Death on a Golden Isle

 

Note:

At the time the story takes place in 1923, Jekyll Island was spelled Jekyl Island, the result of a misspelling of the original name. The name was changed to Jekyll Island by a state law in 1929 and is the name that is used today. To avoid confusion to readers more familiar with the present spelling, the name Jekyll will be used throughout the book.

 

Chapter 1

A dance at the club

 

The bouncy rhythms of Way Down Yonder in New Orleans drifted from the brightly-lit room and out into the balmy Georgia night. The music rose and fell, sometimes drowning out the sound of the breeze through the surrounding trees, before receding once again. Among the potted palms, men in tuxedos and women in pearls and ball gowns crowded the polished wooden dance floor as the clinking of champagne glasses, and the chatter of voices and laughter mixed with the music. Most women wore traditional long gowns in dark conservative shades, but a few of the more daring affected aspects of the new flapper look, with shorter skirts, long strings of pearls, and dramatic feathers or ostrich plumes in their hair.

A punchbowl in the corner was being emptied and replenished in an endless cycle. Pocket flasks with forbidden bootleg alcohol were everywhere, but kept discretely from view. A gaily-colored poster on the wall announced “Welcome to the Club Ball-1923”

On the wide veranda just outside, the lights from the dining room threw patches of illumination that just failed to reach the lone figure seated in a wicker armchair by the railing. The figure sat motionless, as if oblivious to the gaiety nearby. A door opened and a trim, dark-haired woman in a deep green ball dress appeared.

“How are you doing, Bradley? Are you feeling any better?”

Bradley Dawkins looked up from the wicker chair and smiled. He was square-jawed with curly brown hair and movie star good looks. “I think so, Eva.  I guess once you pick up some damned bug in the tropics, it sticks with you. Fortunately these little relapses pass in an hour or so.”

“I brought coffee. Do you feel well enough to drink it?”

“Oh, yes. It’ll help me get back on my feet. Just leave it on the arm of the chair and I’ll get to it. How’s the dance?”

“Oh, pretty much as you’d expect. Peter is being very gallant, the Hesters are perfect dears, and Clarice Bailey is being insufferable. Everyone else is busy looking down their noses at me.”

He grimaced. “They’re a pretty conservative bunch, but they’ll warm up to you soon enough. The season will be over in a few weeks in any event.”

“I think you need a little more rest. Are you sure you don’t want to go back to the cottage?”

“No, I’ll be fine. You just go back in there and enjoy yourself. I’ll be with you just as soon as this passes.”

“All right,” said Eva. She paused at the door of the dining room and turned back to him. “Enjoy your coffee, Bradley.”

She reentered the heat and noise of the crowded dance floor.

“How’s Bradley getting along out there?” asked a tall man with a reddish-brown mustache.

“Oh, I expect he’ll be fine, Peter. He gets these relapses from time to time. They usually pass in less than an hour.”

Part-time big game hunter Peter Hamilton, or Bwana Pete, as everyone else knew him, nodded sympathetically and gestured with his drink, causing the ice cubes to clink in the glass. “It’s the jungle, I suppose. The place is crawling with diseases. More damned bugs than you could shake a stick at. I don’t know how I’ve avoided it all this time, what with all my trips to Africa. I remember this one fellow over in Mombasa; got bit by something or other and swelled up like a balloon. Extraordinary. If you stuck a pin in the poor lad he would have burst. Anyway…”

“Is Bradley any better?” Millie and Phillip Hester appeared and interrupted the flow of Bwana Pete’s safari reminiscences. Eva Dawkins did not look disappointed.

“He’ll be fine in a little while.”

Over in the corner of the room on an elevated platform decorated with paper streamers and red Chinese lanterns, Fred Dinkle’s band was cranking out the Charleston with a somewhat ragged performance that made up with enthusiasm what it lacked in precision.

“Come on, Eva,” said Bwana Pete, placing his drink on a table and wiping his mustache with the back of his hand, “let’s show these stuffed shirts how to cut a rug. Maybe it will inspire Bradley to join us.”

