks along with various dogwoods and a collection of specimen trees. The shingled house sat on one edge of this garden, with Ralph Darrow’s forest backing up to it.
At this time of year, like everyone else who had a garden, Ralph was in his. As Seth followed Gus down the trail that led to it, Ralph paused in his raking of the long-spent rhododendron blooms, pushed his wide-brimmed hat to the back of his head, and massaged the small of his back. He was seventy-three and when he looked around the property, Seth could see from his expression exactly what he’d seen from Hayley’s expression when she looked around her family’s farm. How the heck am I going to keep up with this place? The only difference was that Hayley didn’t need to keep up with her family’s place. She only believed she did.
Ralph caught sight of Seth’s dog first and then he saw Seth. He said, “Seth James Darrow. What brings you here this fine afternoon, favorite male grandson? And keep that damn dog out of my herbaceous border before I go after him with a shovel.”
Seth said, “Gus, no. Here, boy,” and he went to the porch where, inside a wooden chest, Ralph kept a supply of beef bones for the Lab. He rooted one out and Gus was happy to gnaw it. This left Seth free to talk to his grandfather.
Becca King, he discovered, was not at home. She’d gone off with Derric that morning and they’d not returned. She’d been charged with buying vegetables, eggs, cheese, late peaches suitable for jam making, and bread at the farmers’ market, Ralph told him. From there . . . who knew? Derric had been making cow eyes at her and she’d been doing much the same to him, so they could be anywhere at this point. “Such,” Ralph concluded, “are the ways of deep and abiding adolescent love.”
“Hey, you met Gram when you were fifteen,” Seth pointed out.
“I b’lieve that makes me an authority.” His grandfather nodded at a second rake that leaned next to the handrail of the porch steps. “Join me, grandson. What d’you want with Miss Becca?”
Seth couldn’t tell Ralph about the picture in the Record because of where it would lead if he gave his grandfather the information. So instead he said, “Wanted to tell her something. You, too.” He went on to share his good news: the GED and the invitation to play at Djangofest.
His grandfather smiled and tossed down his rake. “We are due,” he said, “for a celebration.”
Knowing that this would involve Whidbey Island vanilla and the trimmings, Seth sought a way to head his grandfather in another direction. That proved unnecessary as it happened because a shout of hello from the top of the hill and a “You! Ralph Darrow!” announced a visitor.
• • •
SETH LOOKED IN that direction to see they were being joined by a woman in overalls with disarranged gray hair somewhat tamed by a sagging French beret. Behind her trudged a boy. He looked either bored or ticked off but it was hard to tell which. His hair was dyed black, and his face bore bizarre mutton chop sideburns like something out of another century. He was tall and gangly with shoes the size of hockey stick blades and jeans so baggy the crotch was nearly at his knees. He wore all black. He was carrying a skateboard under his arm and gazing around as if to say there sure as heck wasn’t going to be a place to ride it here.
Seth didn’t know either one of these people, but he figured his grandfather did. Ralph Darrow knew everyone on the south end of the island, especially old-timers, and this lady looked like an ancient hippie who’d come to Whidbey sometime in the late 1960s, probably wearing what she wore now: sandals, a tie-dyed T-shirt, jeans, and obviously handmade socks. When she reached them, she smiled, and said, “There you are, Ralph Darrow.” Seth saw that some of her teeth were missing.
She was, he discovered, one Nancy Howard, and the boy with her was her grandson Aidan Martin. He’d been on the island for a while, he’d moved up here from Palo Alto, California, with his sister, he’d done “jack-darn-all to meet anyone and I mean even at the high school and don’t lie about that, young man,” so his grandmother Nancy had “hogtied him into the passenger seat of the camper” in order to do something about that. She’d heard Ralph Darrow had a young thing boarding with him, and Aidan here was going to meet that person. Nancy glanced at Seth expectantly, as if he were the young person in mind. She looked pretty doubtful about that. Seth was too old for high school and he looked it.
“That’s Becca King,” he told her.
“She’s out and about,” Ralph said to Nancy Howard. He extended his hand to the boy and said to him, “Ralph Darrow, Mr. Aidan Martin. This young man is my grandson Seth: builder, carpenter, and first-rate musician.”
Aidan looked largely indifferent to the introduction, but this wasn’t something to deter his grandmother. She said, “You boys go get to know each other. Shoo, now. I want to ask Ralph about his rhodies.” She turned her back to do this, drawing Ralph over to his prized New Zealand specimen.
