As I cautiously approached the spot where I had felt the thud, I saw something—red and white flashes of material fluttering just beneath the surface. As I got closer, I realized it was clothing—red shorts and a white shirt, probably something someone had dropped off a boat by accident. Two strokes, three strokes, four strokes. I was finally there.
I looked down into the water and realized it was not a pile of discarded clothing after all. It was a discarded person. The body of what appeared to be a young man was floating on his back just beneath the surface, arms and legs flailed out like a starfish, his dark eyes wide open, staring back at me, begging me to help him. But it was clearly too late for help. His face was slack, sallow, and marred only by a single brown mole on his right cheek.
Suddenly, I heard a loud scream slice across the water and bounce off the sides of the houses along the seawall reverberating back across the water to me. I looked around to see where it might be coming from. Then I realized it was coming from me. I was the one screaming.
When it was our turn, Louise and I stepped up to the edge of the casket and stood solemnly side-by-side. We both folded our hands in front of us and looked at the young man lying there in the dark suit, white shirt, and red tie. His face was tan, too tan, covered in too much makeup, and his brown hair was combed back neatly behind his ears. Puffy cream-colored silk padded material bubbled up around his head and shoulders. It took me a minute to really focus on what he looked like. I had to resist the urge to grab Louise’s hand and run out of the room.
My heart started to pound. There was a ringing in my ears that blocked the hushed conversations happening in the background behind me. I closed my eyes for a second and re-opened them. But nothing had changed. How was this even possible? Nothing was making sense. I was at Max Prince’s funeral. I had just met Max Prince’s family. This had to beMax Prince. But I was very sure of one thing. This dead man in front of me was not the man I found dead floating in the water.
My mind suddenly started racing as I fully took in my predicament. Someone had put me here, someone who wanted me out of the way. But who? Who would do this? Then, horrified, I thought of Zack, alone in the apartment waiting for me to come back. When I didn’t return, he would surely panic, blame himself, probably come looking for me. Hopefully, he would call the police and get some help. But how would they find me here?
I thought about Blake and Miranda. They had already lost one parent; they didn’t need to lose another one. These were the same thoughts that went through my head a few months earlier when a killer held me at gunpoint. At that time, I promised the universe I would get off this dangerous path of investigating crime and concentrate on raising my children. My promise clearly hadn’t lasted that long. Here I was, breaking it again.
I took a few deep breaths, pretending that I wasn’t being held captive at all, that I was really in a yoga class. I knew panicking wouldn’t help me come up with a solution. I had to have a clear head. I realized that while my ankles seemed to be bound with plastic zip ties, my wrists were bound only with duct tape. Whoever did this, did it quickly and haphazardly.
No Wake Zone
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