A real estate agent in Carmel, California showed her client the last entry of the day. It was around the time where the sunsets were at their most colorful in the wealthy community of Big Sur. A redwood-dominated home in the heart of the mountainous region off of Highway 1 forced Wesley Thornton to breathe a heavy sigh contained in appreciation for what was before him and around his field of vision.

“This combination style of California bungalow and Victorian shingle will give you a private view of a redwood canyon, making way for the active ocean waves crashing into large rock formations. The main house possesses multi-level open bean ceilings,” the statuesque blonde with a mass of loosely-curled hair told Wesley. She waltzed him around the spacious terrace that gave him the spectacular view.

His eyes went beyond the railing of the terrace to see a weathered door in front of a rounded dark rock down below. “That’s odd,” Wesley commented.

The real estate agent moved up beside him. “Oh, yes. The previous owner had that door chiseled into the rock. With the coolness inside this type of cave, he used the interior for his photography.”

“Tell you what: this is the most promising residence you’ve shown me yet. I’m of the mind to pay your entire sale price. Is that something we can agree to?” Wesley stated with his most charming smile.

The agent was almost speechless. She cleared her throat, “Why, this is quite extraordinary! Yes, I will even take off a couple of thousand for you.”

“Madame, I will give you my attorney’s contact information in Indiana. He can send the amount to you in any way you two agree to. This house will definitely work well for me,” Wesley said.

Now that Wesley was set on where he would put up stakes in Big Sur, he purchased the most expensive dry red wine in Carmel. He took two sips; the rich taste of the vintage failed to satisfy the rumbling in his stomach, and the burning in his chest. In the last few weeks, he found most food caused a nagging ache to linger in his stomach until the next day. One night, he could not stand the pain until he was compelled to eat a package of raw chicken livers. The pain went away, and he felt satisfied.

After consuming raw calf’s liver from the gourmet shop in Carmel, he thought about the moment when Amora bit his left hand. The day after he buried her body parts, the markings of her bite had disappeared. In the back of his mind, he entertained dark thoughts of a dread he fought against: she cursed him with that last action before she breathed her last. He knew deep down that his lot was to be transformed into some king of ghouls, hungering for something most mortals abhor.

But on that night of knowing he was to move into his new home, he wasn’t thinking of the excitement of making the home his own. His thoughts rested on how to find a human specimen to satisfy his worsened state of unmentionable cravings for human internal organs and human flesh. A most depraved state for a man who once prided himself on elegant decorum of the most delicious forms of fine dining where the food was cooked, and not of the raw or cannibalistic nature.

Moving day came, and he purchased a bedroom set, a sectional, many bookshelves for his many books shipped in from Indianapolis, and another set of metal shelves he was to use for the seaside cave down below his home. His mind was in sheer delight as he examined the inside of the cave. It was the size of his modest quarters in the Rathbone Estate. The walls were solid rock with a faint odor of the sea waters. He knew this space would work due to the coolness, almost the feel of a 30-degree temperature, sure to keep someone’s body parts fresh for days or more. The metal shelves he brought in would store the body parts and inner organs placed in transparent heavy plastic to ensure freshness for his challenged palette.


I was packing for my drive west as Grandpa Pete entered my bedroom. His gray blue eyes seemed sullen. “Honey, do you have to make this trip?”

“Yes, I can’t move on with my job here until I know what happened to Amora. She can do ongoing damage even though her shapeshifting abilities are gone. Her witchcraft over people’s minds is still intact,” I said, zipping up my collapsible bag.

“Do me a favor: take this book with you,” Grandpa Pete said, handing me a copy of Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur.

“Why this book?”

“It will help when you think you’re going out of your skin. Kerouac was a conflicted man, but in this book, he writes about such peaceful solitude. It was like the elements of Big Sur spoke to him, kept his demons at bay.”

I gently placed his gift in between my underwear and my favorite robe. I left Anderson with plenty of curiosity, plenty of stomach-churning anxiety. In a nondescript restaurant off the interstate in Nebraska, I opened Kerouac’s book while waiting for my steak entrée. His loose construction of no paragraphs and sentence structure surprisingly held my attention throughout my dinner and the overnight in the Nebraska plains.

