Carol W Hazelwood

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The Beastly Island Murder available from

The Beastly Island Murder

by Carol W. Hazelwood

Chapter 1

Jennifer paddled her sea kayak past the naked cliff into the quiet waters of Beastly Island’s cove. The moored sloop surprised her. The fog bank looming to starboard seemed more ominous now. Although the sun had burned off the morning mist, by nightfall dense clouds would again swallow the island. She let her boat drift in a sea that lay flat as cooled pudding. Her Newfoundland, perched in the front cockpit of the tandem kayak, barked. “Hush, Lydia, I see it.”

Jennifer stroked through the icy waters toward the sloop’s stern to read the name stenciled in glossy-gold script: The High Life, out of Seattle. Water lapped against its black hull as she circled the unwelcome visitor. The cockpit was white, the rigging tidy; her brass sparkled, her teak rub rail shined. No one was aboard. She scanned the beach—empty. With a nervous flutter in her stomach, she paddled toward shore, passing the buoy that marked shallow water.

The Newfoundland jumped into the sea, sending the kayak skittering sideways. Jennifer braced with her paddle, leaned into the wash, then stroked for land. She nudged the boat’s nose into the pebbly shore and snapped the spray skirt off the coaming. Stabilizing the craft with her paddle across the hull behind her, she swung her legs to one side, and stood. Even with her feet protected by wetsuit booties, the chill of the seawater elicited a shiver. Stowing her paddle in the cockpit, she picked up the bow and dragged the kayak farther out of the water.

She glanced around and spotted a small dinghy hidden behind a large driftwood log. Lydia bounded out of the surf and shook, then raised her muzzle. A deep growl rumbled from her throat.

Jennifer shielded her eyes from the sun as she watched a man stroll toward them. She fingered the knife strapped to the outside of her thigh but concealed under the spray skirt that hung from her waist to her knees.

“Stay,” she commanded Lydia.

The man waved. She did not. Even his saunter irked her. Acts as if he owns the place, she thought. As he drew near, his khaki slacks and white T-shirt showed off a tall, wiry build. His short black hair with traces of gray at the temple offset a tan face without the deep wrinkles of sailors.

When he was about ten feet away, he stopped. “Hello. I’ve been sightseeing. There’s a cabin on stilts high on the slope and an eagle’s nest atop a hemlock just down the beach.”

“I know.” She pointed to the large sign that read Private nailed to a pine at the edge of the forest where reed-like grass grew.

He shrugged. “I called out, but no one answered. The island seemed deserted. Lovely spot.”

He smiled. She did not.

“Are you having trouble with your boat? Are you in need of medical help?” she asked.

He frowned, stood straighter and hooked a thumb in his belt. “No. I didn’t know the island was private until I landed. Hey, islanders and seamen share camaraderie. You live here?”

“I’m the owner who is not in need of camaraderie. Now, I’d appreciate it if you’d leave my island.”

“Your island?” He raised an eyebrow. “The whole island?”

“Yes.” She did not intend to elaborate.

He hesitated and looked at Lydia. “Nice dog. Big. Powerful.” Again he paused as if waiting for her to say something.

She didn’t.

“Well, I guess I’ll set sail.” His clean-shaven jaw jutted forward as if he was about to vent his displeasure, but then he lifted his hand in a halfhearted salute. “Thanks for your hospitality.”

She ignored his sarcasm.

He walked to his dinghy, got in, and pushed off.

Jennifer didn’t move until he’d rowed halfway to his sloop. Only then did she lean down, pat Lydia, and whisper, “Good thing he doesn’t know you’re a one hundred and twenty-five pound lapdog.”

When she released Lydia from her ‘stay,’ the dog scampered toward the forest to investigate smells and chase chattering squirrels, while Jennifer pulled her homemade sled down to the shore. Sometimes she used Lydia’s pulling power for the sled, but the stranger’s unexpected appearance had jangled her nerves and work would help her regain her composure.

