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A Novella Featuring Bay Tanner
(falls between book 12 and 13 in the series)
Author: Kathryn R. Wall
First Edition
ebook short story
Retail: $0.99US
ISBN 978-1-62268-078-8 ebook



A Novella Featuring Bay Tanner
(falls between book 12 and 13 in the series)
Author: Kathryn R. Wall


When we were fifteen, Mikey Holloway stole the keys and his father's brand-new Cadillac Coupe de Ville. He tried to run us down, but he lost control, careened through a red light, and killed two pedestrians in the crosswalk, a six-year-old boy and his mother.
    I knew he blamed me, but it was only partly my fault. If Mikey and I hadn't broken up . . . If I hadn't hopped on the back of Darryl Monaghan's Harley right under his nose . . . If we'd headed out of town instead of riding right down the center of Market Street . . .
    If, if, if.
    I remember sitting in the packed courtroom, three rows behind the defense table, the vicious July sun beating through the long windows sending tiny rivulets of perspiration trickling down under the cast on my left arm. Sandwiched between my parents, I listened to Mrs. Holloway's quiet sobbing as Judge Harlan Wells sentenced Mikey to three years at the Farm. His stern voice echoed off the walnut-paneled walls as he expressed his regret that the law prohibited him from sending my former boyfriend to jail for the rest of his miserable life.
    Mikey's well rehearsed apology and tearful pleas for mercy had fallen on deaf ears. He'd always been a bad actor. In more ways than one.
    It wasn't right, the people around us whispered, little more than one year for each life so carelessly snuffed out. I watched from the safety of my father's arm as they led him away. For the briefest moment Mikey looked back, and our eyes met. Just for a second, but it was enough. I knew without question that when he turned eighteen and they set him free, he would be back.
    For me.