That left Seth to deal with Aidan. He called to Gus and said to the boy, “Show you the pond if you want to see it.” Aidan shrugged. He shifted his skateboard to a spot beneath his other arm, and he shuffled along in Seth’s wake as Gus came loping from the porch, with the bone in his jaws like a duck he’d retrieved.
The pond was old but not a natural feature of the land. Ralph had backhoed it into existence at about the time he’d also constructed the house. It lay immensely in a dip of the land, with lawn growing up to its edge on its near side and a deep green conifer forest leaping up on its far side. Trails led off into this forest, one of them to Seth’s tree house, others making long loops elsewhere. Gus headed for the tree house trail, but Seth called him back by means of a ball. Next to gnawing bones, Gus loved chasing balls. It was something to do, Seth figured, while he showed the kid the pond.
Aidan, he saw, was not impressed. He stared at the pond with dull eyes and said, “Yeah. Cool.” That was the limit, a real conversation ender.
Seth said, “You a boarder, huh?” in reference to the skateboard. “Snowboard, too?”
“Hell yeah,” Aidan said. “You board around here? Does anyone?” He asked the question like a kid who thought Whidbey Islanders were living in a period prior to the existence of skateboards. He didn’t seem to expect an answer, either. He dug deep in the pocket of his jeans and brought out a pack of Camels. He said, “You got a match?” which Seth didn’t. When Seth told him this, the other boy swore and shoved the cigarettes back where he’d found them. He set his skateboard on the ground and sat on it, staring moodily at the surface of the pond. He said, “Christ, what a pit. How d’you stand living here? She doesn’t even have Internet. You got Internet?”
Seth joined him on the ground. Gus ran over with the ball in his mouth. Seth kept throwing it to keep the dog entertained. He said, “Here?” and gestured around the place. “Nope. Grand doesn’t believe in the Internet.”
“So how the hell d’you . . . I dunno . . . How do you talk to your friends?”
“I don’t live here,” he said. “I got Internet where I live. They got it in the Commons, if you need it. South Whidbey Commons. In Langley. You been there? It’s where kids hang out.”
Aidan scoffed. “She wants to handpick who I meet,” he said. “So if it’s kids in general and she don’t know them or at least know about them . . . ? No way. I might get in ‘trouble.’” He sketched quotation marks in the air. He snorted. “She makes me run to the beach and back twice a day,” he went on. “Isis goes, too, because she’s my frigging guard, you know? She rides a bike so I can’t ditch her.” He smiled to himself. “I ditch her anyway. Into the forest and what’s she gonna do? Ride after me? Not hardly. She might break a fingernail. She doesn’t want to tail me anyway. She hates it here as much as I do.”
“Who’s Isis?” Seth asked, as there wasn’t much else Aidan was giving him to go on conversation-wise, aside from a general air of unpleasantness that Seth decided it was best to ignore.
“Sister,” he said. “Prison guard. Whatever.” He looked around, his expression indifferent. “What do people freaking do around here?”
Seth thought about telling him that the island was pretty much like everywhere else. Whatever you wanted, you could find if you looked hard enough as long as it wasn’t a fast-food chain, of which there were none except a single Dairy Queen on the highway coming up from the ferry dock. But he figured Aidan would work things out for himself.
A question gave Seth the information that the boy was enrolled at South Whidbey High School, so Seth knew that all Aidan had to do was ask around for what he wanted. The school was small, but it was like any other high school in the country: There were your dopers, your athletes, your heavy scholars, your techies, your various kinds of artists, your losers, your dweebs. There was booze aplenty. There were drugs of all kinds. There were also parties that featured both. Since the kid didn’t look like a narc and he didn’t act like one, he’d do okay if he lost the attitude.
Seth said, “Kids do regular stuff, I guess,” to which Aidan replied with a guffaw, “I bet.”
Seth felt himself bristle at this implied judgment of a place he’d lived all his life. He started to say something but Aidan interrupted.
“Sorry, man,” he said quickly as if he realized how he’d been acting. “I c’n be a real asshole sometimes.”
Becca and Derric shared a long kiss. His hands in her hair, she lost the ear piece of the AUD box and caught not much longer really want . . . from him. This matched what she was thinking, so she wasn’t surprised. But she also wasn’t ready.
It was simple for her. When she gave herself to someone, it was going to be Derric. But she wasn’t going to do it in the back of a car, on someone’s sofa, out in the woods, or half-freezing to death at night on a Whidbey beach. She wanted . . . well, what did she want? She hadn’t yet worked that one out. All she knew was that the time wasn’t right.
