CHAPTER ONE

Hazel Stuart was trying to understand why her mother was being so difficult

“It’s only for a week” Hazel said. “Carla’s boyfriend just broke up with her and Jaz has been pining for a vacation. We need this, mom.”

“I don’t understand why you have to go to Newport” Maria Stuart said, as she took out clothes from her closet. Most of them were unopened and still had price tags on them. “I don’t want you girls alone in that house”

Hazel rolled her eyes “It’s a beach house mom. Not a frat house. It’s not like there would be boys and alcohol present.” ‘Much’ she muttered under her breath

“I heard that” Maria said. “Anyway quite frankly a weekend is enough. You don’t have to spend a whole week. Ooh this is nice.” She picked up a blue satin dress. “Do you think I should wear this for the gala?”

“Never mind the dress! You want us to go for one weekend? ugh” Hazel stamped her foot. “Spring break is a whole week and you want us to spend one weekend?

“The Fairway Gala is next Thursday and your father and I expect you to be in attendance.” She tossed the dress aside.

“Why do i have to go? It’s for really old people.” Hazel pouted, crossing her arms, flicking her long red hair.

“Your Father and i are the guest of honor, and it is good press for us to be there to be as a family” Maria said, picking up another dress

“I am sure they would understand” Hazel said stubbornly

“Jeremiah is going to be there” Her mother said with a slight smile

“Eww, Smelly Jerry” Hazel wrinkled her nose. “How is that any appealing?”

“I thought you had a huge crush on him” her mother said surprised.

“Yeah, when I was in like, seventh grade. Before I got to know how he really smelled”

“Hazel”

“Please mom “mom Hazel begged. “We really need this.”

Maria pursed her lips. “Fine but you are going to be back next weekend, and no excuses!”

“Thanks Mom” Hazel skipped out of the room. She ran upstairs to her room. She dialed a number on her cellphone. After a few rings someone picked up on the other end.

“Guess what Carla?” She babbled. I got my mom to let us stay in the beach house for two weekends.

“Oh my gosh that’s awesome.” Carla said. “Have you talked to Jaz and Toni yet?”

“Not yet.” Hazel said. “Better get your swimsuit ready because we are going to Newport. Your parents are cool with it, right?”

“They are cool with anything; they will barely know am gone.” Carla replied. “I’m going to hang up now, got to get ready.”

“Alright. See ya!” Hazel hung up the phone and fell on her bed with a happy sigh. She hoped everything was going according to plan.

*                                                                                                   *                                                                                                          *

Toni Peters couldn’t believe what her parents were saying

“We can’t let you go to Newport.” Her mother said. “You have two sisters who are your responsibility. Your father and I are going to be busy these next few days so you’ll have to watch them”

“Alicia is fourteen” Toni protested. “Amelia is twelve. They can take care of themselves.”

“This is not up for discussion, Toni” her father said sternly. “Your mother is going to be busy with the art gallery, and I am going to be tied up at work with the bank. You are not going anywhere.”

“Besides, I don’t want you going on trips with Carla Heathway,” her mother continued. “Michael did you hear she once stole test answers in school and pinned it on that boy, Ben Adrian?”

“Yes, I remember it caused quite a buzz at the school fair.” Michael Peters, Toni’s father said. “And Sarah do you remember when her brother was arrested for drunk drinking-”

“That’s not what happened dad” Toni interrupted. “John wasn’t drunk he was just a little exhausted after the football game, and Carla publicly admitted she was the one who stole the test answers and even apologized to Ben. She did the right thing.”

“Because she knew Ben would tell everyone the truth and who wouldn’t believe him.” Sarah, Toni’s mother said. Straight A student, student body president, I believe your friend Jasmine is dating him.”

“Yes and I can’t believe she got of easily; just three day’s suspension. If you ask me she should have been expelled.” He shook his head. “I’m sure that sizable donation her parents made to the school had nothing to do with It.” he said sarcastically.

“Oh my God Dad you are unbelievable.” Toni spat.

“Well like it or not your father is right” Sarah said. “We don’t want you associating yourself with that family. They are poison.”

“Dad-” Toni turned to her father.

Michael held up his hands. “We have made our decision Toni. You are staying home for spring break.”

Toni looked at her parents with dismay. “You know I liked it better when you were both fighting. You didn’t have to agree on anything.” She tossed her blond hair aside and stormed up the stairs.”

She sat down on her bed for a minute thinking. How dare her parents do this to her? After a while she opened her closet and ruffled through her drawer. Nothing was going to stop her from going to Newport. Not even her parents

*                                                                                                   *                                                                                                          *

“It’s for a week” Jasmine Green said, wringing her arms together. “Well more like a week and three days, we leave on Friday and get back next Sunday.”

“Friday is tomorrow isn’t it?” Martha Green said as she chopped the vegetables.

“Yes I know mum, its last-minute but I’ll take my homework, and I’ll call in every night and-”

“Okay, stop blubbering,” Her mother laughed. “Fine. You can go if, you can help me get dinner ready in time.” She smiled.

“Absolutely mom you are the best!” Jasmine threw her arms round her mom. “Where do I start?”