Chapter One

    The tall, slender woman shaded her eyes against the bright spring sun and scanned the dunes that undulated like waves on the vast ocean spread out just beyond the narrow beach.
    "Madeline Randall Stanton! Do you hear me? I said get in here right this minute!"
    The child's bright gold hair and red sweater should have been easy to spot against the dun-colored backdrop of the sand. Overhead, the gulls screamed and swooped, competing with Liz Stanton's rising voice. She swallowed hard against the panic tightening her throat.
    She whirled at the tug on the hem of her Clemson T-shirt, and the familiar giggle made her heart turn over in relief.
    "I scared you, didn't I, Mama? I snuck up and scared you."
    Liz reached down to scoop her daughter into her arms, the old fear gradually subsiding. Safe, she repeated inside her head, safe, safe, safe. Thank you, God.
    "Yes, you scared me, you little minx," she said, nestling her face in the velvety skin of her daughter's neck. "And it's sneaked, not snuck."
    "I like snuck better," Maddy said, her six-year-old voice asserting her independence, a recurring theme in the past few months.
    School had given her child a new sense of herself, of her own personality, Liz thought as she carried the wriggling bundle back up the boardwalk toward the house. And that was a good thing. Liz knew she tended to be overprotective. Brian had told her so often enough in the months leading up to the separation. One of his many complaints, always voiced in that calm, reasonable tone that drove her up the wall. She would have preferred a good old-fashioned shouting match, complete with tears and profanity. Something to clear the air. And perhaps, when they'd cooled off, a reconciliation in the huge bed that faced the wall of windows overlooking the sea . . .
    Instead, her husband chose logic, marshalling his arguments as if he were negotiating with one of his clients. The louder Liz became, the softer he spoke. One of the many things Liz couldn't stand was being humored.
    Inside in the mud room, she peeled off Maddy's sweater and gave it to her to hang on the low hook set just at the right height for her little hands to reach.
    "Your soup's probably cold," Liz said, urging her daughter ahead of her into the bright warmth of the kitchen. She picked up the bowl from the table in the bay window and carried it to the microwave. "Go wash your hands while I heat it up."
    "Okay." Maddy skipped toward the half-bath, and a moment later Liz heard her daughter's voice, muffled by the sound of running water. It sounded as if she was singing to herself.
    She smiled and turned at the ding of the microwave just as Maddy scooted around her and climbed into her place on the long banquette beneath the window.
    "Careful, it's hot," Liz said and set the steaming bowl on the place mat covered with brightly colored starfish and shells.
    "Okay," the child said again, blowing so hard across her dripping spoon that some of the broth splattered onto the table.
    Liz pulled her salad from the refrigerator and sat down across from her daughter. "Where did you get to this morning, sweet pea? I was calling you for a long time."
    The shrug nearly reached her ears. "Playing," she mumbled around a mouthful of noodles and chicken pieces.
    Liz poured on vinegar and a dribble of oil from the cruets and sprinkled some pepper over the crisp romaine leaves. "You weren't by the water, were you? You know the rules about staying behind the dunes."
    Maddy's sigh gave her mother a preview of what it would be like dealing with her baby as a teenager. "I know, Mama. I'm almost seven."
    Liz hid her smile and concentrated on her salad. Through the window she glimpsed a pod of dolphins rising in the surf only a few yards off shore. "Look, honey," she cried, and Maddy whirled in her seat.
    "What, Mama? I don't see— Oh, there they are!"
    The two watched in rapt silence as the graceful creatures glided through the water, surfacing and diving together in an instinctive dance that never failed to enthrall both the Stanton girls. When they'd moved out of sight, Liz realized that Maddy was humming again, softly, under her breath.
    "What's that, honey?"
    Maddy resettled herself in her seat. "What's what?"
    "That song. Were you singing to the dolphins?"
    Maddy nibbled a saltine and spooned up more soup. "Unh-uh," she said as a dribble of broth settled on her chin. "I was calling Skipper. Mama, can I get a puppy? I'd love a puppy. I'd take really, really good care of him."
    "Where did that come from?" Liz asked, eyeing her daughter. "You've never asked for a dog before." She paused, her fork halfway to her mouth. "And who's Skipper?"
    "The lost puppy. The man was really sad."
    Liz coughed, choking on the lettuce as her throat closed again. She forced herself to lay her fork down gently on the table. She sipped iced tea and composed herself. "What man is that, honey? Were you talking to someone outside? You know you're not supposed to—"
    "I know, Mama. I'm not a baby."
    Liz clasped her hands in her lap to quell their trembling. "So why don't you tell me about it. About Skipper. And the man."
    Maddy loved stories, and lately she'd been more interested in being the narrator than the audience. Her little face assumed a serious air, and she mimicked her mother's clasped hands, hers resting on the table alongside her soup bowl.
    "Well," she began, "I was on the swing set." She shook her head solemnly. "Not by the water at all, Mama, because that's against the rules."
    "Good girl," Liz said and was rewarded with a scowl for the interruption. "Go on, Maddy."
    "Well, I heard someone yelling. Sort of mad yelling. 'Here, Skipper! Where are you, boy!' He sounded kind of like when you and Daddy are having a 'scussion."
    Liz nodded, suppressing a quick smile. According to Brian, they never argued. They had discussions. It was amazing what the sponge-like minds of children managed to pick up.
    "And I got off the swing and went to look, and there was a man on the beach. And he saw me, and he waved. And I waved back." Maddy smiled at her mother, waiting for praise for her politeness to a grownup.
    "That was nice. Then what happened?"
    "He came over, and he said he lost his dog. Skipper. He's just a puppy, you know, and he hasn't learned to mind yet. He must not be almost seven."
    "Probably not." Liz forced herself to be patient. "And did the man ask you to help him find Skipper?"
    "Yes!" Maddy crowed before settling back. Her face darkened. "But I told him I wasn't s'pposed to go with anyone I didn't know, and he said that was a very good rule. And he asked me my name."
    "What did you tell him?"
    "I said I wasn't s'pposed to tell that, either."
    "I'm very proud of you, Maddy. You did exactly right."
    "Thank you, Mama. I'm a good rule doer, aren't I?"
    "The best." Liz rose from her chair and slid onto the banquette to wrap her daughter in arms still trembling a little with fear. "And did the man go away?"
    "He asked me if I lived in that big house, and he pointed over here. I wasn't sure about that one, so I said yes. Did I do bad, Mama?"
    Liz cupped the solemn little face in her hands. "It's okay, honey. But it's probably better if you don't tell strangers where you live."
    Maddy nodded. "Okay, Mama." She squirmed free of her mother's embrace and picked up her spoon. "But he wasn't a real stranger."
    "Why do you say that, sweet pea?"
    "Because he said he was a friend of yours."
    There wasn't anyone of her acquaintance with a dog named Skipper. She was sure of that. Besides, everyone who knew her knew Maddy as well. Their small, gated community in one of Hilton Head Island's most exclusive enclaves was tightly knit. Newcomers were announced and introduced to the neighborhood through the homeowners' association, and access, even to their small strip of beach, was scrupulously controlled by a private security force.
    Maddy slurped the last of the noodles from her spoon. "He said, 'Tell your mother I said hi.' So, hi, Mama." She grinned and waited for a response. "From Skipper's daddy."
    "Did the man tell you his name?" Liz asked. She knew it couldn't be him, not after all these years. Not after all the moves, college, and her marriage. It wasn't possible he'd found her again. It couldn't—
    "No," Maddy said, oblivious to her mother's distress, "but he said to tell you he'd see you real soon."

copyright ©2014 Kathryn R. Wall


A Novella Featuring Bay Tanner
(falls between book 12 and 13 in the series)
Author: Kathryn R. Wall
First Edition 2014
ebook short story
Retail: $0.99US
ISBN 978-1-62268-078-8 ebook

buy the book >>>
read an excerpt
book details
larger view of cover

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