They’d done the shopping at the farmers’ market. They’d gone from there deep into the woods to a place called Mukilteo Coffee, where roasting beans filled the air with the scent of burnt toast and where a few dollars bought them a lunch to share, out on the back deck looking into the forest. Now they were sitting inside Derric’s Forester, in Ralph Darrow’s parking area. Two other vehicles were next to them: Seth’s restored Bug and a completely un-restored, rusty, rickety-looking VW camper van. The presence of these vehicles was what put the brakes on their make-out session. Getting caught with Derric’s hand up her T-shirt . . . That would be too embarrassing.
Becca said, “Got to go,” against Derric’s mouth and she caressed his perfect, shaven skull.
“See you tomorrow, then?”
“Only if you’re up for homework.”
“You’re killing me,” he told her, but he said it with his highwattage smile.
A final long kiss and she scooped up the shopping bags from the back seat. She watched until his car disappeared back down the hill. Then she turned and headed for Ralph Darrow’s house.
She saw the driver of the VW camper straight off when she peaked the hill. An older lady stood in the garden below, talking to Ralph, and when Ralph saw Becca, he gave a yell for Seth. She saw Seth then, a few moments later. He came from the pond with Gus bounding around him, in the company of a strange-looking boy. It was the sight of this boy that encouraged Becca to leave the AUD box’s ear piece out of her ear. He was projecting an attitude that made a chill run down her spine.
She got nothing in the way of thoughts from anyone as she descended. It wasn’t until she was closer that the first of the scattered mental murmurings filtered through the air. And then it was damn not what I thought, which she assumed had to come from the older woman, because she was openly assessing Becca, like someone who’s looking at a horse to buy. After that came saved by the Becca bell . . . could be something good for the boy but God knows that nothing’s helped to make him . . . Ican’t forget to tell her about the picture . . . shekeeps her wits about her with that young man . . . would have been way cool . . . what’s with the face paint . . . some half-Goth skank . . . what you’d expect . . . friggingdumb idiot sometimes . . . besides making him run to the damn beach.
It was a lot to deal with all at once, but the length of the fractured thoughts pleased Becca mightily. What floated to her was still broken up by what other people would have called static, but to Becca it marked the progress she’d made in hearing more and more of what she’d learned to think of as whispers. In her earliest years the thoughts of others had come to her only as simple words. Then they’d advanced to phrases whose ownership she couldn’t identify. Now she was beginning to snatch full sentences out of the air. She wasn’t always sure who was thinking what, but often the context was enough to tell her.
She hadn’t got far in blocking out the whispers without aid of the AUD box, though. That was the ultimate goal: to hear the complete thoughts of whoever was nearby, but only when she wanted to hear them.
Ralph called out, “Meet our guests, Miss Becca,” and gestured to her to join them. He introduced her and added, “They’re your fellow Californians. Least, Aidan here is.”
Becca said hi and indicated the bags she was carrying. “Want to come inside?” she said to Aidan. “Got to put these away and find a recipe that disguises brown rice, or Mr. Whidbey Vanilla here won’t eat it.”
“We c’n eat the ice cream for him,” Seth told her, taking two of the shopping bags from her.
“Break your arm first,” was Ralph’s reply to this. But he walked Nancy Howard to the far side of the garden, where they continued their discussion about his plants.
More time for them to get to know each other put Becca in the picture of what she was intended to do. She shot Aidan a smile, but he didn’t return it. Whatever, she thought, and she led the way to the house.
Aidan asked her where she was from as soon as they got inside. She stalled on answering because where he was from was pretty crucial. The story she’d been telling for a year was that she was from San Luis Obispo, California, and if he was from anywhere near that town, she would be in trouble when it came to questions of “Hey, do you know . . . ?” which she wouldn’t be able to answer. So she put away veggies and fruit and eggs and she pretended she didn’t hear him long enough to hear Seth ask him where he was from. Palo Alto, it turned out. She had about two hundred miles to play with, then.
She turned from the counter. Aidan was at the table. A candle sat at its center and he was playing with it. He lit it from a book of matches that lay nearby. He stared at the flame.
“San Luis Obispo,” she told him.
“Cow town,” he said. “I went there once. What a dump.”
Becca and Seth exchanged a look. “Oh well,” she said.
Aidan seemed with it enough to catch her tone because he said immediately, “Sorry,” and looked around the kitchen as if seeking inspiration for what to say next. He settled on, “So what d’you guys do around here?” Out of here on the next ferry indicated his own wishes in the matter.