She pushed the kayak onto the padded two-by-four planks, lashed together by canvas and rope, and uncoiled the reins fastened to the sled. Fitting the sling around her broad shoulders, she trudged up the slope, hauling the ninety pound kayak to a small clearing below the path leading up to her cabin. She stopped and tossed the sling aside, then picked up a bucket, scooped fresh water from a large barrel and wiped down the yellow fiberglass hull with a rag. Satisfied, she popped open the bow hatch, extracted her gear, then drew a tarpaulin over the boat. As she walked up the winding trail, she ran her hand over the carved wooden sign that read: Beastly Manor.
Suspicious that the stranger may have gone up to the cabin, she inspected the thin wire she’d buried under the sand by the gate. It had not been disturbed and her tension eased. Releasing the spring, she folded the wire behind the gate post. She took this precaution whenever she left the island for long kayak trips or departed for the mainland. Her grandmother had taught her that trick, as well as other ways of keeping herself safe on the island, and it was her grandmother who had given her Lydia after Carla’s murder.

She unlatched the gate with its dangling cowbell, whistled for Lydia who dashed ahead as Jennifer snapped the redwood gate shut behind them. The cowbell’s deep clang echoed above the island’s lush foliage and sent a raven cawing skyward. The wire mesh fencing around the site was laden with elderberry bushes that her great grandfather had planted as a windbreak. Every autumn, these needed hard pruning. She’d already hacked back much of the dense growth but had yet to haul the branches down to the beach to burn.

Under the cabin in an outdoor shower, Jennifer wiggled out of her spray skirt. After unstrapping her sheathed knife from her thigh, she shed her booties and wetsuit. She pulled the rope connected to a small storage tank above. As the cold water pummeled her long slim body, Lydia pushed forward to share the shower. “Okay,” Jennifer said. “Let’s get the salt and sand off you.” After letting water soak through the dog’s thick fur, Jennifer shoved her out.

What would her grandfather think of a Newfoundland enjoying the flow from the water tower he’d installed? He’d also constructed the septic tank, but it was her grandmother who’d developed the filtered water system. Water from a small well plus rainfall were the sole sources of fresh water, a precious commodity on the two mile long island. Grabbing a towel from a nearby hook, she dried off, and slung her wetsuit over her arm. Wearing only a bikini, she ran up the stairs to the porch where Lydia sprawled.

She placed her booties and the knife on a bench. After laying her wetsuit and spray skirt over the railing to dry, she fed Lydia a biscuit from the large covered tin by the front door. “You’re happy, wet, and very grungy,” she told Lydia, who eyed her mistress as if waiting for another biscuit. “Quite enough for you.”

Once inside the expansive room that served as the living, dining, and kitchen area, she climbed the spiral staircase to the loft and changed into jeans, a long sleeved flannel shirt, and sneakers. There was another bedroom downstairs, but the loft is where she and Carla had slept, and the warm memories of late night chats with her younger sister remained embedded in her psyche. A toilet and basin were off the downstairs bedroom. Tucked under the spiral stairs was a cedar closet with extra warm clothing for foul weather. It was the only place Jennifer hadn’t cleaned out since she’d inherited the island from her grandmother.

After running a comb through her cinnamon-colored hair, she pulled it into a ponytail and slipped on a green hair band. She glanced into the small mirror hung on the roughhewn wall. Her tan emphasized the freckles that laced across her nose and cheeks. She rubbed on lotion that had a nondescript fresh smell, unlike the perfume Alex had given her. She hesitated, unable to recall the name. “Oh yes, L‘air du Temps,” she mumbled. The perfume went down the drain shortly after he’d left.

Back downstairs she heated clam chowder on the propane burner. Through the window, she saw the sloop still moored in the cove. She mulled over how snippy she’d been. In fact, she’d been rude and normally she was friendly and outgoing. How much she’d changed.

Since her grandmother’s death four months earlier, she’d only been to the island a few times. The last time Joe had come with her. He seemed to understand that the island was her sanctuary where she could grieve and remember the good as well as the bad that had occurred on Beastly.

Her parents were furious that the island had been left to her and not to them, but her grandmother knew they would sell it. After Carla’s murder, they never returned to the island. Her grandmother understood that Jennifer would maintain Beastly Manor and the land as long as she lived.