Bwana Pete and Eva joined the crowd on the dance floor making various attempts at the dance craze in a swirl of flailing arms and legs. The Hesters stood watching them for a few minutes, and then an anxious-looking young man approached and spoke loudly to be heard above the music.

“Mr. and Mrs. Hester, have you seen Clarice anywhere? She seems to have disappeared.”

“Disappeared? What do you mean, Charles?”

“She was drinking a cup of coffee and said she was bored with it and would I go and get her some punch instead. When I got back she was gone.”

“Well, the floor is pretty crowded,” said Millie Hester sympathetically. “I’m sure you just got separated.”

The band ended the Charleston to whistles and applause. Eva Dawkins and Bwana Pete rejoined the Hesters.

“That gets the old blood flowing,” said Bwana Pete, wiping his forehead with a handkerchief.

“Charles is here with Clarice Bailey,” Millie Hester explained, “but she seems to have gone missing.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” said Eva, in a flat tone that indicated it wasn’t very bad at all.

The young man looked around the room.

“Anyway,” Charles continued, “I just want to make sure she isn’t seeing someone else.”

Millie Hester pretended to be shocked. “Clarice Bailey interested in someone else? Why, that would be..”

“Fickle?” Eva finished the sentence for her.

“I was going to say awful.”

“Ah, well. That too, I suppose.”

“Here she is,” said Charles in an excited tone more appropriate for announcing a Kentucky Derby winner.

Clarice Bailey swept into view in a cloud of blond hair, blue silk and lace. She eyed Eva Dawkins and gave her a brief, cold nod.

“Clarice; where have you been?” said Charles. “We’ve been worried sick.”

“We?” muttered Eva Dawkins under her breath.

“Now Charles, a girl has to powder her nose once in a while,” Clarice pouted. She turned to Eva with her most insincere smile. “Why Eva; wherever is that dear husband of yours? I was so hoping to have a dance with him for old time’s sake. He was always so smooth on the dance floor. I do hope he isn’t wandering already. Poor Bradley does sometimes get bored of the humdrum. Perhaps he met someone with superior…..typing skills.”

“Your concern is touching,” said Eva, with ice in her voice. “Actually, he said he was feeling nauseated by the atmosphere and needed a breath of fresh air. I know exactly how he felt.”

“Well,” said Clarice gaily, “if he needs cheering up, I’ll be glad to help.”

“I believe I could use a bit of fresh air myself,” said Eva. “Peter, shall we go and check on Bradley?”

Leaving Clarice, Charles and the Hesters, Eva and Bwana Pete threaded their way through the crowd and headed for the veranda.

“Thank God the season will be over in a few weeks,” said Eva, as she approached the doors. Just a few feet ahead, the doors flew open and one of the staff stood in the opening, a black man with graying hair, and an expression of alarm on his face.

“Why, Williams,” said Bwana Pete. “What on earth? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Williams looked at them wide-eyed. “Mr. Hamilton, Miz Dawkins; you better come quick. I think something’s wrong with Mr. Dawkins.”

 

Chapter 2

Dead letter

 

The town of St Michaels on Maryland’s sleepy Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay was a collection of weathered wooden buildings nestled up against the cannery and packing houses at Navy Point on one side and several church steeples on the other. White-painted Skipjack workboats, their wooden masts swinging slightly in the wind, crowded the piers and unloaded their cargoes of oysters at the cannery. Inside, teams of shuckers, their nimble fingers almost a blur in the dim light, shelled the catch and prepared the oysters for canning. Next to the packing houses were several busy boatyards humming with the almost constant sound of sawing and hammering.

On the main street several blocks away, at the St. Michaels Post Office, Max Hurlock was staring in amazement at the letter he had just opened.

“Aw, for Pete’s sake; now I’ve heard everything.”

The March day was cold and windy, with threatening clouds overhead. Several passersby on the gravel and oyster-shell street glanced at him curiously.

The bell tower clock in the nearby Episcopal Church began to chime the noon hour, momentarily drowning out Max’s grumbling. Even so, it was evident that Max was exasperated about what he was reading.