“Aside from school?” Becca said. “Football games. Dances. Parties. Hanging out. Kids go over to the mall in Lynnwood. What else?” She asked this of Seth.
“Biking, hiking, kayaking, camping, hunting, clamming, fishing, crabbing.”
Aidan looked back at the burning candle and said, “Fab,” as if what he meant was “Shoot me first.” Then he said, “What’s the dope scene?”
“What you want is here. I guess,” Becca said.
“Like . . . where?”
“Don’t know?” His question was backed by Everyone knows so she’s holding back Goth skanks always put it out there so what’s with—
Becca wanted to tell him she wasn’t a Goth, heavy makeup or not. Instead she said pleasantly, “Nope. Don’t know. I don’t do drugs.”
“Oh yeah right. Bet you get ‘good grades’ in school, too.” He made sarcastic air quotes on the good grades part. Hate straight skanks what a freaking poser went with this.
Seth said a little hotly, “You know, Becca is a—”
“S’okay, Seth,” Becca interrupted. “I like good grades. Don’t you?”
“Good grades don’t like me,” was Aidan’s reply. He turned the candle, using his palms as if this would warm them. “I get distracted too easy. That’s why I’m here. To get un-distracted.”
Seth joined him at the table once he’d helped Becca put away her shopping. She went for a recipe book, brought it to the table, and started leafing through it. She said, “You been at school this year? I don’t think I’ve seen you. You a junior? Senior?”
It turned out he was both of the above and neither of the above. He was taking classes and waiting for his credits to arrive from his previous school so South Whidbey could decide what the heck he was. His sister was a senior and he should be the same, but who the hell knew what was going to count up here.
“You got a twin?” Seth asked.
“Irish,” Aidan said. “I’m the mistake.”
Aidan flipped the book of matches in his fingers. “It’s a lame expression for having two kids within a year of each other. My sister’s only ten months older’n me.”
“Wow. Fast work,” was Seth’s remark.
“Bad work.” Aidan leaned back in his chair, yawned, and scrubbed his hands in his too-black hair. His hands, Becca saw, both bore tattoos: a devil on one and an angel on the other. His fingernails were painted black. It came to her that Aidan Martin looked like someone in disguise. Just like her, he was running from something. She couldn’t help wondering what it was.
After Aidan and his grandmother departed, Becca set about dinner, which Seth shared with them. He didn’t seem to want to leave, but he also seemed to want Ralph to go to bed or go somewhere, which wasn’t like him. She figured something was up.
When he showed Becca the front page of the Record that he’d scored from the Cartwrights’ kitchen, she understood why he’d waited till Ralph took himself upstairs to bed. There she was, clearly in focus in a photograph, and Becca King clearly in focus on the front page of a paper was not a good thing. Seth was the only person who knew this. She was on the run. Her mom was on the run. The person they were running from had turned up once on Whidbey Island in a failed search for them both.
At the time Jeff Corrie had been looking for his wife and stepdaughter: Laurel Armstrong and her fatso kid called Hannah. But Laurel was now in hiding in British Columbia and Hannah Armstrong had long ago morphed into Becca King, who hadn’t been remotely fat in a year. Only the fake glasses, heavy eye makeup, dark lipstick, and black clothing remained of the girl she’d become on the run from Jeff Corrie.
Still, Becca logged on to the Internet at least once a week to see if her stepfather was making any progress in trying to find her. He wanted her back because he wanted her talent; he wanted to use that talent for his money schemes. But he had serious problems of his own now: Not only had his wife and stepdaughter disappeared, but so had his investment firm partner, Connor, and the investigation into these disappearances had been going on for a good six months. That would be keeping him occupied in San Diego. But it wouldn’t necessarily be keeping him away from the Internet, where googling Whidbey Island could lead to the Record could lead to looking at the Record could lead to Jeff Corrie laying his eyes on the Record’s front page. Where this could lead was to Jeff Corrie showing up again, only this time with a picture of Becca King and questions for the sheriff’s department.
That couldn’t happen, and Becca knew it. So did Seth.
Becca breathed out two words. “Oh no.”
Seth said, “I figured you needed to know. Lookit the caption, Beck.”
