A woman and her family are threatened at a Maryland Beach House.
The Fitton Chronicles
On summer retreat on the Chesapeake Bay, Mary Ellen suspects her husband is having an affair with a dark haired, twenty-one year old, bikini clad woman. When her husband is murdered at the Beach House, she and Kel, a retired police officer, face increasing danger. Mary Ellen's children are at risk when she tries to prove that the young woman is the murderer.
Ospreys kill often and effectively. Mary Ellen tracked the bird with the binoculars as it swooped from the sky, tucked its tainted wings inward and pointed its head at the Chesapeake. In an unexpected move, it thrust its cutting talons into the water and skimmed the surface. Somewhere below the sunlit waves an unsuspecting creature was removed instantly from the ocean environs. With something now firmly caught in its clutches, the powerful fish hawk lifted its prey toward the scattered clouds. The bird flipped the sea water from its feathers and transported the kill in the direction of the distant tree tops along Binghampton Beach.
Mary Ellen swung the binoculars to the beach house. Su Lee was a woman unafraid to do anything to satisfy her own needs. Tony was home alone and the edge of Su Lee's orange sports car was visible near the beach house garage. She lowered the binoculars, but quickly raised them again. Binghampton Beach appeared shaky under the scratchy cloud puffs, but she steadied her hands. Away from breakers, rock piled jetties, and the silhouetted town buildings, Hazelton Hill came into focus. The multilevel gray contemporary she and Tony bought last summer was nestled within a twisted thicket leading down to the dock.
" Damn her."
She checked the kids; yellow life preservers draped over their shoulders and backpacks at their feet. Across the deck Danny was wedged between Angie and Shane at the boat railing. Mary Ellen let the binoculars dangle around her neck as she closed her eyes. All the rumors about Tony meeting Su Lee at Barnacle Bill's Tavern converged within the tightness now enveloping her throat. She opened her moist eyes, raised her hands over her mouth and looked away from the diminishing shore to the deep blue stretch of Chesapeake Bay.
" Mary Ellen, are you all right?" asked Wilma.
Mary Ellen flashed a quick phony smile as her short, red haired friend hurried across deck. " Wilma, getting sea sick already?"
" I saw you checking. What did you see?"
" Listen, we’re off to Sabines Island. Let’s enjoy it."
" She wasn’t there, was she?"
She eyed the kids and gripped the moist starboard railing.
" My God, it’s all true."
" Are you sure?"
Mary Ellen kept talking as she peered at the vanishing land mass across the rippled water. " I saw the car. That stupid orange sports car."
" She’s got nerve."
" I could think of another word." Mary Ellen grit her teeth. " I can play her game. I’ll fix her wagon, the little tramp."
She pressed her lips and shook her head. " I don’t know... I just don’t know."
* * *
The trees and white sand beaches formed like a downloading web page along the Sabines Island shoreline. Mary Ellen smiled as Kel, having replaced his Hazelton security guard uniform with jeans and red sweatshirt, played charades with the kids in front of the blue vinyl deck chairs. For a few minutes she forgot her husband was home painting the house while the car of a shapely twenty-three year old female bartender from the Barnacle Bill’s was parked in the front driveway.
" Mom, this game is dumb," said Danny, kicking a discarded soda can down the deck.
" Pick it up, young man."
" I didn't put it down there."
She raised her brows. Danny rolled his eyes, grunted and headed after the can. Slowly her expression vanished as she scanned the horizon back to Binghampton Beach. Images of Su Lee’s, sweeping dark hair swaying across her tight, well toned, body and red string bikini, converged in Mary Ellen's head. On the beach Tony had cast more than a fleeting glance at her small rounded buttocks. Mary Ellen crushed her hands together when she transposed those thoughts into her second floor master bedroom.
" Mary Ellen? Mary Ellen, you there?" Kel’s curly steel hair protruded under the edges of his black and orange Oriole’s hat. His green eyes were laced like brown marbleized veins. " You look like you’re million miles away."
