Enter Dark Booth
By Jeanie Byrd
From deep in the shadows of the Kelly, too, he watched the hapless detective stumble upon the body. His muscular frame was coiled and tense, but it was the fire in his eyes that would have shocked those who only thought they knew Booth McMullen. "This is getting out of hand," he muttered to himself.
For so many years they'd kept their terrible secret. That tragic night so many years ago ... they'd been young and so stupid. As it was, they'd suffered for what they did that night.
Booth certainly had paid a high price. He'd been the one holding the drugs when the police caught up with them. His family had used all of their considerable influence to assure the lightest sentence possible. Drawing upon his charm and dashing good looks, he'd won parole after serving only 16 months. But that 16 months had hardened a spoiled rich boy into a self-preserving thug disguised behind a Marlboro Man face and cloaked in Daddy's money.
Flora may have been a sodden mess when she met her untimely demise, but back in the old days she was fun and wild. She'd never been a classic beauty by anyone's standards, but she didn't have to be. She was Patsy's big sister and she was old enough to buy beer. Most of the boys wanted to be around Patsy, and those immune to Patsy's ample charms wanted to be around the beer. Flora was invited to everyone's parties back then.
But it was Flora who had blabbed to the cops that night. That would have won her immunity, if they'd ever been able to pin the real crime on any of them. As it was, they were never able to prove the crime even happened. No body, no crime.
Flora was ostracized from then on, and rightfully so, Booth thought. The traitor. Flora had never known what really happened to Patsy, but she knew it was her jealousy that had started the trouble. She blamed herself for Patsy's disappearance and her parents hearts and spirits were broken when they lost their youngest child . They retreated into their own private shells and Flora retreated into a bottle.
Booth McMullen and Flora Belcher never saw each other again until just before she died. He had heard she'd been sent to AA after she rear-ended a police car at a traffic light. She'd stayed sober for a dozen years or more, but her chance encounter with Booth last May had sprung her resolve. He had noticed her not long after she joined the Windlasses. He kept his Morgan at the Sloop Harbor Marina just so that he could keep a close eye on that pram shed.
When he caught his first glimpse of Flora he hardly recognized her, but he quickly began to plot a "chance" encounter. One day he just happened to be carting a bag of groceries to his sailboat when Flora was walking back to her car after sailing. He'd flashed her a disarming smile, placed a firm hand on her shoulder and quickly steered her out to the cabin of the Kelly, too. Cheery reminiscences gave way to tentative questions about the fateful night and ended with Booth hissing terrifying threats in her ear about what would happen if her memory suddenly became clearer.
When Flora fled to her car later that night, neither her memory nor her sobriety was intact. And from then on, Booth simply watched from a distance as a fumbling, withering Flora Belcher attempted to go on as if the ghosts of her own guilt didn't haunt her every step.
He'd kept an eye on the others over the years, as well. Most of the old gang was still in the area, but none of them socialized anymore. It seemed that everything had changed in that one night.
Booth had even made it a point to befriend old man Lucas. He almost had to if he were to maintain a presence here at Sloop Harbor; the old man was a fixture around the marina. In all these years, Lucas had shown nary a flicker of recognition that Booth was the same young man he'd caught only a glimpse of that night so long ago. Even if he had made the connection, he surely couldn't know about the body. No one had seen Booth bury the body that night. Patsy was just another missing person. A presumed run-away.
It had been ironic, in a deliciously evil way, watching Flora tromp around the sagging boards of the old pram shed, never knowing that her sister's body lay buried in a shallow grave just below.
Now Booth studied Woody's distraught face as she paced the dock by the old man's boat. It had been complicated enough to keep one body a secret for all these years; now there were three bodies and things were getting too messy. He knew that the bumbling police of Sloop Harbor were hardly a threat, but this Woody lady was sharp. Booth did his research and knew all there was to know about each and every person who frequented this marina. He knew Woody Kapok was one smart cookie. Maybe just smart enough to start connecting the dots that tied Flora, old man Lucas, and Booth to the young girl who disappeared 25 years before.
No, Woody Kapok had never met Booth McMullen, but she was going to. And he was going to make sure she liked him very much. At least, she would at first.
I ran the chapter past a couple of Windlass friends and they suggested I point out a few subtle, but important facts to future chapter writers... so, please pass this on:
#1 - Booth McMullen is not, at this point, directly implicated in either Flora's or Lucas' deaths, but we do know that he is aware that the policeman is stumbling upon Lucas' BODY. So he knew Lucas was dead, at least.
#2 - We don't know how Patsy died. It may have been an accident, a drug overdoes, or murder. The only thing we DO know is that Booth buried her. (On a technical note, we also don't know how he kept her body from being discovered by its smell alone in the "shallow grave")
#3 - We do know that "others" were involved in the events surrounding Patsy's death. It's up to future writers to pick up the thread or drop it.
#4 - It appears that Lucas only connection to Patsy Belcher's death is that he may have caught a glimpse of Booth at the marina the night he buried her.
#5 - We know that Booth got busted for being the one left "holding the drugs." We don't know if he was arrested that night, or if the cops caught up with the kids later. We know he's charming, but evil, but we still don't know if he's a murderer.
Ok, let's see where it goes from here!