The loss of her grandmother made her more appreciative of her surroundings. The cabin’s homey interior contained so many memories. Her mother had sewn the cranberry red canvas curtains; her grandmother had made the olive green denim slipcovers on the couch and the two overstuffed chairs; Carla contributed the flowery cushions to the décor, and Jennifer, not prone to sewing, had made the coffee table from the island’s pine trees. Her father and grandfather had worked on the outside and surrounding area. “Decorating is women’s work,” they’d declared as they’d gone off together. When her grandfather died ten years ago, her dad continued his outdoor chores, accepting Jennifer’s help now and then. When Jennifer’s fiancé, Alex, came to the island, her father had accepted his help grudgingly.

After her sister’s murder, Jennifer and her parents had fallen into a state of confused alienation. A psychologist friend told her this was a phase that would pass, but the chasm remained. They blamed Alex for Carla’s murder; the police blamed Jennifer and Alex. She blamed her parents for her breakup with Alex. The circle of unhappiness continued.

She paused as she was about to cut a slab of Havarti cheese, thinking how the past haunted her and froze the present into an all-consuming drive to find the murderer. Sighing, she put the cheese and a slice of rye bread onto her plate with the bowl of hot soup. She took her lunch out to the porch and sat in her grandmother’s wicker rocking chair. Lydia’s snoring throbbed in counterpoint to the pine needles brushing against the cabin walls. A golden-eyed oystercatcher, black as a crow, darted overhead. She heard the sloop’s engine and watched the man weigh anchor. The sloop glided out of the cove like a sleek black swan.

“So much for that interloper,” she said, rubbing the nape of her neck. She could have been more diplomatic. Until the murder and the media attention, her family had welcomed strangers. Afterward, everything changed. Like poked sea anemones, her family had pulled into themselves. Was it time for her to stop being so defensive toward every stranger who approached the island? If Joe had been with her, it would have been different, but he couldn’t get off duty, so she’d come alone.

After finishing lunch, she set her dishes on the porch’s cedar planks and rocked. She had four more days on the island before she returned to Books & Tea. Aunt Emma Mae had been the sole owner of the bookstore until Jennifer bought in a year and half ago. Jennifer’s research to locate and appraise rare and old books for clients was not only an endeavor essential to the store’s dwindling bottom line, but also allowed her to learn about vintage books circa 1900s. The book, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, taken from Carla was the only clue to the murderer. It was all Jennifer had to go on.

“Enough dawdling,” she said out loud. “Time for chores.” Jennifer picked up her empty bowl and went back inside. The cabin’s windows needed caulking, the hewn dead brush waited to be dragged to the beach and burned, and a few roof shingles had to be installed where a raccoon had clawed through to the plywood.

As she washed her dishes, she thought of how she and her grandmother had worked side-by-side making repairs to the cabin. The work had been filled with fun. Once, her grandmother had accidentally nailed her shirt to the side of the house. When she’d quickly descended the ladder, she ended up topless. Or the time the two of them caulked the bathroom window only to find that they’d sealed off the vent. Jennifer smiled, remembering the shared work and laughter.

The afternoon spun by as Jennifer tackled one chore after another. Toward early evening, she dragged the last elderberry branch to the beach. Tomorrow she’d burn them. The air had cooled as the sun dipped behind the island’s tree line. It was then she heard the muffled sound of an engine. The same black-hulled sloop entered the cove, its sails furled.

“Damn!” She shoved the last branches into the large pit she’d dug and wiped her forehead with the back of her gloved hand.

The man dropped anchor and put his dinghy over the side. Lydia bolted toward the water, barking and splashing in the shallows. Shrugging off her irritation, Jennifer resumed breaking branches into smaller pieces, while out of the corner of her eye she kept track of the man’s approach. As he neared shore, Lydia’s barking became frenzied so Jennifer went to quiet her.

When the man was a few feet from shore, he called out. “Ahoy.” He lifted a salmon. “I’ve brought a peace offering.”

She hesitated, then waved him in. “Let’s give the guy a chance, but stay close.” She stroked Lydia’s massive head.

The small craft bumped the gravelly bottom, but he didn’t get out. “I’m Rick Carlson. We got off to a bad start. I thought I’d try again. Okay if I land? I don’t want your dog to attack me.”

