Glenphiddie Island, Canada, 1995
In May, at the forty-eighth latitude on the eastern rim of the Pacific,
at the very edge of a continent and straddling the border of two
countries, morning comes early. By four-thirty the sky begins to
brighten. The light can be blocked out but not the cacophony of birds
greeting the dawn. Better than any alarm, they set the small world of
Glenphiddie Island stirring long before anyone plans on rising.
While the inhabitants of the town of Kilborn snuffled and moaned,
burrowing down beneath the covers to steal a few more minutes of sleep,
a dinghy pulled away from a thirty-foot sloop anchored at the mouth of
Kilborn Harbor. The yawning sailor steered toward Ghost Island while his
trembling whippet stood with her front paws on the edge of the rubber
vessel and whined in anticipation. Before the boat settled on the rocky
beach, the dog leapt into the rolling surf and dashed on shore to
relieve herself. She was still squatting when the wind changed. Her head
went up and her ears went back. Keening with fear, and before she
finished emptying her bladder, she was running away from the stench of
“Ginger, Ginger!” the man yelled. He turned off the engine and
lifted it out of the water. He stepped out of the boat. Holding on to
the encircling rope, he pulled the small craft up above the lapping
waters. “Ginger,” he called once more, with little hope that the
excitable beast would return. He waited. Ten minutes passed and Ginger
still hadn’t come back. “Stupid dog.” He sighed and began to walk
carefully over the moss-covered rocks. It was his wife’s dog but of
course she was tucked up tight in bed. “You go, Howie,” she always
said, as if early morning dog walking was one more thing she deemed a
“Stupid bitch.” He’d be hard put to say whether it was his wife or
the dog he was referring to. They were equally annoying.
He’d only climbed six feet toward the crest of the island when a rock
rolled beneath his rubber boot, twisting him sideways. His gaze was
caught by a flash of color below him. He froze in shock while his
rebellious eyes took in what he didn’t want to see. And then his brain
tried to make sense of it. When it did, he spun away from the horror and
Singer Brown woke at first light with the rest of the island and
listened to the raucous birds. Beside her Louis Wilmot yawned and
stretched before he rolled over to cuddle up against her back, nuzzling
his face against her bare shoulder. His hand cupped her belly and his
breath felt hot against her skin. A strange feeling of joy and security
came over her. He was here with her, in this small cocoon of safety. No
matter how long it lasted it was hers, one last chance to get it right,
and she would hold on to it with her whole being. She reached out to
cover his hand with her own. It had been a long time since she felt part
of a couple.
A couple. The word brought back the intimate exchange she’d witnessed
the day before. On the edge of sleep, she murmured, “What’s Ghost
Wilmot kissed her shoulder, his whiskers harsh against her skin. “That
small island at the mouth of Kilborn Harbor.” He pulled her closer.
“Why do they call it Ghost Island?”
He yawned. “Because the winds out there do strange things to fog,
dividing it, spinning it. Like gossamer ladies dancing across the
“That’s beautiful.” He never failed to surprise her. “Poetic
even.” Seeing gossamer ladies swirling across the water, she fell back
The phone rang. Wilmot cursed softly and rolled over to pick it up
before it could ring again and wake Singer. “Wilmot.” He tucked the
receiver under his chin, and rolled back to snuggle against her warmth.
“It’s Duncan. We’ve got a body.”
A jab of annoyance. Boating accidents were only one of the many forms of
human stupidity the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the policing unit for
the Gulf islands, dealt with during tourist season. Sure that some
drunken fool had fallen overboard in the harbor, he said, “I start the
midnight shift tonight and you know Fridays are always hell. Can’t you
“Sure, but I hate to have all the fun. It’s a dead woman.”
“So-o-o, her head was battered in. It’s unlikely to be natural
He grabbed the phone off his shoulder and swung his feet out of bed.
He was reaching for the trousers he’d thrown on the chair the night
before when Duncan answered, “Ghost Island.”
Wilmot turned back to face the bed.
After a long silence, Duncan asked, “Are you still there?”
“I’m here.” He took a deep breath and asked, “How do I get out
“The search and rescue launch is at the dock waiting for you.”
He dropped the receiver back in its cradle. “Singer.”
She turned over, nestled into his pillow, and mumbled something
He zipped his trousers and reached for a clean shirt. “I’ve been
Her eyelids fluttered but she didn’t answer.
He shrugged the shirt up onto his shoulders and then crossed to her side
of the bed and leaned over her. Her wild hair spilled darkly across the
pillow. Even in sleep her face was compelling. High cheekbones, a long
thin scar on the right one that she would never explain, full lips that
mocked the world and eyes that went from hazel to rich caramel. It was a
face he never got tired of examining, and she often caught him staring.
With her hand going up to her face, she’d ask, “What is it?”
“Nothing,” he’d answer, when in truth it was everything. This
woman took him out of his comfort zone, throwing him off balance while
making him feel alive in a way he’d never experienced before. Louis
Wilmot was no fool. He knew it couldn’t last. Singer was a woman who
was planning on leaving the moment she said hello. She’d warned him at
the very beginning of their affair that she was only on the island until
she could prove her residency and sell her house.
He shook her shoulder gently. “Why did you ask about Ghost Island?”
Her eyes stayed closed and her breath whispered softly between half
opened lips. He reached out his finger and removed a strand of curls
from the corner of her mouth, then he leaned over and kissed her
forehead. There was time enough later to find out why she was asking
about Ghost Island.
Excerpted from "Beach Kill (A Singer Brown Mystery Book 2)" by Phyllis Smallman. Copyright © 2016 by Phyllis Smallman. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.