Entering the interchange to San Jose, I got a text buzzing my phone laying in my console. I regretted not taking Luther’s advice, having my phone hooked into a technology to my dashboard. Every two minutes, a loud buzzing went off until I stopped at a combination gas station and minimart twelve miles from Carmel, California.

The text read from Luther: “The real estate agency Thornton used is Carmel-by-the-Sea Realty in the central part of Carmel’s business district.”

I walked into the real estate office. I was hit head-on with an aura of wealth, making me feel underdressed and outclassed. So, I decided to use my charm.

“Hello, this office makes me feel ashamed I did not dress to impress. Been on the road for days, living in the same pair of jeans. I’m here in this beautiful country to find my long-lost uncle, Wesley Thornton. Did he ever use your services?” I inquired with the supermodel-esque receptionist.

“Let me get Mrs. Fenway. She was his agent.”

A tall, very attractive, finely-dressed woman approached me. “Well, you’re in for a treat. Mr. Thornton moved into one of our most popular properties. Come back to my office; I will give you the directions.”

Her office was roomy and flanked with striking contemporary artwork depicting the area’s breathtaking scenery. “Sit down, dear. Go by this map with your focal point being Highway 1, which goes through the center of Big Sur Village,” she said warmly.

“Could you help me with one more thing?” I asked, giving her my most sincere smile.

She nodded, flipping back her blonde-streaked cascading hair. I found that gesture amusing. I had to fight back laughter when I asked, “In your opinion, what is the most famous restaurant that defines Big Sur? I want to treat my uncle the first night I spend with him.”

“It’s Nepenthe Restaurant, 29 miles south of Carmel. I got to confess, it’s pricy,” she said, looking at me in a factious manner of superiority.

“Oh, I get it,” I laughed. “These clothes are my travelling garb. With my recent promotion, I’ve plenty of funds. No worries there.” I stood up and politely shook her hand. I wanted to stand over her and give her a piece of my mind, but I restrained myself.

After making accommodations in Carmel, I thought I better look the part of a substantial woman. I went into one of the trendy boutiques along the downtown strip leading down to the beach area. My initial plan entailed getting acquainted with the type of wealthy residents Wesley would find himself fraternizing with.

A simple-lined dress in periwinkle blue draped over the curves of my body in a nice way, suiting my thinking of blending in. The sales consultant smiled wide and gasped, “Oh my! With your classic brunette coloring, this dress is perfect for you!”

Thankful to my grandfather for slipping ten $100 bills into the Kerouac book, I was able to purchase the dress with no panic, then use what was left for the pricy Nepenthe. I knew full well my Indianan economic sense had to pull up several notches to compete in this inflated environment.

South on Nacimiento Fergusson Road to Highway 1, I drove up a significant incline to the redwood contemporary structure of Nepenthe. Inside, it looked to me with a sizable crowd milling around, I had arrived at the midpoint of the cocktail hour. Most of the patrons were dressed casual, something I did not realize on my shopping errand earlier in the day. Instead of blending in, I stuck out. This caused me to feel very nervous and quite uneasy.

Even though I felt as if I was overdressed, I thought a drink would give me courage. I began casually walking around, exploring with a glass of Pinot Grigio in my hand. I wanted a scotch and soda, but thought the wine seemed more appropriate.

I planted myself in front of a stone half-moon-shaped fireplace structure overlooking a spectacular view of the San Lucias mountain range. To my back, I heard a man’s voice, “I’m impressed. For once, a lady who knows how to look like a finely-dressed female.”

I turned around to see an attractive older man, slender but well put together. He was dressed as though he got off the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. His eyes were aquamarine, and when he smiled, his teeth gleamed in the pre-dusk outdoor light.

“Thank you, I think. I was led to believe this restaurant required an upgrade in the dress code. I’m a novice to Big Sur etiquette, being from the Midwest,” I answered back, thankful it didn’t take long for someone to talk to me.