“I solve a few cases and all of a sudden they expect me to work miracles…and this time the murder weapon is a coffee cup? And it’s on an island, no less. They probably expect me to walk on water to get there.”

“Hey, Max. You sound like a pig with his tail in a wringer.” Local moonshiner Duffy Merkle, a tall bearded man in overalls, appeared by Max’s side.

“What? Oh. Hey, Duffy. I just have a letter from someone who has an exaggerated idea of my abilities and wants a good bit more than I can deliver.”

Duffy grinned, revealing a lifetime of neglected dental work. “Shoot. I know what you mean. Last week this old boy wanted 100 gallons of ‘shine and I only had about 50. Well, you just cain’t raise production that much without sacrificing quality.”

Max looked at him. “Quality?”

“Sure. Hell, the stuff I make’ll take the paint off a wall, but it won’t kill you.  I depend on repeat customers.”

“Good to know the spirit of craftsmanship isn’t dead.”

“Yeah, I cut it with some branch water and you could hardly tell the difference.”

“I hope the Prohibition agents are as impressed with your exacting standards as I am.”

“Oh, I love them Prohibition boys. If it weren’t for them eliminatin’ the competition I’d have to cut my price in half.”

“Keeping the spirit of free enterprise alive,” said Max.

Duffy nodded. “Well, you got to keep up with the times I always says. Speakin’ of which, I sure could use that airplane of yours once in a while. If you’d make a few deliveries for me, I could make it worth your while.”

Max shook his head. “I’m sorry, Duffy, but Hurlock’s Flying Service will have to stick to passengers, mail, and occasional barnstorming. Anyway, I think you’re overestimating how much cargo a war surplus Curtiss Jenny can get off the ground, not to mention the fact that transporting white lightning is illegal.”

Duffy shrugged. “Shoot, bein’ illegal is what makes it pay so good. Way I look at it, the gummint’s got no business tellin’ average folks they can’t have themselves a snort now and then just ‘cause a few people are drunks.”

“I have to agree, Duffy, but I also do some criminal investigating work from time to time and it wouldn’t do for me to get in trouble with the law.”

Duffy brightened up. “ I heard about that case you did up in Jersey. Two people dead in a locked room? Whooee. Like one of them mystery stories. Guess that’s why they call you Sherlock Hurlock.”

“I was just helping out an old navy buddy,” said Max. “Still, you never know when something like that might come up again, so I’ve got to keep my nose clean.”

Duffy sighed. “All right, Max, but if you change your mind…”

“You’ll be the first to know.”

 

In the parlor of a white painted clapboard house just outside of St Michaels, Allison Hurlock sat in front of a typewriter staring at a blank piece of paper and sighing.

“Maybe an article on jazz? The problem is I don’t know a thing about it, not enough to write an article, anyway.”

She tapped her fingers on the table and stared out the window at trees still bare from winter. Her chestnut brown hair tumbled over the neck of the bulky white sweater as she huddled against the chill. She squinted in thought, making her brown eyes almost invisible for a moment.

Maybe evolution? William Jennings Bryan has everyone stirred up about it, so maybe…No; too controversial. My usual magazines wouldn’t touch it.”

A faint chugging sound through the trees told her Max was returning from town in the Model T. Max appeared in a few minutes, parked the car next to the barn with the hand-painted sign that read “Hurlock’s Flying Service” and jumped out. He was up the porch steps and in the house in a few seconds.

“Hey, Allison; how’s the article coming?”

She stood up and stretched. “If it were coming any slower, it would be going backwards. I’d be erasing things I’ve already written. Well, anyway, I see you’re back from the pulsing metropolis of St Michaels.”

“So how is the article coming along? Any progress?”

“At least I accomplished one thing; I proved that you can’t write by simply staring intently at the paper.”

“Did you really think you could?”

“I was sort of hoping.”

“Life is full of disappointments.”

“Oh, well. A little break and I’ll be as good as new. So what’s going on in town? Any exciting mail?”

“Peculiar is more like it,” said Max. “I got a letter from a woman in Georgia named Eva Dawkins.”

“Ah, a secret admirer among the southern belles?”

