When Taylor woke up to daylight, Steffie was gone.
There in the tangled sleeping bag lay the Ouija board. Taylor picked it up, stepped out onto the deck. Staring at the ocean, he began to once again convince himself that his mom had drowned, pure and simple.
Okay, Marco the ferry captain, who’d never become a citizen, got spooked when the cops questioned him. The town gossips wanted a juicy murder and focused on this single fact: The lazy captain had skipped the last ferry run that night. Maybe Marco had assumed there was nobody left on the island, and just didn’t bother with that last run. Then, when Liz Burns went missing, Marco went to ground in fear of the immigration police.
That did not amount to murder. Liz Burns spent hours in the ocean every day, and she drowned. That’s what Taylor could accept, and that was horrifying heartbreak enough. He flung the Ouija board toward the ocean.
When he walked back into the cottage, Lisa was just emerging from the shower, wrapped in a green towel.
“How’s your head?” Taylor asked.
“Fuck you, Taylor.”
“Good morning to you too. Where’s Artie?”
“Down on the beach.”
“How about …”
“The lovely couple?” She barged past him and lunged into the kitchen, desperate for coffee. “I woke up to Billie and Nick, bickering. They walked out to catch the first ferry. Gee, I wonder what they argued about?”
Taylor scoffed. “I guess Billie does as she pleases. The big galoot is just a play toy.”
“The big galoot,” Lisa said, “is Billie’s enforcer.”
“If you’re Billie’s tenant, and you’re late with the rent, you get a visit from Nick. And nobody wants a second visit from Nick.”
Taylor opened the refrigerator door. “I’ll grill burgers for breakfast.”
“I’d prefer Eggs Benedict.”
“Oh, would you?” Taylor said. There was no shop or café open during the off-season on Poke Island. Hefting a sack of cold burger patties, he said: “So that explains why didn’t Nick crush Artie’s skull last night. He and Billie aren’t a romantic couple.”
“Steffie says the Bulgarian’s only part-time with Billie. His full-time job is pimp.”
Taylor set the paper-wrapped meat on the table and poured a cup of coffee. “What do you mean pimp?”
“I mean pimp. Google the word, see what pops up.”
“So he runs a whorehouse?”
“Could have been worse.
“What could have been worse?”
“The party. Imagine if that little tart Cammie had showed up.”
“Okay, Lisa, stop with the hints. Last night you said something about ‘that little tart Cammie.’ What’s up?”
“Last night, somebody was sitting in a rusty red pickup truck on the mainland side of the ferry dock.”
“My former colleague, Cammie, the innocent little spa whore. Hey, get busy, I’m starving. Millionaires. And no eggs in the fridge?”
“Cammie was sitting in a truck at the ferry parking lot?”
Lisa nodded. “Alone. She apparently drove to the ferry, was scared off when Billie and Nick boarded.”
“Why didn’t you tell me last night?”
“With Billie sitting right here? Huh. Billie’s pissed at Cammie. She walked with no notice.”
“So Billie owns a spa, Cammie’s giving happy endings, and Nick is a pimp?”
“Grill those burgers, Sherlock. My stomach’s roaring.”
“How much vodka did you drink?”
“Not enough. I’m still me.”
Taylor swilled coffee, took a breath of lovely oceanic breeze. His head was only beginning to clear from last night’s booze-drug fest.
“Lisa, I got a massage from Cammie on Tuesday. A few minutes after I left the spa, she texted me, begging me to help her. How and why I don’t know, because she never answered my call or texts.”
“I see,” Lisa said.
“And now poof, she disappears? And Billie’s thug tries to shush talk about her?”
“I think I know how I can help you,” Lisa said. “Every Wednesday, it’s ladies’ night at the Wonder Bar. Lately, Nick’s been one of the dancers. When he is, Cammie’s cousin Adora sneaks in. Never talks to anyone. Sits way in the back. Leaves when the show’s over.”
“Adora’s a messenger from the zombie apocalypse. You might want to show up on Wednesday and corner Adora. If anybody knows what’s happened to Cammie, it’s Adora. She’s Cammie’s minder.”
“Yes. Minder. She brought Cammie to work and picked her up, like a Mom taking a kindergartner to school. Minder. And that dopey kid needs one.”