Riptide Rumors

The Legacy of Sunset Cove Series – Book 2

by Melody Carlson

If the Tide Doesn’t Change, Who Will Pay the Price?

As autumn of 1916 descends upon the once-peaceful town of Sunset Cove, Anna McDowell has great hopes that the excitement of the summer will be over, now that a few of the key players in the rum-running ring have been arrested. But with a daring jailbreak getting the town in a dither again, she knows that the danger hasn’t passed for anyone in her coastal hometown.

With a mayoral election keeping tensions high and the authorities busy searching for those behind the jailbreak, Anna has plenty to keep the newspaper busy. But when her sixteen-year-old daughter begins making noises about leaving high school and abandoning dreams of college, Anna realizes that prohibition isn’t the only thing she needs to be worrying about.

How deep does the root of corruption run in their town? As she digs deeper, Anna is forced to put the concerns of her own heart on hold in an effort to save some of the people dearest to her.

Chapter 1

Mid-September 1916

Anna McDowell felt slightly sickened as she hung up the telephone. For the past few weeks, life had grown relatively peaceful in Sunset Cove. Most folks in town had begun to breathe easier, and as editor in chief of the Sunset Times, Anna had focused most of the news stories on the upcoming election. But everything changed in the course of one phone call.

“What’s wrong?” Virginia, the longtime receptionist, looked over the tops of her glasses, studying Anna curiously. “What did Chief Rollins have to say?”

“Bad news.” Anna glumly shook her head. “Albert Krauss broke out of the county jail early this morning. Rather, he was broken out. Apparently he had help.”

“Oh dear.” The older receptionist frowned as she set the morning mail on Anna’s desk. “Mrs. Krauss must be on pins and needles.”

“He’s already informed Clara and sent police protection. He feels it’s possible that Albert could return to Sunset Cove.”

“Poor Mrs. Krauss.” Virginia’s brows arched. “What about the Krauss boy? Did he escape with his no-account father?”

“No, thank goodness. That would’ve been disastrous. AJ’s trial is next month, and he’s been cooperating with his legal counsel. And Randall feels hopeful he can get a reduced sentence. But not if AJ escapes.”

“Who do you think helped Mr. Krauss?”

“The chief suspects some of the rumrunners are behind it.”

“That seems pretty risky, busting him out like that. You’d think they’d be worried about getting caught themselves.”

“That might’ve been their motivation.” Anna picked up a pencil and spun it between her fingers as her mind started to spin a story. “I suspect Albert’s buddies were worried he might talk. Might turn over state’s evidence against them.”

“Aha.” Virginia nodded.

“Not just about the rum-running, but possibly about Wesley Kempton’s murder too.” Anna sighed. She still ached to think of the reporter’s tragic death. Poor Mac had been devastated by the news. Even though they’d all observed Wesley’s running with the wrong crowd, Anna’s father still partially blamed himself. Mac had tried so hard to mentor Wesley over the years…practically treating him as a son. But, as Anna had pointed out more than once this past summer, Wesley made his own choices. He’d refused to heed their warnings.

“So perhaps Mr. Krauss wasn’t the murderer after all,” Virginia mused. “And maybe someone out there didn’t want him revealing who was truly responsible.”

“That’s exactly what I’m thinking.” Anna slid a paper into her typewriter. “Please send Jim in here on your way back to the reception desk. I want him to cover the jailbreak story in time for tomorrow’s edition.”

“Will do.” Virginia nodded, and, as she slipped out, Anna began to type a new editorial piece to go into the Saturday paper. She glanced at the clock, realizing she was cutting it close to make these changes in time for press. She was just starting her second paragraph when Jim came in.

“I just heard the news,” he said. “Want me to handle it?”

“Yes.” She looked up. “Definitely front-page stuff. Get everything you can, and if you need any help, let me know. I just want to finish this editorial first.” She quickly told him about her speculation regarding the motivation behind the jailbreak. “That’s partially what I’m writing about now. But see what you can find out at city hall and around town as well as the county jail. And let the typesetters know we’re going to make some changes before the end of the day.” She pursed her lips. “In fact, tell them to move the current front page back. We’ll fill the new front page with this and related stories.”

