Home > Newest Books > The High Tide Club

The High Tide Club
Author:Mary Kay Andrews

The High Tide Club

Mary Kay Andrews



This one’s dedicated with love to Andrew Rivers Trocheck, whose love of Georgia’s wild places inspire me.





Acknowledgments

The setting for this novel is entirely fictional. Inspired by the beautiful and fragile Georgia coast, I created a barrier island called Talisa, a county called Carter, and its county seat, St. Ann’s, and inserted them into the real geography of the Georgia coast, just north of Cumberland Island, but South of Sapelo Island. I can’t offer enough thanks to Blaine and Jenna Tyler for sharing their love of that island.

It’s always foolhardy to create a character whose work you know nothing about, but it’s a very good idea to have experts who are willing to share their knowledge. Many thanks go to Robert Waller, Sharon Stokes, Beth Fleishman, Mary Balent Long, and Kathryn Zickert for their legal expertise. Any misstatements of fact are due to my own ignorance and not the excellence of their advice.

Savannah friends who contributed their knowledge of local history include Polly Powers Stramm and especially Jacky Blatner Yglesias.

As always, my community of author friends lent their ears and advice during the process of brainstorming and writing The High Tide Club. The members of The Weymouth Seven: Diane Chamberlain, Margaret Maron, Katy Munger, Sarah Shaber, Alex Sokoloff, and Bren Witchger, were as always, essential to my process. Special thanks to my favorite low country ladies, Patti Callahan Henry and Mary Alice Monroe for their brilliant suggestions.

I couldn’t do what I do without my dream publishing team: the best agent in the whole damn world, Stuart Krichevsky, and the gang at SKLA, marketing genius Meg Walker at Tandem Literary, and of course, my publishing house, St. Martin’s Press. There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude for editor extraordinaire Jen Enderlin, capo di tutti capi Sally Richardson, and the team who make it all happen: Brant Janeway, Erica Martirano, Jessica Lawrence, and Tracey Guest. Thanks again, Mike Storrings, for yet another gorgeous cover.


I may wander far and wide in search of the next story, but at the end of every quest I’m blessed enough to have the love and support of my family, who know enough about me to leave me alone when necessary, and reel me back home to reality at just the right time. All my love goes to Katie and Mark Abel, Andy Trocheck, my darling grands Molly and Griffin, and most of all, best of all, my starter husband of forty-one years—and counting, Tom.





Prologue

October 1941

The three young women stared down at the hole they’d just dug. Their gauzy pastel dresses were rumpled and slightly damp, and the heels of their dainty sandals made them teeter precariously on the rounded oyster shell mound. Their faces were flushed and shiny with perspiration. The fourth in the circle was a girl of only fourteen, dressed in a hand-me-down set of boy’s overalls and a pair of worn leather shoes, her eyes wide with terror in a smooth, toffee-colored face. The first shafts of sunlight shone softly through the thick intertwined branches of moss-hung live oaks.

“Give me the shovel,” the tallest one said, and the girl handed it over.

The blade of the shovel sliced into the crushed shells and sand, and she dumped the material onto the form at the bottom of the hole, then wordlessly handed the tool to the redhead standing beside her. The redhead shrugged, then did the same, being careful to distribute the shells and sand over the dead man’s face. She turned to her friend, a pretty blonde who now had both hands clamped over her mouth.

“I’m gonna be sick,” the young woman managed, just before she leaned over and retched violently.

Her friend offered a handkerchief, and the blonde dabbed her lips with it. “Sorry,” she whispered. “I’ve never seen a dead man before.”

“You think we have?” the tall one snapped. “Come on, let’s get it done. We have to get back to the big house before we’re missed.”

“What about him?” The redhead nodded toward the body. “When he doesn’t come to breakfast, won’t people start asking questions?”

“We’ll say he talked about going fishing. He went out yesterday too, remember? Before dawn. Millie can say she heard him leave his room. His gun is right here, so that makes sense. Anything could have happened to him. He could have gotten lost in the dark and wandered into one of the creeks.”

“There’s gators in the creeks,” said the young girl in the overalls. “Big ones.”

“And there are snakes too,” the tall one volunteered. “Rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, coral snakes. And wild hogs. They run in packs, and if they get you…”

“Good heavens,” the redhead said. “If I’d known that, I never would have snuck out in the dark last night. Snakes and gators?” She shuddered. “And wild hogs? Terrifying.”

“We don’t know anything,” the tall one said emphatically. She searched the others’ faces carefully. “Agreed?”

A tiny sob escaped from the blonde’s lips. “Oh my God. What if somebody finds out?”

“Nobody’s going to find out,” the redhead said. “We swore, didn’t we?”

“They won’t. Nobody ever comes here. They don’t even know it exists. Right, Varina?”

The fourteen-year-old looked down at her dusty shoes. “I guess.”

“They don’t,” the tall one said. “Gardiner and I found it by accident, when we were little kids. It’s supposedly an Indian mound.”

The blond girl’s brown eyes widened. “You mean a burial mound? We’re standing on dead people?”

“Who knows?” A single drop of water splashed onto the tall one’s face, and she glanced up, through the treetops, where the clouds had suddenly darkened. “And now it’s starting to rain. Come on, we’ve got to finish this and get back to the house before we all get soaked and ruin our shoes and have to answer a lot of questions about where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing.”

Tears welled up in the blond girl’s eyes, and she unconsciously rubbed her bruised, bare arms. She was weeping softly. “We’re all going to hell. We never should have gone swimming last night. What if somebody finds out what’s happened? They’ll think it was us. They’ll think it was me!”

The redhead, whose name was Ruth, was thoughtful. “It doesn’t matter who killed him. Any one of us could have done this. He was a terrible man. He’s the one going to hell for what he did. You never should have agreed to marry him, Millie.”

“She did, though. And what’s done is done,” said their leader. “There will be a lot of questions, girls, when he turns up missing. There’s bound to be a search, and I’m sure my papa will call the sheriff. But we don’t know anything, do we?”

The blonde looked at the redhead, who looked at the tall one, who looked expectantly at the young girl, who nodded dutifully. “We don’t know nuthin’.”





1

Brooke Trappnell rarely bothered to answer her office phone, especially when the caller ID registered “unknown number” because said caller was usually selling something she either didn’t need or couldn’t afford. But it was a slow day, and the office number actually was the one listed on her business cards, so just this once, she made an exception.

“Trappnell and Associates,” she said crisply.

“I’d like to speak to Miss Trappnell, please.” She was an older woman, with a high, quavery voice, and only a hint of the thick Southern accents that prevailed on this part of the Georgia coast.

“This is she.” Brooke grabbed a pen and a yellow legal pad, just in case she had a potential real, live client on the other end.

“Oh.” The woman seemed disappointed. Or maybe disoriented. “I see. Well, this is Josephine Warrick.”

The name sounded vaguely familiar, but Brooke didn’t know why. She quickly typed it into the search engine on her computer.