“Sort of, I suppose, except she’s actually from Baltimore. It seems she heard about the Taylor-Bradwell case we just finished up in New Jersey, and figured I’d be just what the doctor ordered to get her out of a jam.”

“She’s from Baltimore? I thought you said the letter was from Georgia?”

“She’s from Baltimore, but married a wealthy man who spends his winters at an exclusive island club in Georgia.”

“That sounds like the kind of a jam a lot of women would like to be in. So what’s the problem?”

“Death by coffee, apparently.”

“What?”

“Here. Maybe you’d better read it for yourself.” Max handed her the letter.

 

Dear Mr. Hurlock:

My name is Eva Dawkins and I am writing to appeal for your help in a life or death matter. I am originally from Baltimore and read the local papers occasionally. It was there that I saw an article about how you solved those terrible murders up in New Jersey, and I remembered you in my time of crisis. My situation is desperate; my husband has been murdered and everyone is pointing fingers at me.

My husband Bradley and I have been spending the winter here on the island. A week ago, we attended a dance at the club. Bradley died suddenly while sitting out on the club veranda after I brought coffee to him and now everyone is blaming me.  They say I poisoned his coffee.

 

Allison looked up. “So Mrs. Dawkins would appear to be a damsel in distress, albeit a distress possibly self-inflicted. She would seem to be a pretty good suspect. Poison is usually a woman’s weapon, and who else would be bringing her husband coffee?”

“I don’t know, but I imagine anyone at that dance would have had the opportunity,” Max reminded her.

Allison continued to read.

 

Mr. Hurlock, I appeal to you to come here and help me find the truth about Bradley’s death. The people here have never accepted me because of my humble background. They refer to me as a gold digger because of Bradley’s wealth, and actually think I murdered him for it. The local sheriff treats me as if I’m already convicted. Any day now, he could be coming to haul me off to jail.

I don’t know who killed Bradley, but as sure as there is a God above, I am innocent. Bradley and I had a large joint bank account, so money is not a problem. I will pay whatever you wish, but please come at once, so this nightmare will end! Please contact me by telephone at Georgia 3094.

Sincerely,

Eva Dawkins

P.S.- The season will be ending in three weeks and almost everyone will be departing, so time is limited. Please hurry. I have made arrangements for you to stay at the Sans Souci.

 

Allison refolded the letter.  “A damsel in need of rescue, it seems. What’s the Sans Souci?”

Max shrugged. “The local hotel, I guess.”

“Must be a pretty swanky place. Sans Souci is French for Without Care. And where is this island she’s writing from? She never said.”

Max picked up the envelope. “The postmark says Jekyll Island, Georgia. I’ll have to check an atlas. I never heard of it.”

“Jekyll Island? You’re kidding. That’s amazing.” There was excitement in Allison’s voice.

“You know about Jekyll Island?”

“And how. When I was at Goucher, one of my classmates was from Atlanta. She told me all about the place. It’s an island off the Georgia coast and it’s owned by a club made up of the richest people in America. They go there for the winter, often by private yacht or railroad car. They have mansions cheek by jowl, although they call then cottages. Just the place to live if you want neighbors with names like Rockefeller, Morgan, Vanderbilt and Pulitzer. It’s like Newport with palm trees. Only the rich and powerful need apply. If our Mrs. Dawkins has run afoul of that crowd, God help her.”

“Sounds like a delightful place.”

“Oh, I’m sure most of the people are perfectly decent sorts, captains of industry and all that, but they live in a world of wealth and servants, insulated from the world around them. I think they are quite accustomed to having their way. There is a certain standard they expect, and I imagine some of them can be a bit cold if they don’t get it.”

“I suppose refraining from killing your husband is one of those standards,” said Max dryly. “Seems reasonable enough.”

“Do you think you’re going to take the case?”

Max looked thoughtful. “Now that I think about it, I don’t see how I can resist. After all, how many chances will I get to investigate a death by coffee? Still, it seems to be asking a lot to expect an outsider to pry secrets loose from so many rich and powerful people on their own turf.”

