The following is the first chapter of my up and coming fifth Martha’s Vineyard Mystery novel, Dead and Buried! It is preceded by The JAWSfest Murders, Deadly Catch, White Shark, and Pretty Vineyard Girls. I really hope you enjoy it. I’m working as hard as I can to finish it up!
She was aware that she was awake…but only vaguely. She had been asleep forever, or at least, that’s how she felt. Her joints were so stiff… Had she been at a party? She couldn’t quite remember. She remembered Christmas shopping, but that might have been the day before… was it? God, she still had so much to do before the holidays. The food had been ordered, but it had yet to be picked up from Edgartown Meat And Fish. All of her gift shopping was done except for little things—stocking stuffers mostly. Rather brilliantly, she thought, she had bought—some of the family—theatre tickets. They all had so much crap already, so much clutter. Who needed more junk? Giving people the gift of making memories—that was the way to go. Besides, they were easy to wrap. She just stuck them in a card and put them on the tree! Had she put them on the tree yet? She was pretty sure that she had. Had she put up the tree, yet? God, she felt so out of it.
She still needed to wake up. Maybe she’d make some coffee. Had she been napping?
Her in-laws were coming for the holidays and that was never an easy thing. They were great people, make no mistake, but they were still in-laws. She never felt quite good enough when she set the table for example. She always did it differently than her mother-in-law would. She made gravy that was thinner, or thicker, or lumpier than her mother-in-law did. Once her mother-in-law had actually commented on just how smooth the gravy was. Naturally, her tone was such that it implied just how much everyone preferred lumpy gravy, but she shouldn’t worry about it. Was she paranoid? She really needed to let it go. It was gravy.
The air was so heavy. It smelled sweet. It smelled wet. Maybe ‘dank’ was a better description. Was that the ocean that smelled like that? She listened for the waves at Wasque. She couldn’t hear them. Funny. She could always hear the waves at Wasque. That was one of the reason she had asked her husband to build so far down on Chappaquiddick. The walks on Wasque were one of her favourite things in the world…
She could see the beach now. The colours were so vibrant on the beach. Funny, she could see the beach, but she couldn’t hear it. It was so beautiful—what a warm, sunny day.
Her throat felt dry. Her breathing was hoarse.
She ran along the beach. Her bare feet were wet and cool in the sand. Chappaquiddick on a hot day was the best thing in the world.
Wait, it was Christmas. She was on Chappaquiddick for Christmas. It wasn’t hot out—it was cold. What was the matter with her? She needed to focus…it was so hard…
She looked back over her shoulder at her Daddy. He was chasing her down the beach. Daddy was so handsome. She loved that he was the youngest, most handsome, Daddy of all of her friends. He was shouting at her, but she couldn’t hear him. He was too far away and the waves were too loud. She laughed. It was a little girl laugh—a giggle with a lot of life in it. She liked the sound, even in her own head. There wasn’t a happier sound in the world than that of a child laughing, she thought.
She knew her eyes were open. She opened her eyes and closed them. She could feel the tickle of her eyelashes brushing against each other. There was no light. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t see a thing. She ran her hands along her body. This was real. Her hands were cold, clammy. Dirt stuck to them when she felt her legs. It smelled so earthy—sickly, sweet.
As she ran toward the ocean, the sand got harder, wetter, easier to run on. Her Daddy was bigger but he couldn’t catch up. She looked behind her and she could see him. He was running and getting farther and farther behind her. How was that possible? They were supposed to be playing tag. He was still screaming at her. Was Daddy crying? Maybe he was laughing. She had never seen her Daddy cry.
Warm stickiness ran into her mouth. It ran from her face, from her nose. She licked at it instinctively. Its metallic tang told her it was blood. She definitely had a nosebleed.
She looked at her to-do list. She made a Christmas checklist every year. It was really the only way to stay organised. All of her groceries were on the kitchen counter. She loved it. What a feast! This was definitely going to be the best Christmas ever. They had never hosted it on Chappaquiddick before, thinking that it would be too much trouble for everyone, but this year they had said, to hell with it! It was going to be worth it. She could tell. Her feet were so cold. She looked down to see the ocean wash over them. She was up to her ankles in the surf.
With both hands, she felt her face. It was cold and covered with grime. She brushed off the dirt. Her throat really hurt now—burned. Her chest burned too; it burned from the inside out. Her lungs were tight, restricted. She tried to breathe deeply, but there just wasn’t enough air. With the last attempt, she convulsed in a heavy cough. She lurched forward and hit her forehead on something hard. Her body shook. Blood ran down the back of her throat.
She waded deeper into the surf. She had never been scared of the ocean. She loved its big waves. She giggled her little girl laugh as the cold ocean rushed at her, inviting her in. Her long, sun-bleached hair stuck to her cheeks in salty clumps. Her pink summer dress slapped to her skin. It was her favourite dress. She hoped it wasn’t wrecked. Mommy would fix it. It would dry. God, she hadn’t seen it in ages. She reached out into the waves and saw her small pink hand. It was the hand of a child. A large wave crashed over her—consuming her.
Sand fell in her eyes when she hit her head. Reflexively, her eyelids shut, but only succeeded in grinding the sand in deeper. She tried to get up, but there wasn’t room. She tried to roll over, but there wasn’t room. She felt the walls around her. They were wood—planks of wood. She felt as far as she could reach. The occasional nail pricked her finger. She coughed again—more blood. She was getting colder.
She looked down and saw her pretty pink dress floating in the sea around her. It was such a nice dress. It had frills at the bottom. She loved the way they floated in the water. Her dress ballooned in the wave; it looked like the jellyfish that sometimes washed up on shore. Mommy told her never to touch jellyfish, no matter how pretty they looked. The water swirled around her. She could see her underwear. There were so many bubbles everywhere. They tickled.
Her hands and feet were heavy and impossible to lift. She could feel them lying beside her like wet sandbags. Her head lay on the wooden slat beneath her. She could feel something crawling in her hair. Her throat stopped hurting and she could see the ocean, she could see the sun. She was running. She could see her Daddy. He was so handsome, like when she was a little girl. Daddy had been dead so long. God, how she missed him. It was so good to see him. They were running on the beach…
The water pulled her down. The blues got darker. The water got colder. Her pink dress looked purple, then navy, then black—everything was going black. The last thing she could see was her hand, her little girl’s hand…it was so small.