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Rising Moon by Wayne Stinnett

 

Rising Moon - On Grassy Key, things aren’t as idyllic as they seem. The quiet, sleepy community has been awakened. A young woman with strong ties to the community is missing.
A local craftsman, the last person to see the girl, is questioned and released. The girl’s friends are interviewed. Nobody knows what happened to Cobie, except that she left for work one day and didn’t arrive. The only lead is the girl’s car, parked where she worked. But it provides no clues and nobody saw anything.
Days go by. Then weeks. The case grows cold.
The employer of the girl’s mother knows Jesse McDermitt, a retired Marine and reputed government spook. Jesse leans on people the way only he can and soon finds there is a lot more to the abduction than anyone knew.
Does he find the missing girl? Does he survive what he uncovers?

 

Rising Moon Wayne Stinnett Book Chapter One

 

November 2020

The screen door slammed behind her as Cobie rushed down the steps of her mom’s mobile home. She took them two at a time, then sprinted to her little car. She was almost late for work and needed to make a stop on the way there.

Her mother’s trailer, like many others in the park, had seen better days. But it had weathered two big hurricanes in Cobie’s lifetime, both passing close enough to the small island of Grassy Key to cause a lot of damage. Their trailer had survived, though, one of the few still remaining in the Florida Keys.

In 2005, Hurricane Wilma had passed fifty miles to the north. Cobie was just a toddler then. The storm was a Cat-3, spinning crazily out over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It pushed winds from the northwest and piled water up against the Gulf side of the low-lying key. Wind-driven waves had lapped at the trailer door and they’d lost their porch awning. But the trailer had held fast with a dozen hurricane straps attached to anchors her father had labored to drive into the limestone bedrock by hand.

The hurricane had come just five months before her daddy was killed in a car crash.

He was coming home late from a bar down on Big Pine Key, where he played on a pool team. Witnesses said he was driving fast and erratically, almost hitting another car head-on. He’d swerved and then overcorrected, hitting the barricade and flying over it into the ocean. They found his car days later, his body still inside. Everyone thought her father had been drunk, but Momma swore that he didn’t drink. Later, the autopsy showed she was right. He’d had a heart attack, but the cause of death was drowning.

She remembered how scared she’d been during the storm, but little of the details of her father’s accident. Momma hadn’t shared that information with her until she was much older.

Three years ago, Hurricane Irma had made landfall just down island, on Cudjoe Key. It was a big one, a Category 4 storm, sending powerful winds and torrential rain through their neighborhood, which was thirty-five miles away. The trailer park itself was on the Gulf side of the Overseas Highway and the wind had been mostly from the south, so the park was slightly sheltered from the wind by the raised roadbed. The ocean side flooded, and some waves even crested the highway, flooding the park. The wind blew boats and cars around, some crashing into neighbors’ trailers.

They hadn’t evacuated for either storm. The first, because Daddy was a Conch and stubborn about such things. Momma would have taken them away before Irma, but they had nowhere to go and no money to get there.

“What time do you get off work?” Cobie’s mom called from the door.

Donna Murphy was an attractive woman in her late thirties. She was lean and short in stature, like Cobie. They often wore each other’s clothes. Her hair, also like Cobie’s, was the color of wheat, streaked with lighter colors from the sun. Her face was beginning to show lines, mostly from worry about Cobie and their future. Hard times seemed to follow Donna like a dark cloud.

“Three,” Cobie yelled back, as she yanked open the car’s door. “A bunch of us are going to Cable Park after.”

Cobie stepped back, dodging most of the heat that came boiling out of her car. Though it was only a few days until Thanksgiving, it was still ridiculously hot, and her blue car seemed to absorb it.

Cobie got in, leaned across the seat, and rolled down the passenger-side window before winding down her own. The old Fiesta lacked a lot of the things some of her friends’ cars had, like electric windows and air conditioning, but it ran forever on ten dollars’ of gas, didn’t cost much to buy, and started. Most of the time.

A typical Keys car.

Her mom approached and leaned on the doorframe. She instantly jumped back, rubbing her forearm. “The park closes at sunset, Cobie.”

“That’ll give me almost three hours to try out my new board,” Cobie responded. “You working today?”

“This afternoon, in the Gift Shop.”

“Tell Manny and the gang I said hi,” Cobie offered, turning the key with a silent prayer. The little blue car started. “I really gotta run, Mom. I’m late and I have to stop at Ty’s and pick up my new board. He just texted me and said I could pick it up this afternoon.” She bounced in her seat and clapped her hands. “But I can’t wait to see it and try it out.”

“Don’t forget,” Donna said, as Cobie shifted to reverse, “your Uncle Rob and Gina are arriving this evening. They should be here by eight o’clock.”

How could she forget? Her mom had told her every day for two weeks that her uncle, a musician, was driving his RV down with his girlfriend for a few weeks and staying at a nearby campground through Thanksgiving weekend.

“I’ll be home before then,” Cobie said, backing out into the street.

She waved at her mom and drove off. Her job at Kmart was just a ten-minute drive and she had fifteen to get there. If Ty was home, she’d stop on the way. He’d texted her that her board was ready, so why wait till after work?

