Resort at Castaway Bay: Lost and Found
Sydney Whitmore, a forensic psychologist living in San Francisco, moves home to Shipwreck Island, and the resort owned and operated by her family, after tragedy strikes leaving her struggling for a way to make sense of things. After finding out about the assault of an old friend, which has left him comatose, she renews her relationship with Ezra Reinhold, a reclusive billionaire who enjoys poking around in cold cases and has the means to hire the best people to find the answers no one else has been able to.
In book 2 in the series Syd is asked to help a man regain his memories after showing up a decade after he went missing with no memory of where he'd been since disappearing from his home when he was eight. Meanwhile, she continues to look for answers relating to Riley's attack, which seems an impossible task, until Kelly invites her to a meeting with Ezra's group who all pitch in to offer insight.
Text for Emily by the Sea contributed by Christy Turner
Release date: July 20, 2021
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 147
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Resort at Castaway Bay: Lost and Found
The fog settled over the island, strangling the sun and bringing the feel of impending disaster, which, I supposed, should have been a clue as to how my day was going to go. Not that a day riddled with trouble and tragedy hadn’t been, in part, on the menu all along. I supposed, looking back, I might have approached the day with a bit less ambition. Perhaps I should have known it was going to take more than a single day to save the world, save my friends, and assuage the guilt that ate away at my soul a bit more with each passing hour.
After pulling my swimsuit on, I layered it with an old gray sweatshirt and faded black sweatpants, tied my long blond hair back, and headed toward the dark hallway. Making my way slowly through the silent house where my aunt, sisters, and nieces still slept, I headed out onto the back patio where I’d left my surfboard the previous evening after returning from a party on the beach. Once I’d picked my board up, I headed through the back gate to the sandy shoreline. As I trudged my way through the surf at the water’s edge, I thought about my plan for the day, which had seemed to be simple enough when considered in pieces, but suddenly seemed overwhelming on this dark foggy morning.
Focusing on the silhouette of the old wooden pier where I was to meet ten-year-old Jilly Chesterfield for our morning sets, I chased away the turmoil in my mind. Since I’d been home on Shipwreck Island following the tragic death of my good friend and colleague, Faith Meadows, I’d begun surfing with the daughter of my teenage boyfriend, Riley Chesterfield, almost every day. Hitting the waves as the sun peeked over the distant horizon was an activity that both Jilly and I enjoyed, and it provided a therapeutic way to deal with the emotional issues that seemed to be strangling the life from each of us. It didn’t appear we had the sun to look forward to this morning, but the waves were cooperating, so perhaps the sun would find its way through the thick moist fog as well.
“Morning, Jilly,” I said to the young girl who was waiting for me.
“Morning, Syd.” Jilly pulled her long braid over her shoulder. “Are you still coming home with me after we surf? Mom’s expecting you.”
“Yes, I’m still coming home with you,” I confirmed. I usually headed back to the resort to shower and have breakfast after our morning sets, but I’d promised Jilly’s mom, Val, that I’d stop by today and interview her about her memories leading up to the attack that had left her husband suspended in the void between life and death. “Did your mom make the notes we talked about Saturday?”
She nodded. “She’s been working on them all weekend. I think it’s helped her. She ate lunch and dinner yesterday, and I haven’t noticed any more empty rum bottles on her nightstand. She still seems sad and worried, but she also seems alert and determined to find out who did this to my dad. She’s really hoping you can help us.”
“I’m going to try,” I said as I peeled off my sweats and headed toward the water. I knew that finding the person or persons responsible for Riley’s coma wouldn’t be an easy task, but with the help of Val and my resources at the FBI, I intended to do everything I could to bring whoever attacked Riley to justice. Wading into the warm summer sea, I paused for a moment as the silky water surrounded my lower body. Pushing off with my legs, I began to paddle toward the breaking waves, diving beneath those I encountered on my way to a point beyond the break line.
“Will you stay all day?” Jilly asked once we’d made our way beyond the breakers and were sitting on our boards waiting for the next set of rollers to pass our way.
“No, not all day, but for a couple hours, which should be plenty of time for me to get the information I need to get things started.” My plan for today was to head to Jilly’s house with Jilly and check in with her mother. When I’d checked on her this past Saturday, I’d sensed that she was on the verge of giving up and doing something desperate, so my first goal was to give her hope and a reason to pull herself together. I figured I could go over things with Val and maybe get a feel for what Riley had been working on at the time of the attack. Once I had a baseline from which to launch an investigation, I could keep Val involved to the level needed to keep her focused on the future and not wallowing in the pain of the present.