“Not only that, but all the other suspects will be leaving the island in three weeks. That doesn’t give you much time.”

Max frowned. “That does complicate things a bit, but maybe in a tight little place like an island, it’ll be easier to narrow things down. If we fly to Richmond and take the train from there it will save some time.”

“Maybe.” Allison did not sound convinced. “As long as Gypsy can stay in the air that long.”

“I just gave Gypsy a complete going over yesterday. She’s as ready as a war surplus Curtiss Jenny biplane can be.”

“Oh, that’s reassuring. Now she’ll be good for at least another fifty miles, I’m sure. Well, assuming we actually manage to get there, I can gather some juicy material for another magazine article. I’ve been on a dry spell since that article on speakeasies. I worked up something on the Charleston, but no one has bitten yet. Maybe an article on one of the top secret enclaves of the rich would be cat’s pajamas.”

“I’ll bet it would be darb, as I believe the expression is. And we’ll be far away by the time the lawsuits start flying.”

“Nonsense. They can’t sue for libel if what you say is the truth.”

“Correction; they can’t prevail, but they can still sue, small comfort when the legal bills start fluttering in.”

“Tush. I’ll write an educational article, not a scandal. They’re probably far too dull for scandal anyway.”

“I wouldn’t count on that,” said Max, “Apparently one of them isn’t too dull to commit murder.”

“True. I don’t envy you. All I have to do is find a topic for my next article. You have to find a homicidal needle in an exclusive haystack.”

Max folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope. “All in a day’s work. Besides, we have an advantage over the club members.”

“Oh, really? What’s that?”

“We don’t have to worry about who’s taking care of our polo ponies.”

 

Max placed a phone call to Eva Dawkins, and though the connection was bad, was able to accept the case and make arrangements to travel to Jekyll Island. The next morning, Max and Allison packed their bags and were soon high above the Chesapeake Bay in Gypsy, passing over gray, white-capped waves under a threatening sky. In the passenger cockpit, Allison shouted into the speaking tube.

“Did you check everything on the engine before we left? That water down there looks way too cold for swimming.”

“Of course,” he shouted back. “Besides, we’re crossing at Drum Point where it’s only about ten miles wide. We could probably coast to land if we had to.”

“Imagine my relief.”

In spite of Allison’s reservations, Gypsy performed flawlessly and they were in Richmond in two hours. Soon they were on the Southern Railroad rolling through Charlotte to Savannah, then changing at Jesup, Georgia to the Georgia Southern train from Atlanta to Brunswick.

“So now we’re headed to an exclusive island getaway for the wealthy and powerful,” Allison mused as the wheels clicked on the tracks. “I have to admit I didn’t anticipate anything like this when I pulled into that filling station for gasoline in my father’s Model T a few years ago.

Max smiled. “Ah yes. The big scene where Juliet met her Romeo. I was working there part time to pay for my college tuition while you were a Goucher girl off on a jaunt. As I recall, I charmed you with my witty small talk.”

“You asked if I wanted my windshield cleaned,” Allison reminded him.

“Well yes, but what made it witty was the fact that it was pouring down rain at the time.”

Allison made an exaggerated sigh. “Now I ask you; what girl could resist a line like that?”

“If you had known you’d end up marrying a future investigator, airplane pilot, engineer with an unfortunate habit of getting dragged into other people’s problems, I’ll bet you’d have kept right on going.”

She leaned back in her seat. “Not a chance.”

They traveled all that day and slept fitfully that night. The next morning they changed trains for the final leg south. Later that day, as they got closer to Brunswick, Max noticed some coastal fog.

“It’s getting thicker,” he remarked.

“Don’t worry,” said Allison, half-asleep beside him. “I doubt if the train will get lost.”

“It’s not the train I’m worried about,” said Max, still gazing out at the thickening wet fog. “We have to make the final leg to Jekyll Island by boat.”

Allison sat up in the seat. “So we’re off to a great start. You need to find a killer but we may not even find the island.”