“You can take over this while i get started on the stew” Martha said handing over the knife. “Frankly I think your brother Keith would be happy to have you out-of-the-way for two weeks.”

“I think so too” Jasmine laughed as she chopped. “Hey by the way, where is he?”

Her mother was silent for a while. “He went to the cemetery. To visit your dad”

Jasmine was quiet for a while too. Her father, Keith Green (Senior) had died in Afghanistan a year ago. Keith went there once in a while to talk to him. He was just fourteen.

“Well I hope he is back in time for dinner.” Jasmine said. And that was pretty much the end of the conversation.

*                                                                                *                                                                                  *

It was Friday afternoon. Carla Heathway had her bags packed. She walked down the stairs with her bag in tow. Hazel was waiting for her outside.

“Mom, I’m off!” she yelled.

No answer, then Oliver the butler came out from the kitchen. “Your father got an urgent call from the hospital, and your mother left for the courthouse. They told me to bid you farewell” he said with a smile in his eyes.

Carla rolled her eyes. She was sure her parents didn’t even remember she was leaving. “Thanks Oli” she said. She left her bags on the floor with the rest she walked out the door and met Hazel and Jasmine waiting for her in Hazel’s Ford S-Max.

“Hey what took you so long?” Hazel said. “Forgot to pack your diary?”

“Ha ha very funny” Carla said. Oliver walked out of the house with various bags in the wheeler.

“Umm, Carla, why do you have three huge bags? Didn’t Hazel promise us shopping?” Jasmine said

“One of them is for Toni. Her parents didn’t let her come so I had Tom pick it up from her house last night. We are picking her up at the grocery store.”

“Tom did that?” Hazel said surprised. “I thought you two were over?”

Carla shrugged. “We are still friends. Besides he owes me lots of favors.”

The three girls laughed. They loaded the bags in the trunk thank God it all fit and they got it the car.

“Toni is going to be in so much trouble when she gets back” Hazel said

“I know right” Carla said. The drove off to the grocery store, they met Toni at the front.

“Hey is that your brother with Jeremiah?” Toni asked Carla as she climbed in the car. The girls looked across the street. It seemed they were both having an argument.

Carla made a face. “Ignore them. They are both a bunch of losers.” John glanced at them for a second. They all stuck their heads back in.

“Do you think he saw us?” Jasmine gasped

“Oh who cares?” Carla said giddily. “Newport here we come!”

And they went. One wouldn’t come back.

*                                                                                                     *                                                                                             *

James Ashwood leaned his elbow on his desk and rested his forehead on the palm of his hand. He was tired and hungry. The only thing he had eaten since morning was a doughnut. He was tied up in paperwork. There was a missing persons report filed on his desk. Four girls had gone on a trip but only three came back. The fourth girl was reported to have wandered away on the previous night before they returned. Normally the Newport Police were supposed to handle the case since she went missing there, but since Harbor city was her town. The Harbor police were looking into the case.

He turned the file over and sighed. He missed being in the field. After his accident his boss had him confined to desk duty. Not that Harbor had a number of interesting cases; in fact, it was a pretty small town. But he hated being stuck behind a desk.

His chair suddenly lurched back. He fumbled for his balance and then he heard someone laughing. A hand patted him on the back and a man moved to his front.

“You know James, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve done that to you. I’d be a freaking billionaire.” Corbin said.

“The day you stop playing kiddie jokes is the day you’ll ever be close to a billionaire.” James teased.

Corbin O’ Brian was James’ co-worker and partner he was the complete opposite of James. James was always serious and a workaholic, while Corbin was playful and laid back. James was 6 feet one inch, had tousled black hair, dark-skinned, Corbin was Blond with tanned but yet white skin. Everyone loved to joke they were chocolate and vanilla.

Corbin picked up the file that James was reading. “The missing kid huh? I don’t know what the fuss is all about. Chances are the kid just ran away. Nowadays, kids just like to take off. She’ll be back in a week or two.”

“Or she could have been kidnapped.” James said. “Or worse”

“It has been almost a week. If she had been kidnapped, we would have heard from them by now.” Corbin guffawed. “Besides it would be Newport’s problem not us. Come on let’s go and have a drink. It’s way past happy hour time.”

“You go on ahead.” James said absent-minded looking at his watch it was past eight pm. “Have to finish this.”

“It’ll be here tomorrow” Corbin said. “Come on drinks are on me.”

“I actually haven’t eaten”

“Then we will grab a burger on the way.” Corbin coaxed.

“Fine,” James said after a few seconds “But you are buying the burger as well.”

“Deal” Corbin grinned. “Lemme get my jacket”

The door to the Captain’s office opened. “Ashwood, O’Brian get in here.”

“What’s the problem captain?” James said. “We were just about to head out.”

“We have a situation. We found the missing girl.” Captain Jones said.

“See?” Corbin tapped James on his chest. “I told you there was no need to worry”

“Not quite O’ Brian.” Jones said “They found her in the woods, beside a tree, her body lifeless on the ground.”

Bile rose in James’ throat. “You mean-”

“Yes. Carla Heathway was murdered.”

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