“Do you have a plan?” Jilly wondered.
“Not yet, but once I talk to your mom, I’m going to come up with one.” I could see that Jilly’s mind was not on surfing this morning. “How about we grab a few waves and then head back to your house.”
She smiled and nodded.
Lying down on my board, I began paddling ahead of the next wave. The fog still hadn’t lifted, but the strangling feeling I’d experienced when I’d first awakened seemed to have lessened. I had a busy day ahead and realized that I may have bitten off more than I could chew, but after endless days of moping around following Faith’s death, it felt good to have a job to focus my energy on. Two jobs, actually. Not only was I determined to find the person or persons responsible for Riley’s comatose state, but my boss at the FBI, where I worked as a forensic psychologist, had called and asked me to interview a young man named Jeremy Davenport. Jeremy was an eighteen-year-old former Shipwreck Island resident who’d shown up at his childhood home yesterday with no memory of his life since being abducted from his bedroom when he was eight years old. His family had moved from the island but were on their way back. My boss wanted me to help Jeremy remember where he’d been and what had happened to him. I was happy to do what I could, but his mom wanted me to wait until she arrived before speaking to Jeremy, so I planned to work with Val this morning and then head into town to meet with Jeremy, his mother, and his stepfather after lunch.
After Jilly and I completed the agreed-upon number of runs, we headed down the beach toward the small house where she lived with her family. I half expected to find Val still in bed since it was relatively early, but when Jilly and I arrived at the house, not only was Val awake and alert, but she’d cleaned the house and made breakfast as well.
“You didn’t have to do all this,” I said as I sat down to a stack of golden brown pancakes and crispy bacon.
“I was happy to make breakfast. You know how much I appreciate you taking the time to help me with Riley’s case.”
“You know I’m happy to do what I can. Riley was my friend for a lot of years. I want to find the people who put him in the hospital as much as anyone.” I took a sip of my coffee and then poured warm maple syrup over the pancakes sitting in front of me.
“Should we eat first and then talk or talk while we eat?” Val asked.
I glanced at Jilly. My plan had been to speak to Val alone, but I could tell by the look on Jilly’s face that we were going to have a hard time leaving her out of any discussion involving her father. “I guess we can talk while we eat,” I finally said. When I’d spoken to her this past Saturday, Val had indicated that she’d arrange a play date for her daughter this morning, but neither mother nor daughter mentioned Jilly leaving, so I supposed those plans had gone by the wayside. “Let’s start with you telling me what Riley had been working on before his trip to the conference. I know he was always tinkering with something.”
“He’d been spending a lot of time in his little workshop,” Val said. “But that science stuff is over my head, so I’m really not sure what he’d been working on.”
“He was looking at farming and the effect specific variables have on both nutrition output and greenhouse gas emissions,” Jilly said. “I don’t totally understand what he was trying to do, but he had all these little experiments going on.”
“What sort of experiments?” I asked.
“All sorts of things.” She sat back in her chair. “Like I said, I don’t really understand all of it, but I do know that Dad has a bunch of micro-farms growing and that he’d been collecting soil samples from a lot of places both on the island and along the coast north of San Francisco. I know he spent a lot of time in Marin County and the Napa Valley.”
“Did he mention anything specific that might explain what he hoped to learn at the conference?”
Jilly lifted a shoulder. “I’m not sure, although there seemed to be something disconcerting with one of the samples.”
“Soil samples. Dad told me that he’d stumbled onto something he wasn’t expecting to find while collecting what he needed for his experiments. I’m not really certain what he stumbled onto, but he said he needed to check out some things. I suppose that might be why he decided to attend the conference, although I don’t know that for sure.”
“You don’t think someone intentionally tried to kill him because of this science stuff, do you?” Val asked.
“That is a possible motive if the attack wasn’t a random mugging as the police suspect. Last Saturday, we briefly discussed the possibility that his work outside his job as a teacher and coach might be at the root of what happened.”
She sighed. “Yeah, I guess we did.” She put a hand on her head. “I’m sorry. I was pretty hungover Saturday. I guess I don’t remember everything we talked about.” She glanced at Jilly. “But I’m better now. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since we spoke. I might not remember everything we already talked about, but I’m ready to dig in today.”
“Great,” I said, stabbing at my stack of delicious pancakes. “You mentioned that Riley has a workshop. Is it here on the property?”