Cobie and her friends knew one another’s schedules. There were only a handful of kids her age on Grassy Key—most of her friends lived in Marathon, as did Ty. He was older and a little odd, but because he made wakeboards and surfboards, he was within her circle of friends.

Traffic was light when she turned south on Overseas Highway, toward town. She saw a friend riding the opposite way on the bike path and honked the anemic-sounding horn. Trish waved and Cobie waved back.

A few minutes later, she turned onto a street on the ocean side, made a quick right and then another left and saw Ty’s van in his driveway. There was another car parked behind it, so she just pulled over under a gumbo limbo tree at the edge of an empty lot next door. She would only be there for a minute.

Ty had a little shop behind his house on the corner where he made custom boards; wakeboards mostly, but he also made kiteboards, even surfboards. You’d have to go way up the coast to surf, unless there was a storm out on the Gulf Stream. Whatever kind of board anyone wanted, Ty was the guy.

Cobie didn’t recognize the Nissan parked behind Ty’s old VW van, but it was new and not from the area. Having grown up on Grassy Key, she knew every car on the island and could always spot a friend in a long line of tourists’ cars. The black GT-R sportscar with dark windows stuck out. But Cobie knew that people came from all up and down the Keys to get one of Ty’s boards, so a strange car didn’t seem unusual to her.

Ty was rarely in his house, except to eat or sleep. His shop was air-conditioned and he had plenty of work to keep him out there from sunrise to well past sunset. He had a stereo system in his shop, as well as a refrigerator. Though she and most of her friends were still in high school, Ty allowed them to sneak a beer from the fridge once in a while. He was older, almost thirty. He even smoked weed with one or two, but Cobie never tried it or the beer.

Knowing he was most likely in the shop, Cobie went around the side of the house, following the well-worn path. As she approached the shop’s door, she could hear the voices of Ty and another man coming from inside, but not what they were saying.

Without knocking, she turned the knob and walked in. Ty and the other man looked up from Ty’s small desk. Cobie didn’t recognize him.

On the desk was the digital scale Ty used to mix epoxies, resins, and powders. A pile of blueish-white powder sat on the scale.

“Hey, Ty,” Cobie said, smiling brightly. She closed the door behind her. “Making a new resin or something?”

“I thought I told you to lock the door,” the other guy said, rising from his seat at Ty’s desk.

“It’s okay,” Ty said, also rising. “She’s cool.”

The stranger went past Cobie, staring at her body, and locked the door. He was medium height, dressed too nice for the Keys, and had dark eyes and black hair, slicked back.

“Cool?” the man said, looking her over again. “I’d say hot.”

Cobie ignored him and turned to Ty. “What’s going on?”

“You picked a bad time for a visit,” the man said. He moved in front of her, letting his eyes roam once more, stopping for a moment at the square neckline of her tank top.

Cobie was used to boys looking at her chest. But they mostly just stole a glance, or a stealthy peek. This guy gave her the creeps, staring at her boobs.

“What’s your name?” the man asked, removing her sunglasses, and tossing them on a table.

“Hey!” she exclaimed. “Those were expensive.”

A corner of his mouth went up, not a smile or a grin, but more of a sneer. If he drove the high-priced sportscar out front, Cobie was sure he could easily afford to replace the sunglasses.

“I asked your name.”

Cobie looked from him to Ty, who now wore a worried expression.

“Cobie Murphy,” she replied, then looked back at her friend. “What’s going on here, Ty? Is my board ready?”

“You shouldn’t have come till this afternoon,” was his only reply.

The stranger grabbed her wrist and jerked her toward a chair, pushing her down onto it. Before she could protest, he grabbed a piece of rope from Ty’s workbench and pulled her arms tightly behind her back.

Cobie screamed.

“Cover her mouth!” the stranger ordered Ty, as he tightened the knots on her wrists.

Cobie screamed again and the guy hit her. The punch to the back of her head made her groggy.

“You don’t have to do this,” Ty said. “She won’t—”

“Shut up,” the stranger growled. “Since you don’t have money, I’ll take this as payment. She can work off your debt for my supplier.”

Ty reluctantly took a roll of tape from a shelf and tore off a strip. The guy behind her pulled Cobie’s head up by her hair and held her in place with one hand under her chin.

Cobie’s eyes were having a hard time focusing. Then she saw Ty coming toward her with the tape.

“No, Ty,” she squealed, struggling in the other man’s grasp.

In Ty’s eyes, she could see pity, as if he truly were sorry that she’d chosen to come early to pick up her board. But she also saw a little of what was most prominent in the other man’s eyes—lust.

The tape went over her mouth, and Ty mashed it in place. Cobie squirmed on the chair, but the man held her firmly as she began to cry.

The stranger let her go and started rummaging through the different cans and bottles of epoxies and solvents on the shelf.

Cobie started to stand; to try to make a run for the door, but the man wheeled and hit her in the stomach with his fist. She doubled over, unable to breathe, then he pushed her back onto the chair.

“Top shelf,” Ty said. “The brown bottle.”

The man grabbed the bottle and a towel. He poured some of the contents onto the towel and squeezed it in his fist a few times.

Cobie started to struggle again as the man put the chloroform-soaked cloth over her face.

The last thing Cobie heard, before passing out, was the man telling Ty to get rid of her car.
 

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