" I wish I was, Kel."
" What’s the matter?"
She shook her head. " Same old, same old."
He flexed his well worn crow’s peaks and rolled his tongue around his unshaven cheek. " You’re not starting that Su Lee thing again."
" Yes, and this time I have proof."
" Really?" She did not like the serious look in his eyes. " I apologize. Maybe I was too graphic about her."
" You were quite explicit about her attraction to men," said Mary Ellen.
" I think we have to give Tony a little more credit. She’s only twenty-three. He’s got ten years on her."
" Kel, you told me she had a... what did you say? Nefarious background?"
" Well, yeah, but-"
" Her car was parked in front of the beach house garage. She doesn’t waste any damn time."
Kel's ground his teeth together as if he were chewing gum.
" Can I use your binoculars?"
" Forget it," she said, folding her arms across her sweatshirt.
" We're too far out now. I already looked. What do you really know about her?"
" Like I said, she's got a reputation." Kel waved to Angie and Shane. Both her daughters produced identical expressions bordering on irritation and friendship.
Mary Ellen held his wrist. " Kel, I just told you the little tramp is parked in my driveway. What else do you know about her?"
" Not important. This may be just an innocent thing. I can't see Tony getting involved with her. He loves you and the kids."
" Right... She's in the driveway the minute we board the boat to Sabines Island."
" I'm may be an old cop from Buffalo, Mary Ellen, but I do know that until you investigate something, your impressions about what it might be… can be completely bogus."
Mary Ellen looked across the bay, but pictured the beach house over the horizon line. " Or impressions might be right on the mark."
For a third time Mary Ellen pounded the beach house number into the dock pay phone. When they had arrived on Sabines Island she tried reaching Tony, but only heard her own voice on the counter answering machine. " You have reached the Frescos by the sea. Please leave a message and we'll get right back to you. Thank you."
At the picnic area Kel and Wilma finished the lunch she had packed earlier this morning when Tony was already outside swatting his paint brush across the outside paneling. Why did he decide to paint the beach house himself? His position Omicron commanded a salary well into six figures. The machine beeped. She spoke in a clear and firm voice. " Tony, please pick up the phone. I didn't bring the cellular. Tony.... Tony."
She slammed the phone hard enough to crack the plastic. The blood rushed to her head. She wanted to go back right now and confront them both. When she opened her eyes Kel approached along the dock and his face still reflected a burgeoning concern.
" Mary Ellen, listen. As a retired cop, why don't you let me look into this?"
" Oh, then you do think something is going on back there? What the hell do I tell my kids? Your dad is making love to some one just eight years older than Shane? Damn him!"
" You don't know that. Let me take care of it."
" I want to go back."
" You can't. The boat won't be back for two hours on the return trip. I would suggest getting your pack and taking the island hike as we originally had planned."
She pinched the bridge of her nose. " Maybe you're right."
" And another thing. I like Wilma, I like her a lot, but I would watch what I say to her. She likes to gab. You don't want this all over Binghampton Beach."
Mary Ellen nodded once and smiled for the first time in ninety minutes. They started down the dock. " I will hire you to find the truth."
" You don't have to hire me... But there's more to this than I've told you."
" What are you talking about?" she asked and they stopped midway on the wooden pier.
" I've lived down here since I retired eight years ago. Being a guard at Hazelton is just enough work and keeps me in contact with people. And I've become pretty friendly with everybody in town. I have my hangouts. And during that time I’ve developed a composite on Miss Su Lee."
" What are you saying?"
" I have a ton of circumstantial evidence about this woman."
Mary Ellen stared into his green knit eyes. She wondered if Kel merely was concocting theories because he no longer had the challenge of being on the force back in Buffalo. " What exactly are you talking about?"
" What? Kel, haven't you taken the actions of this little whore a bit too far? "
He shook his head. " No, there have been two deaths within the last few years. Two that I know about."
" And the police have implicated her?"
" Well, no. I have found certain evidence that links her with what I can only say is murder."