Val nodded. “He converted the detached garage into a workshop. It was his favorite place.” I had to admit she sounded somewhat unhappy about that. “He spent more time out there than he did here in the house.”
“My dad is really smart,” Jilly said with a tone of pride in her voice. “He has a lot of ideas, and it’s important to him to figure out how to turn those ideas into something practical. Even though I didn’t understand everything he was doing, I liked to sit and watch him work.”
“Is it okay if I go out and look in the workshop after we eat?” I asked.
“If it will help you figure out what happened to Riley, feel free to dig around in anything you see fit,” Val answered.
After breakfast, Jilly took me out to the workshop. Val claimed that she wanted to stay behind to clean up the breakfast dishes, but I could see that she was worried about the idea that Riley’s work had been behind the attack. The two of us had discussed the work angle Saturday, but, as Val had indicated, she’d been really hungover, so it was unlikely that she remembered much of our conversation. Jilly had said she’d been making notes since we spoke, so at least she remembered that I’d asked her to do that. I figured that I’d find a way to talk with Val alone after Jilly and I returned to the house. I wanted to provide a space where she could share anything she might have on her mind, even those things she might not want her daughter to know.
“Wow,” I said upon entering the two-car garage. I wasn’t sure what I’d been expecting, but it certainly hadn’t been this. The exterior of the building looked like a garage. While there was a double-wide garage-style door that looked as if it could be lifted to allow cars to enter or exit, it had, in fact, only been left as a decoy.
“This is Dad’s bat cave,” Jilly explained as I took in the steel-reinforced walls, double-locked doors requiring both a key and a code, climate-controlled interior, and what had to add up to tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment.
“This is amazing.” I walked around the space, which had been subdivided into small sections featuring workbenches, locked cabinets, hard drives, computer stations, whiteboards, and pegboards filled with old journal articles. In addition to the workspace’s “brain” section, there was also a room filled with soil and plants in individual plastic tents. Each tent seemed to be hooked into a central computer. “What’s going on here?”
“As I mentioned before, my dad was experimenting with different soil, additive, and seed combinations in an attempt to come up with something that would produce abundant crops in a variety of climates and would be the kindest to the environment. Those tubes and wires are attached to a computer that provides differing levels of water and sunlight to the various micro-farms.”
“So each of those little tents contains samples using different combinations of seed, soil, and additives.”
I knew Riley was smart, but I hadn’t known that he was this smart, and I certainly hadn’t been aware of how smart his ten-year-old daughter was until now. “Your dad must have spent a lot of time out here setting all this up and then monitoring everything.”
“He did. If you ask my mom, she’ll say he spent too much time out here.”
I supposed I could understand that. I looked toward the plants contained within the micro-farms. Most were still alive, but a few were dead. “Who’s been maintaining all of this since your dad has been in the hospital?”
“And who is Joseph?” I wondered.
“Joseph was one of my dad’s students. They were interested in the same sort of things, so they worked together while Joseph was in high school. When Joseph graduated, he went to college, but he still comes home for the summer and holidays. When he heard what happened to my dad, he came to check on things. The computers do most of the work. Artificial sunlight, water, and additives are delivered automatically when the computer signals the machine used to maintain each micro-farm. The water is plumbed into the town’s supply, and the sunlamps don’t need any maintenance, but the additives occasionally need to be replenished. After my dad’s attack, Joseph started making the trip out to the island once a month to check on things.”
“Do you know Joseph’s last name?” I asked the young girl who, based on her knowledge of what was going on and her ability to communicate that knowledge despite her young age, was probably even smarter than her father was.
She shook her head. “No, he’s just Joseph. My mom probably knows.”
I walked into another little room where trays of soil in different stages of decay were being monitored. There were also hundreds of jars filled with soil samples that had been labeled and organized. I wasn’t exactly sure what Riley might be up to, but it looked like he had a specific outcome of some sort in mind to have gone to all the trouble to collect and catalog so many samples.
My favorite space was the little room that seemed to be devoted to gadgets and toys. I didn’t know what all the gadgets and toys did, but they looked fun and innovative, and the child in me wanted to stop and play with them. Of course, I was short on time, so I continued exploring each individual space. As I walked from one little room to the next, I had to wonder why, if Riley was into science to the degree he appeared to be, he’d chosen to stay on the island and teach high school classes rather than attending a major university where his work might have made a real difference. He married Val right out of high school, so perhaps that had something to do with it. Jilly was only ten, and Riley and Val had been married for eighteen years, so it wasn’t like there was a baby in the picture at the time of graduation. Surely if Riley had wanted to attend college to pursue an advanced degree in science rather than settling on a secondary teaching credential, Val could have gone along with him to wherever his career would have taken him.