She read it. The photographer hadn’t asked their names. Because so few people lived on the south end of the island, most people knew everyone. So when she saw, “Derric Mathieson, Becca King, and Jennifer McDaniels show good sense in running away from the fire,” she assumed someone at the paper had supplied their identities. Derric’s would be simple, mostly because, born in Uganda and adopted into an island family, he was the only African boy at South Whidbey High School. As for Becca and Jenn, Becca was Derric’s girlfriend and Jenn’s family had been on the island for generations. It wasn’t rocket science to work out who they were. She studied the picture to see if she resembled her old self in any way.
She didn’t think so. But she couldn’t be sure. She needed an old photo of herself to compare.
• • •
BECCA WENT TO South Whidbey Commons after school. It sat on Second Street in the center of Langley, a community of some one thousand inhabitants whose colorful cottages were built high above the waters of Saratoga Passage. Some of these cottages had gone through conversions, becoming everything from boutiques to the local museum. One of the conversions was the Commons, painted mustard yellow with a late summer garden still blooming out front and a bookstore, art gallery, and coffee house within. At the very back was a room used for games and general hanging out. The computers were here. When Becca arrived, Seth was there too.
For some reason, so was Aidan Martin, along with about a dozen other kids and the other two members of Seth’s trio, Triple Threat. The musicians were playing an uplifting piece of gypsy jazz on mandolin, bass, and guitar. Their listeners had their gazes fixed on the amazing dexterity of the musicians’ fingers.
This didn’t apply to Aidan Martin. His skateboard was lying upside down across his lap and his fingers were spinning its wheels. He looked sardonically amused by everything around him. Midway through the piece, he set his skateboard on the floor and reached for a deck of cards on a nearby table. He manufactured an exaggerated yawn and began to shuffle.
What a dolt, Becca thought.
With everyone focused on Triple Threat, the computers were free. Becca logged on. She made short work of googling Jeff Corrie’s name. He wasn’t in the papers as often as he’d been initially, when Becca and her mom had taken flight from him. Then, he’d been dealing with multiple investigations. His plate crammed full of legal troubles, he’d done the smart thing. He’d lawyered up. From that point on, his lawyer had done the talking for him. But what the lawyer said was what the paper pointed out: There was no evidence of foul play associated with the disappearances of these people. There was only a trail of money that filtered to Connor and Jeff instead of to their investors and even that, the lawyer said, had been orchestrated by Connor to make Mr. Corrie look guilty. So why wasn’t the investigation centered on him? San Diego was a stone’s throw from the Mexican border and maybe the cops should be calling their cohorts there because it made a lot more sense to figure Connor West had slipped across that border than to believe Jeff Corrie had somehow done away with him without leaving a scrap of evidence, didn’t it?
Jeff was playing it smart, Becca concluded. Unless they found Connor’s body or she herself stepped up and explained how she helped the two men get money by listening to the investors’ thoughts to pinpoint their weaknesses, Jeff would stay a very free man. He’d also stay a man who was looking for her, and Becca’s blood went to ice cubes when she followed a link to an editorial in the San Diego paper and her gaze fell on the two words Whidbey Island.
“Corrie has said from the first that his wife’s cell phone was found on Whidbey Island,” she read, “and since the sheriff’s department in Coupeville, Washington, confirms this, one has to ask whether the man’s claims of persecution constitute yet another example of how things tend to go wrong in the San Diego police department.”
God, Becca thought, he was getting the newspaper on his side! Soon enough he’d be back up here searching for her.
She went back in time on the Web. She needed the first serious mention of the disappearance of Laurel and Hannah Armstrong. That was the one that featured their photos, her own being her fifth grade school picture.
Excerpted from "The Edge of the Shadows"
Copyright © 2016 Elizabeth George.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for The Edge of the Water:
"A ripping good thriller." —School Library Journal
“One need not have read the first book to be engrossed. . . a riveting story. . . readers will be eager for the next installment.” —VOYA
“Readers will remember Whidbey for decades to come. George has scored an ‘A+’ again. . . waiting for book number three is going to take an incredible amount of patience. Bravo!” —Suspense Magazine
Praise for The Edge of Nowhere:
“George has created an interesting set of characters and plot twists that teenagers who like adventure and mysteries will enjoy." —School Library Journal
“...strong appeal to fans of Beth Kephart and Nancy Werlin.” —BCCB
"In her first foray into YA fiction, Ms George (a beloved adult suspense novelist) has hit the nail on the proverbial head with this action-packed, mysterious, and somewhat 'creepy' novel . . . the writing is superb from Ms. George, as always but . . . it's the combination of great characters and relationships that truly have this novel raising the bar when it comes to today's YA fiction." —Suspense Magazine