 

Chapter 3

The Fog

 

In the dense wet fog, beads of moisture hung on the railings, ropes, and overhangs of a small steamboat tied to the dock on Georgia’s Brunswick River. The boat was plain, without the polished mahogany and shining brass fittings of a yacht. A painted headboard, barely visible in the gloom, carried the name Sylvia. Like the pier, the boat appeared deserted.

“This is our ride, apparently,” said Max.

“And this looks like the River Styx,” said Allison. “So where is Charon to take us across?”

“I don’t know. I guess we should just get on board and see if anyone’s about.”

Warily, they stepped onto the glistening deck. The boat shifted slightly under their weight, then was still again. All around them was only a soft misty grayness. Max noticed a highly polished ships bell on the foremast and rang it cautiously. The tones of the bell shattered the silence and caused two loitering pelicans to fly away with a soft beating of their wings.

“I’ll bet they get to Jekyll Island before we do,” said Allison.

“Afternoon, folks,” came a voice from the mist. Max and Allison turned to see a tall bearded man emerge from the fog and extend his hand. “You must be the people from up north that Mrs. Dawkins mentioned.”

“That’s us,” said Max, “fresh from a very long ride on the train from Richmond.”

“Joe Campbell’s the name. I’m the captain of the Sylvia. I’ll be taking you to Jekyll Island.”

“Max and Allison Hurlock,” said Max. “Is it just you, Captain?”

“Just me. I usually have a crewman, but he took off on me a week ago. It happens that way sometimes. They head back north when the season gets near the end. But don’t you folks worry none. I can get the Sylvia to Jekyll in my sleep. Done it a thousand times.”

“Even in this fog?” Allison asked.

“Oh, sure. Once we get to Jekyll Creek it gets so narrow you can’t miss the pier at the island. We’ll be there in an hour or so. Now if you could untie that stern line while I get the bow..”

With a deep throated chugging of the engine, the Sylvia pulled away from the pier and was swallowed up by the fog. Allison watched the pier fade and then vanish into the gloom behind them.

“I wonder if the Flying Dutchman started out this way?” she remarked.

Max was silent a moment.

“I think I’ll have a chat with the captain. Maybe he can give me the lowdown on Jekyll Island.”

Allison nodded. “Keep an eye on the compass while you’re there. I don’t want to wind up taking a transatlantic voyage in this tub.”

“Aye, aye.”

Max found the captain steering in a somewhat casual way, with one hand on the wheel and the other making an entry in a log book.

“Just making a note of your names and the date.”

“You don’t mean to say you keep track of every passenger?”

The captain nodded. “Sure do. That way the folks at the club can see what they’re getting for their money. They pay for the service, you know, and you can take it from me they’re mighty careful with a dollar.”

“I assume you mean the Jekyll Island Club?” said Max.

“Right. Well, the board of directors actually.”

“What can you tell me about Jekyll Island, Captain?”

The captain chuckled as he squinted through the fog. “Well, it’s hard to describe to someone who’s never been there, but it’s basically just your garden variety private island for the very wealthy. They built cottages, mansions if the truth be told. Some of the members come for the season, and some only visit while their wives and families stay. Most of them bring servants with them, but others ‘rough it’ with just the seasonal help. It’s a pretty place. Of course, all the  islands in these parts are; St Simons, Sea Island, Little St Simons, and of course, Jekyll Island.”

“What’s the Sans Souci on Jekyll? The hotel?”

The captain shook his head. “They don’t have a hotel, outside of some rooms at the clubhouse. The place doesn’t exactly welcome casual visitors or tourists. No, the Sans Souci is sort of an apartment building for members who haven’t built a cottage. Some keep an apartment there for friends and relatives. Is that where you’re staying?”

“I think so.”

“Nice place. You’ll be comfortable.”

Max decided to go for broke.  “What do you know about the murder?”

For the first time the captain frowned. “Ah, that was a bad business. Poor Captain Dawkins. One minute he’s at a dance at the club and the next he’s dying. But it’s Mrs. Dawkins I feel sorry for. You see, she was already something of an outcast. Now they think she’s a criminal as well. She seemed like a nice lady to me. I hope you can find out the truth, Mr. Hurlock.”