“There’s a lot going on in here,” I said, realizing that digging through everything that Riley was doing and settling on a singular motive was going to be nearly impossible.
I glanced toward the whiteboards, which were covered with mathematical formulas that I was never going to be able to understand. There was no doubt that Jilly was brilliant, and I suspected Riley had taught her a lot about both math and science, but she was only ten, so I doubted she understood the math either. In fact, I suspected that deciphering the stuff on the whiteboards was going to require the help of a seasoned mathematician. I supposed I could ask Shipwreck Island’s resident genius, Ezra Reinhold, for help. I’d already planned to talk to him about helping me with Riley’s case during the meeting at his compound I planned to attend that evening, so I supposed I’d bring up the need for a mathematician at that point.
“Do you think there’s anything in here that can help us figure out what happened to my dad?” Jilly asked.
“I’m not sure. Maybe. It would help if we knew who your dad planned to meet with. He didn’t mention names, did he?”
“No. Dad just said he was looking forward to talking to some people at the conference. Mom didn’t want him to go. He wasn’t going to go at first, but then he decided that having so many great minds so close to Shipwreck Island was too good of an opportunity to pass up, and he went. Mom was mad. They fought just before he left.” She paused and then continued. “I think she feels bad about that.”
I was sure she did. Poor Val. It must be extra hard on her knowing that the last words she said to her husband were said in anger.
“I guess let’s head back to the house,” I suggested. “I want to talk to your mom, and I have a meeting I need to attend after lunch, so I need to get home to shower and dress.”
Jilly used the key she’d used when we entered the building to relock the door and then reset the security system when we left. Looking at the building from the outside, you’d never know there was a highly secure and sophisticated lab inside the wooden exterior in desperate need of a new coat of paint.
The kitchen was clean, and Val was waiting when we returned to the house. Val sent Jilly to her room so the adults could talk. Jilly looked like she wanted to argue, but I sent her a look begging her to comply, so she hugged her mother and trotted off down the hallway.
“So, what did you think about Riley’s lab?” Val asked after I sat down at the table across from her.
“It’s very impressive. I had no idea that Riley had continued to dabble in science to the degree that he had.”
“Yeah.” She sighed. “Riley loves his experiments. I wanted to be supportive, but all that tinkering took so much time away from us. I suppose that for me, that dang lab was the other woman in Riley’s life.” She bowed her head and looked at her hands. “The last thing we did was fight about his decision to attend the global warming conference in San Francisco. If he was going to take vacation days, I wanted the two of us to do something fun together, but he had an idea he needed to run by some folks. He acted as if his little idea was the best thing since sliced bread. Maybe it was, or maybe it was just another wild goose chase like his idea for artificial rain.”
“Isn’t artificial rain real?”
She took in a shaky breath. “I don’t know. Maybe. I just know that whatever Riley was trying to do never really panned out. But now I realize that whether his discoveries were real or imagined, I should have been supportive. I know how important science stuff is to him. If I could go back in time and do things differently, I would.”
I placed my hand over Val’s, sending her a smile of encouragement. “There’s a lot of stuff in the workshop, or as Jilly referred to it, the bat cave. Maybe Riley has a time machine stored away somewhere.”
She smiled. “Now, wouldn’t that be nice. Not only would I go back in time to be more supportive of Riley’s passions, but I’d do whatever was necessary to keep this from happening in the first place.”
Boy, did I ever wish that was possible.
“After getting a look at the scope of the work that Riley devoted his time to, I realized that settling on a motive is going to be hard unless we know what exactly it was that Riley hoped to find out during his time in San Francisco. Do you have any idea who he planned to talk to or what he hoped to learn?”
“No. Riley and I didn’t discuss his work. Like I said, for me, that dang garage had become a major source of discord in our marriage.” She took in yet another shaky breath. “At the time, I really felt my attitude toward his work was justified. I felt I was a hundred percent right and that he was a hundred percent wrong. He did, after all, spend every evening, weekend, summer, and vacation working on his projects, while I sat here in the house and waited for him to come inside and give me even a scrap of attention.”
“It does sound rough,” I acknowledged. “If I’d been in the same situation, I think I might have felt the same way.”
“Maybe, but looking back, a lot of it was my fault.”
