The island couldn't be more charming with its stretches of white beaches, crystalline lagoons, and exotic bikini-clad beauties. But with three dead bodies and a voodoo priest, I had a hard time concentrating on sightseeing.
It seemed superstitious to me, since nobody could solve the puzzling cause of their deaths. So with the assistance of my own lovely native doll, I had my work cut out for me ' and that was simply managing to evade the long voodoo needle that was destined for my heart!
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April 01, 2002
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Excerpt from Dead Man's Walk by Richard S. Prather
We could see the low, bone-white hotel now, its wings curving toward the sea like the base of a sun-bleached skull.
For an hour the island had been growing on the horizon as the "Wanderer II" sailed steadily west, pushed by the winds of the Caribbean. The small spot of mossy green we'd first seen on the earth's curved rim was now unmistakably Verde Island, near enough to us that we could see the froth of the surf spreading on the black sand beach near the hotel.
It didn't look dangerous.
Verde Island looked like something out of a travel folder designed by a liar -- preposterously beautiful, with white-sand and black-sand beaches, a scalloped blue lagoon before the graceful hotel, low and lush green land to the south, and, much farther to the north, higher land with several jagged peaks there solid against the sky.
Behind the hotel rose the soaring bulk of Damballah-Loa, Verde's long-extinct volcano. Low on its steeply slanting side were the hotel's two score "cabins," and above them, a half dozen larger and even more lavish private homes. Thick cables supporting the little cars that carried guests up to those cabins -- after the fashion of ski lifts at snow resorts -- from here were cobwebs against the volcano's dark face. In the lagoon near the hotel were slips for the hotel's boats, which could be rented for fishing, cruising, and water-skiing; and a mile to the south was the dock where soon we would tie up and disembark.
Gazing at all that travel-folder beauty, I decided Ed Wylie must have died a natural death or else peace and contentment had killed him. Murder? Murder just didn't belong in a place like this.
"Isn't it gorgeous, Shell?"
That was lovely blonde Vanessa Gayle, on my left. Very close on my left. In fact, I had my arm around her slim, firm, warm, exciting, vibrant waist -- it was some waist -- and was holding her in a pretty firm grip, so she wouldn't fall off the boat.
"That's the word," I said.
"It sure isn't anything like L.A., is it?"
The slangy abbreviation sounded harsh and out of place here on the blue and balmy Caribbean Sea. But Vanessa was right. Los Angeles and Verde Island seemed parts of different planets entirely. This was a far, far cry from, say, Broadway between Third and Fourth Streets, downtown in the City of the Angels. That's the location of the Hamilton Building, wherein is the office of Sheldon Scott, Investigations, wherein sometimes I am -- since I am the Shell Scott of Sheldon Scott, Investigations.
In several years of investigating everything from missing husbands to multiple homicides in and around Los Angeles and Hollywood, even including jaunts to Mexico City and Acapulco and Hawaii, this was the farthest I'd roamed from the well-traveled routes of the world. Verde Island was definitely off the beaten path. Only one small airline included Verde in its itinerary, and only rarely did a passenger ship make it a port of call. Except for that, all contact with the "outside" world was with the passenger-carrying freighters that docked here once or twice a month, and with the "Wanderer II" itself. While one island after another in the Bahamas, the Lesser Antilles, the outer islands of the West Indies chain, had become centers of farming, manufacture, or tourism, Verde had rested quietly, almost untouched by the growth and progress all around it.
Before leaving the States I'd dipped into the Encyclopedia Britannica and a book or two. So I had a rough idea of what lay ahead of me.