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The High Tide Club
Author: Mary Kay Andrews


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’.”


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.

“Josephine Warrick on Talisa Island,” the woman said impatiently, as though that should mean something to Brooke.

“I see. What can I do for you today, Mrs. Warrick?” Brooke glanced at the computer screen and clicked on a four-year-old Southern Living magazine story with a headline that said “Josephine Bettendorf Warrick and Her Battle to Save Talisa Island.” She stared at the color photograph of a woman with a mane of wild white hair, standing defiantly in front of what looked like a pink wedding cake of a mansion. The woman wore a full-length fur coat and high-top sneakers and had a double-barreled shotgun tucked in the crook of her right arm.

“I’d like you to come over here and see me,” Mrs. Warrick said. “I can have my boat pick you up at the municipal marina at 11:00 A.M. tomorrow. All right?”

“Well, um, can you tell me what you’d like to talk to me about? Is this a legal matter?”

“Of course it’s a legal matter. You are a lawyer, are you not? Licensed to practice in the state of Georgia?”

“Yes, but—”

“It’s too complicated to go into on the phone. Be at the marina right at eleven, you hear? C. D. will pick you up. Don’t worry about lunch. We’ll find something for you to eat.”


Her caller didn’t hear her objections because she’d already disconnected. And now Brooke had another call coming in.

She winced when she glanced at the caller ID. Dr. Himali Patel. Was the pediatric orthopedist already calling to dun her for Henry’s ruinous medical bills?


“Hello, Brooke. It’s Dr. Patel. Just following up to see how Henry’s physical therapy is coming.”

“He’s fine, thanks. His last appointment was this week.”

“I’m so glad,” Dr. Patel said. Dr. Himali Patel was the soft-spoken Indian American doctor who’d treated Henry’s broken arm. Brooke shuddered when she thought about the thousands she still owed for the surgery. She’d rolled the dice on an “affordable,” high-deductible health insurance policy and came up snake eyes when Henry fell from the jungle gym at the park and landed awkwardly on his arm, leading to a trip to the emergency room, surgery, and weeks’ worth of physical therapy.

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