“I’m supposed to meet my new friend Wesley. He’s from Indiana,” the man said, still smiling.

“Wow! This is truly a small world. My uncle is Wesley Thornton; speaks with a slight Irish brogue.”

“That’s the fella. Tell you what: join me at one of those terrace tables over there and wait with me. He will be surprised to see you, I’m sure.”

I was more than compliant and inwardly delighted. We drank a carafe of more Pinot Grigio, which the blue-eyed gentleman was insistent on buying. He took my hand; his eyes became more blue. We made conversation of the “getting-to-know-you” nature for the next 25 minutes.

He looked at his watch, then leaned in closer to my left shoulder. “Pretty lady in order for you to stick around. It looks like Wesley is not going to show. Have dinner with me.”

“Only if we go halves on the check. I insist,” I said, making the rules which might simmer him down on his obvious sexual expectations.

Halfway through dinner, my newfound gentleman friend offered intriguing table talk. His eyes got real animated as he related to me the last time he joined Wesley for a few drinks at this place.

“There was a chill in the air with a huge storm bringing in crashing tides along with lots of cloud cover that night. Wesley and I hung out at the community fire wall. Then, a friend of my late wife came over. Wesley struck up an instant connection with her. They eventually left together,” he said, then lowered his head. He seemed to exhibit a genuine concern of sorts.

“You seem to be upset about something,” I asked, my observation radar was out in abundance.

He took a large sip from his wine glass. “Irene is also one of my oldest friends. Yesterday, I went into the art gallery that she owns. Her assistant told me she hadn’t seen her in almost a week. She had called her home several times, leaving a message each time.”

“Seems to be a mystery brewing, although I must tell you my uncle has a knack of snarling in a female. She could be with him for days and not bother to go about her daily routine. She is probably caught up in his infectious Irish charm,” I said, making up a convincing story.

He took my hand once again, this time kissing the top of my hand very softly. He leaned in close, breathing distance. His breath gave off a faint odor of the soft Grigio. It seemed kissable enough if the pleasing inclination arose. “I must confess: you have the same ability as your uncle. Your charm has totally disarmed me. Can we pay the check and move on to my place?”

I found that most tempting. I was getting more attracted by the minute, or maybe the wine was overtaking me. I decided to come clean. “You’re a nice man and I find you very attractive. So, you need to know: back in Indiana, I’m a detective. Wesley Thornton has helped me with a difficult case. I still need his help. That’s why I’m here.”

He drew back, and lost his boyish smile. He jumped out of his seat to throw down four $20 bills. “Here’s my share.” He walked away and did not look back. So much for my alluring char; it disappeared into quiet contempt for my obvious lie of being Wesley’s niece.


For all installments from The Islands Tell of It, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Chapter 1: The First Victim
  2. Chapter 2: Four Months Before October
  3. Chapter 3: Bobber’s Café
  4. Chapter 4: Heat Wave
  5. Chapter 5: Deep-End Dining
  6. Chapter 6: Rathbone Estate
  7. Chapter 7: Althea’s Run
  8. Chapter 8: Emergency Interrupts
  9. Chapter 9: Girls Talk Turkey
  10. Chapter 10: There Came a Lull
  11. Chapter 11: Dangerous Mind
  12. Chapter 12: Luana Barba
  13. Chapter 13: Trip to Milwaukee
  14. Chapter 14: Enough Killing
  15. Chapter 15: A Parking Lot Visitation
  16. Chapter 16: The Restaurant
  17. Chapter 17: Late-Night Work
  18. Chapter 18: Grandpa Pete
  19. Chapter 19: A Group is Formed
  20. Chapter 20: Rendezvous with Evil
  21. Chapter 21: The Upside-Down of it All
  22. Chapter 22: Two Ways to Fight
  23. Chapter 23: I Have to See Her
  24. Chapter 24: A Funeral
  25. Chapter 25: Unaware
  26. Chapter 26: Synchronized Surprise
  27. Chapter 27: The Show Must Go On
  28. Chapter 28: Is it Business as Usual?
  29. Chapter 29: Going on Leave