She nodded, stepped back, ordering Lydia: “Sit. Stay.”

He got out of his boat, dragged it up above the tide line, then turned toward her, holding the fish out in front of him. “I thought you might like this for dinner.”
“Nice.” She stood a short distance away, not sure what to make of him or how hospitable she should be. “You went out to sea, caught a fish, and came back to offer me dinner? You’re certainly industrious and persistent.”

He grinned; his gray eyes danced with mischief. “Actually, I didn’t catch it. I met a fisherman moored off another island. After I explained I needed to make amends to a woman, he sold it to me.”

In spite of herself, she laughed and put her hands on her hips. “An honest man. Are you going to cook it as well?”

“No. I gutted and scaled it. I thought you’d cook it.” He turned back to the dinghy and pulled out a sack. “I brought charcoal in case you didn’t have dry wood.”
She hesitated, wondering if she should trust him. “You make it hard for me to turn you away.”

“That’s the idea.”

She bit her lower lip, realizing that at some point trust had to return. “I’ve got a brazier at the cabin.” She pointed up the hill. “By the way, I’m Jennifer Frost.”
“Hmm. The name suits you,” he said.

She bristled, but knew she’d been “frosty,” so she let his barb pass. “And this is my guardian, Lydia,” she said, making sure he understood her dog would protect her.
He nodded. “Does she eat fish?”

“She would if I let her.” Jennifer released Lydia from her stay, and the dog moved forward to sniff Rick and the fish. “We could make a fire down here on the beach.” She tossed out the suggestion, although this idea would still entail her going up and down to the cabin.

“Or you could come out to the boat and I could cook dinner.” He stood still, the fish in one hand, the sack of coal in the other.

Silence fell between them as they took the measure of one another. “Let’s go up to the cabin,” she finally said, pointing toward the path. After a few steps, she stopped. “Lydia’s my bodyguard.”

“I promise not to get you or your dog mad at me.” He raised his free hand in a Boy Scout salute that made her smile.

With Lydia between her and Rick, she continued, fighting off her instinctive reaction to not turn her back to him. Although trust was no longer in her DNA, having Lydia nearby inspired some of her old confidence.

When they came to the Beastly Manor sign, he asked, “Is there significance to the name?”

“Yes,” she said, but added no details. They passed through the gate she’d left unlatched and continued up the stairs. After they’d gained the porch, she explained, “My great grandmother was English.” She dragged out the grill. “She hated the island and the cabin. In those days it was more primitive than it is today. Thanks to my grandparents there’s running water and a flush toilet.”

She put a handful of dried wood chips in the bottom of the brazier, and he placed charcoal on top. After he’d lit the fire with his lighter, Jennifer finished her story. “According to my grandmother, her mother kept saying, ‘The place is absolutely beastly, just beastly.’ So...when my grandmother inherited the island, she named it Beastly and put up the sign. I’ve always liked the name.”

“I thought perhaps it had another meaning, more dramatic, perhaps even ghostly.” He produced a fresh tomato and a head of lettuce out of the bag he’d carried. “Thought you might not have had your greens lately.”

Her eyes widened. “That’ll be a treat. I have some Marsala vinegar and olive oil for a salad dressing. I’ll add pine nuts for crunch.” She grinned as she took his salad offerings. “I picked elderberries this morning. We can have them for dessert. How does that sound?”

“My mouth is watering already. Do you have any rice?”

“Yes. Good idea.” She went into the kitchen and made the rest of dinner while he kept an eye on the fish grilling, and Lydia kept an eye on him. With the rice cooking, Jennifer returned to the porch and relaxed in the rocker, while he sat in the cane chair.

She puzzled over his coming to her island. “Are you vacationing or do you just sail around looking for islands to explore?”

He gazed toward the sea where wisps of mist began to swirl above his sloop’s mast. The beacon light glowed from the masthead. “Most of the time I live on board,” he nodded in the sloop’s direction, “and do a little of this and that to keep my head above water. I have no intention of settling in one place.”

“I noticed it was registered out of Seattle. Mooring her there must cost you.”

“I manage.”

