Moon Island

By: J.R. Rain

Chapter One

“Someone killed my grandfather,” said the young lady sitting in my office, “and Detective Sherbet thinks you can help me.”
“I pay Detective Sherbet to say that. In donuts, of course. But not the pink ones
He has something against the pink ones.”
The young girl, who was maybe twenty-five, grinned and almost clapped
“He was eating a donut when I met with him!”  “No surprise there. He’s a good man.”
She nodded, still grinning. A very big grin. “I got that impression, except he said there was nothing he could do for me,  since my grandfather’s death was ruled an accident.”
“Nothing he could do,” I said, “except recommend me.”
“Yes. He said I could trust you and that you would probably help, depending on your caseload.”
I looked down at my desktop calendar
There was an appointment in three days to meet with Tammy’s teacher...and that was it. The 15th was circled, which indicated that I was due a child support payment from Danny. I wasn’t holding my breath— and if I had, well, I could hold it for a very long time. So far, in seven months,  Danny had given me precisely one payment, and that was because I had physically hauled his ass to the bank
“I think I can fit you in,” I said. “Tell me why you think someone would want to kill your grandfather?”  “Well, I don’t know.”
“But  you  think  his  death  is suspicious.”
“Well, yes.”
“When did he die?”  “A year ago.”
“His death was ruled an accident?” I asked, making notes on a notepad in front of me
“How did your grandfather pass away,  if I may ask?”  “He was found dead in his pool.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
The young lady nodded. She reminded me of myself. Short, petite, curvy, dark hair. And unless she drank blood and hung out with other creatures of the night, that’s where the resemblance ended. Her name was Tara Thurman. I seemed to have heard her name from somewhere, although I couldn’t place it now
“Where did your grandfather live?” I asked
“On an island.”
“An island?”  “Yes.”
“Catalina?” I asked, which was really the only habitable island off the coast of southern California
“No. It’s in Washington State.”
“I didn’t know there were islands in Washington.”
“There are dozens of them.”
I nodded, and wondered if I had ever actually looked at a map of Washington. I didn’t think so. Then again, geography was never my strong suit. Catching bad guys, now, that was a different story entirely
“Lots of people live on the islands,”  she went on. “Except for my grandfather’s island.”
“What do you mean?”  “It’s a private island. His is the only house, along with a few guest bungalows.”
I thought it was time for that map. I asked her to step around my desk and show me on Google Earth where he lived
She did, leaning in next to me, smelling of perfume that I didn’t recognize. She had me scroll above Seattle and—son of a bitch—there were various chains of islands scattered up there. No doubt the last Ice Age had had something to do with that, but I knew as much about ice ages as I did about maps of Washington State
Next, she took over control of the mouse and positioned it over a speck of land above an island called Whidbey, and near another island called Lopez Island
“I don’t see it,” I said
“Hang on.”
She magnified the page and soon, the very small speck of land became much bigger than a speck. As it took shape, the name of the island appeared on the screen
I looked at Tara. “You’re kidding.”
“About the name? No, that’s what it’s called.”
“Skull Island?”  “Yes. I kinda like it. I used to love going there as a kid, especially telling my friends that my grandfather lived on an island called ‘Skull Island.’”  “Why is it called Skull Island?”  “There was a shipwreck there a hundred or so years ago. One person died,  I think. Not to mention we’ve unearthed a Native American burial ground. The island, I think, must have been the scene of a horrendous battle. My family has found dozens of graves.”
“I guess so,” said Tara. “But my grandfather’s home is on the other side of the island.”
“Not on an Indian burial ground, I hope.”
“No,” she said, smiling oddly. She seemed to smile at me oddly, and often. A big smile that seemed to painfully stretch her lips. “But we do have the family mausoleum nearby.”
“Excuse me?” I asked
“The family mausoleum. The island has been in my family for nearly a century,  and, well, we’re all buried in the mausoleum.”
“I see,” I said, although I wasn’t certain I did. Private islands and family mausoleums reeked of a lot of money. If I wasn’t so scrupulous, my daily rates might have just increased
Damn morals
Tara slipped back to her seat across from my desk. As she did so, I studied her aura. It had bright yellows and greens,  mixed with a pulsating thread of darkness that could have been anything. I suspected that it indicated grief
I said, “You loved your grandfather.”
She nodded and looked away. She tried to speak but instead tears suddenly burst from her eyes. I snapped out a tissue from the box on my desk, and handed it to her. She dabbed her eyes and looked away. Finally, when she’d gotten control of herself, she said, “Yes. He was so much more than a grandfather, you know?  My best friend. Always there for me.”
As she spoke, the dark threads of vapor that wound through her aura bulged slightly, expanding, engorging. Her grief, I suspected, ran deep
“Do you live in Southern California?”  I asked
“Have you spoken to the police in Washington State?”  “No. Not yet.”
“Why not use a private eye in Washington State?”  “Because  Detective  Sherbet recommended you.”
“How do you know Sherbet?”  “He’s a friend of a friend. I was told he was someone who could help.”
I nodded. Something about her story wasn’t  jiving
And  perhaps  more interesting, my inner alarm began to gently ring just inside my ear. I said, “Why do you  think  someone  killed  your grandfather?”  “Because he was very rich.”
“That’s a reason,” I said. “But that’s not enough for me to take this case and to take your money. Who was there when he died?”  “We were all there.”
“Who’s we?”  “The entire family. We use his house and island for our annual reunion  .”
“You said he died a year ago.”
“Right,” she said, nodding. “It’s coming up again. The family reunion  . This weekend, in fact. And I want you to come with me.”


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