She swallowed hard. “I guess you must know that Riley initially planned to attend college on the East Coast. He had big plans that included an advanced degree and research at the university level. He had the brains and grades to go to almost any university he chose, but I didn’t want him to leave, and I didn’t want to go with him. I was happy here on Shipwreck Island and really didn’t want my life to be dictated by his research and educational goals, so I let myself get pregnant.”
I frowned. Did Riley have another child? I didn’t remember Val being pregnant in high school. I’d left the island almost immediately following our high school graduation, so I supposed she might have been with child at the time but hadn’t been showing yet. Still, if she was pregnant the summer after high school, where was that child? I decided to wait and let Val finish.
“I knew that a baby would change things for him,” she continued. “When I told Riley I was expecting, I also convinced him that I was scared and needed to be here near my family. I never admitted that I intentionally stopped taking the pill, so he believed my pregnancy was an accident. I know he felt responsible for what had happened. It took some persuading, but eventually, I was able to convince Riley that Shipwreck Island was the best place to raise a family. I argued that he could get his teaching credential from the university in San Francisco, and we wouldn’t even have to move. He was resigned if not happy about this decision, but I sweetened the pot a bit by suggesting that we could buy a house with a large garage where he could tinker on things.”
“Okay, so then what happened?” I asked, deciding to hurry her along a bit.
“Riley passed up all the colleges he’d been accepted to and enrolled in an online program with the goal of obtaining a teaching credential. We got married and bought this house with money my mother lent us. While he was in college working on his degree, Riley got a job at the high school as a substitute teacher and football coach. I lost the baby when I was six months pregnant, but by that point, our future had been set into motion.” She sucked in a breath. “I know the life we ended up with isn’t the one Riley planned, but we were happy. At least at first. But then the tinkering bug grabbed Riley, and his little garage lab began to grow into what it is today. Not only was he working and going to school to get his teaching degree, but he was spending more and more time in the garage as well. It became a real sticking point in our marriage. But then I got pregnant with Jilly, and this time, both Riley and I wanted the baby. Riley was so excited to be a father. He might not have been ready the first time I got pregnant, but he was over the moon happy the second time. He even set his research aside to wait on me hand and foot.” She smiled a sad little smile. “Those months were the best of my life.”
“And after Jilly was born?” I asked.
“Riley was around a lot more at first. I needed help with the baby, and he loved spending time with her. When she got older, he’d take her into the lab, and she’d watch him work. I guess that’s when my jealousy kicked in again. We started fighting again, and the more I pushed him to spend more time with me and less time in the garage, the more time he seemed to need away. Riley is an excellent scientist, a wonderful father, and a much-loved teacher and coach, but he really hasn’t been all that great of a husband. Still, I love him with all my heart. These months since the incident have caused me to look back on my contribution to our problems. In the beginning, Riley wanted me to be part of his work and would try to explain things to me, but I was just so mad and jealous that I didn’t want to have anything to do with any of it.” She wiped a tear from her cheek. “If he lives, if I have a second chance, I’m going to do things differently.”
“I’m going to invite Riley’s first love into our relationship. I’m going to learn to love what he does and share it with him.” She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “You know, Riley has tried in his own clueless way. I guess it was about five years ago when there was a conference in Switzerland that Riley really wanted to attend. He suggested that we get my mom to keep Jilly and that the two of us should go together. The conference was just four days, and Riley promised me two weeks on top of that to just explore and do the tourist thing. It probably would have been the trip of a lifetime, but instead of being happy that he’d even thought to invite me, I told him that I didn’t want our entire lives, including our vacation time, to be dictated by his little hobby. I insisted that I didn’t want to go to Switzerland and that we should use his time off to go to Hawaii instead.”
“And did you go to Hawaii?”
She nodded. “I did. With a friend. I had a miserable time while Riley apparently had a wonderful time alone in Switzerland.” She frowned. “You know, I never did let go of my anger over that. I wanted him to choose me over science, and when he didn’t, I decided to make him pay. We’ve been fighting a lot ever since, which…” she stumbled, “is why he can’t die. I need to have the chance to make it right. I can’t let things end this way.”
Val began to sob, so I got up and pulled her into my arms. I let her cry out her anguish, and then I suggested that maybe we should take a break for today and pick things up again tomorrow. She agreed that might be best, so I made sure she had my cell phone number so she could contact me if she needed anything, and then promised to make some notes based on what I’d observed during my tour of Riley’s workshop so we could come up with a plan from which to approach this very tricky assault case.
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