“She has classic lines.”

“You’ve got a good eye. She’s about fifteen years old, a Morris 36. I refitted her from top to bottom.” He stood and went over and tested the fish with a long fork. “It’s ready. How about the rice?”

“It should be done.” She went inside, put the salad and the rice on individual plates and took them out, handing one to Rick.

After they helped themselves to pieces of salmon, they sat and ate quietly until she said, “I’ve been living on dried food, canned goods, and some fish catches for the past week. This is a pleasant treat. Thanks.”

He bowed his head. “My pleasure.” After another mouthful, he asked, “What do you do when you’re not on the island playing Robinson Crusoe?”

“I’m not playing. This island has been in my family for generations. It’s my rock when the world goes topsy-turvy.”

“Is your world topsy-turvy now?” He smiled in an odd way. “How do you feel about that?”

“You sound like a psychologist.”

“Oops. Didn’t I tell you I’m a psychiatrist at a mental health clinic?”

For a moment she thought he was serious, then realized he wasn’t. “You’ve got a weird sense of humor.”

“You’re not the first to notice.” He put down his plate and sipped the tea she’d served. “So what do you do for a living? Or maybe you don’t have to since you own an island.”

“I’m part owner of Books & Tea, a bookstore in Brandon, a small town north of Seattle. Ever been there?”

“Sorry, can’t say I have.”

“Not surprised. The town is small and so is our store. Brandon’s very quaint; the locals like their privacy. Not many newbies, despite the influx from California, but the store does well enough.”

“There must be a lot of readers in Brandon to make a go of a privately owned bookstore these days.”

“We manage,” she said, thinking she could be just as evasive as he’d been. “What about you? Retrofitting your sloop must have taken a bundle.”

“I came into some money. I put in a 42-horsepower Westerbeke and a 130-amp alternator because of the new refrigeration compressor. It took a long time to refit her. The teak had to be matched, sanded and repaired.” He must have seen her blank stare. “Sorry, I do go on about The High Life.”

She nodded. “There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in doing something well.” She finished the last bite of salmon on her plate. “There’s a lot of fish left. Do you want to take it back to your boat?”

“I’m not into taking a gift back. Don’t you have a fridge?”

“A small one, runs on propane.” She took their empty plates inside and dished up the elderberries with a tad of honey on top. When she came outside, he was scratching Lydia behind the ears as the dog drooled on his pants.

“I thought Newfies were water rescue dogs,” he said. “She’s not really ferocious is she?”

Jennifer raised her chin. “Do you want to test her?”

He shook his head.

“She’ll take care of anyone who gives me a bad time.” Jennifer handed Rick a bowl of berries and sat down. “She’s well trained.”

“A good thing since you’re out here alone.” He began to eat the berries with a relished sigh.

“My grandmother taught me to be vigilant.”

He looked up between mouthfuls. “She must be quite a woman.”

“She was. She died four months ago.” She turned her head away.


She shrugged. “You couldn’t know.” After a time, she said, “Fog’s getting thicker. The light on your ship’s mast is barely visible.”

“Yeah, I noticed. I’d better head back.” He stood. “I’ve wanted to ask, how did you get out here? I didn’t see a skiff. Don’t tell me you kayaked out.”

“Hardly, although it’s possible. We’re about twelve miles off the coast. Sometimes I rent a boat and moor it in the cove, but this time I used Clarence’s ferry service. He’ll pick me up, and I’ll haul out trash when I leave. My cell phone keeps me in touch.”

“Good arrangement.” He glanced at his empty bowl and glass. “Can I help you clean up?”

She shook her head. “Not necessary.”

“What are you doing tomorrow? Looks like the fog will keep me moored here at least through tomorrow.” He must have noticed her tensing, for he added, “I won’t bother you, but if you need help with chores, I’m handy with a hammer or shovel.”

She swallowed, thinking of Carla’s bashed skull, but she regained her poise and replied, “Everything’s taken care of, thanks.”

After the fog swallowed his retreating figure, she walked down, checked the gate and secured the cowbell. Her trust went only so far.

A fish dinner didn’t warrant letting down her guard.

The Beastly Island Murder available from