Max started. “How do you know why I’m here?”

“Oh, there aren’t many secrets on Jekyll Island, I’m afraid. People watch each other and tongues wag. Yes sir; you’re in for quite an experience.”

Almost an hour later, the engines slowed and a ghostly pier and a small building materialized out of the fog. Several small sailboats were moored nearby, along with three speedy-looking runabouts. All the boats featured highly polished mahogany and gleaming brass work. Max thought of the contrast with the plain, white-painted workboats of the Chesapeake Bay. If he had known nothing else about Jekyll Island, he would have suspected it was populated by some very wealthy people.

The Sylvia’s engines reversed to slow the boat then shut off as the Sylvia bumped up against the pier and the captain secured the lines. Everything was suddenly silent except for the gentle lapping of ripples along the hull Max and Allison looked at the still wall of grayness, then at each other.

“I assume this is the right island,” said Allison.

Max nodded and gestured toward the wooden building on the pier. A small wooden sign said

Landing on this pier except by permission is strictly forbidden.

“You know,” Allison said finally, “I expected a somewhat understated welcome, but this makes me feel like a burglar.”

“The captain said they didn’t welcome casual visitors.”

“Here we are,” boomed the voice of the captain, curiously muffled by the fog. “Welcome to Jekyll Island in the great state of Georgia. Now, Mrs. Dawkins’s place is in that direction, just past the club house on Oglethorpe Road. That’s the road that runs right along the waterfront here. The Dawkins’ place has a sign in front that says Osage Cottage. It’s a big gray house. You can’t miss it. Watch your step please.”

“No problem,” said Max, helping Allison onto the pier. “We’ve gotten off of boats before.”

“I wasn’t talking about the boat. You watch your step on Jekyll Island.”

“Don’t worry,” said Max. “We intend to.”

 

Once Max, Allison and their luggage were deposited on the dock, Captain Campbell turned the Sylvia around and disappeared into the fog once more. In a few minutes, the sound of the engine faded and the mist-shrouded pier was silent once again except for the sound of a nearby sailboat rocking gently at its mooring.

“Well, here we are,” said Max. “It’s not exactly the end of the world, but I’ll bet it’s within walking distance. Do you see a telephone anywhere?”

“We’re lucky there’s a pier. The path away from here must lead to Oglethorpe Street, so I suppose we should see if we can find the elusive Mrs. Dawkins. Let’s leave our luggage here. We can send for it as soon as we figure out where we’re going.”

The path was surfaced with crushed oyster shells that crunched as Max and Allison set off into the deeper gloom of overhanging trees half obscured by the fog. As they turned on to Oglethorpe Street, Allison stopped.

“Max, what is that?” She was pointing to a round, turret-like tower rising above the trees and barely visible in the mist.

“I don’t know. It almost looks like a castle of some sort.”

“An ominous castle looming dimly in the fog. Isn’t this the way Dracula starts out? Listen, Max. Do you hear that?”

“The flutter of bat wings?”

“Very funny. It sounds like a car or a motorcycle, and it’s getting closer.”

“Good. Maybe Mrs. Dawkins is finally coming to pick us up.”

They had come to an intersecting road, wider than the path from the dock. As the sound grew louder, they waited expectantly. Finally, something began to materialize out of the fog.

“What in the world is that?” said Allison, amazed.

“I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t a vampire.”

Slowing to a stop in front of them was a strange sort of small, two-seater automobile, its tiny engine chugging and sputtering. The vehicle consisted mostly of four bicycle wheels on a low slung, open wooden frame painted bright red. The apparition skidded to a stop and the driver looked at them in wonderment. He was a middle-aged man dressed in what looked like a hunting jacket, complete with leather elbow patches and a padded patch on one shoulder. He had a weathered and tan face with a trim, no-nonsense mustache that wouldn’t have been out of place on a retired British general.

What secrets does Jekyll Island hold and how will an outsider like Max ever crack the wall of silence of some of America’s wealthiest and most influential men? Could his client be innocent, or is she using Max to throw off the police?

Read the rest of Death on a Golden Isle