“I’m on it.” Jim clapped his hands together. “Might make for a long day.”

“I know.” She forced a sad smile. “But I feel like we’re doing part of this for Wesley’s sake. I know he made his mistakes, but he didn’t deserve to be murdered. Anything we can do to figure out who’s behind it is time well spent.”

“Couldn’t agree more.” He reached for the doorknob. “I’ll check in with you in a couple hours, let you know how it’s going.”

After Jim left, she returned to her typewriter. The last time she’d written an opinion piece about the consequences for prohibition breakers was right after Wesley’s murder. She’d gone after it pretty hard then, but for the past couple of weeks, she’d tried to editorialize on less disturbing topics, as well as some uplifting ones. Now it was time to remind the good citizens of Sunset Cove of the dangers of lawbreaking. Oh, she knew there were varied opinions on prohibition, and as editor in chief, she tried to honor those voices by allowing them space in the “Letters to the Editor” section. But tomorrow’s editorial would express the position of the newspaper in general. Her father would approve.

Anna had just finished her piece when her daughter burst into the office. “I just heard about Mr. Krauss’s escape from jail,” Katy said with wide eyes. “A policeman came by the school to check on Ellen. She’s pretty shaken up and scared.”

“Poor Ellen…and Clara too.” Anna looked at the clock. “What are you doing out of school at this hour?”

“Lunchtime.”

“Oh, yes. Of course.”

“I told Ellen that she and her mom should move back to Grandmother’s house. And I even called Grandmother from the school office to let her know they might need a safe place again.”

“I expressed similar concerns to Chief Rollins.” Anna laid her piece aside. “He assured me that he’s aware. He already sent Collins down there to keep an eye on things with Clara.” Anna didn’t admit that she didn’t fully trust Clint Collins. Sure, he could be quite charming and everyone knew he was next in line to replace the chief when Harvey retired next year. But the more she’d become acquainted with Collins, the more she suspected his character. Yet, the chief appeared to trust him. Perhaps she was too judgmental.

“The policeman escorted Ellen home so she could check on her mom,” Katy said. “I suggested they both gather up their things and get over to Grandmother’s as soon as possible.”

“Good thinking.” Anna smiled at her daughter. Katy would be seventeen soon, but she’d always seemed older than her years. “So, how’s school going?” Anna knew that Katy was disappointed in the academics of the small-town school. They’d discussed it at length over dinner last night, but Katy had remained firm. She did not want to return to Portland to finish her high school education.

“Funny that you mention that, Mother.” Katy’s blue eyes twinkled. “The principal, Mr. Johnson, took me aside this morning. He suggested that I might want to take an equivalency test. He said it’s pretty difficult, but that I could get my high school diploma early if I pass it.”

“Would you really want to do that?”

“I’m thinking about it.”

Anna frowned. “Would that sort of degree meet college requirements?”

Katy looked away. “I don’t know.”

“Well, that is an interesting idea.” Anna didn’t want to sound impatient with her daughter, but she was eager to check on Jim and turn in her editorial.

“Of course, Ellen doesn’t want me to do it.”

“That’s understandable. But as much as you love Ellen, you can’t plan your life around her, Katy.”

“I know that.” Katy scooped her napkin from her lap and put it on the table by her plate. “And speaking of Ellen, I promised to meet her at Grandmother’s house. I better get over there.”

Anna nodded. She was still slightly amazed that her mother had not only reentered their lives, but appeared to have been welcomed by almost everyone in town. Including Anna…but only after Lucille managed to prove herself by helping Clara and Ellen. Still, Anna was not as won over by her flamboyant mother as Katy and Mac. But at least they were on cordial speaking terms now. To be honest, Lucille was steadily growing on her. It was rather nice to have a mother…even if she was a bit eccentric.

Anna was about to take her opinion piece to the typesetters when Jim entered her office. “I’m afraid I agreed to too many tasks.” He quickly explained his dilemma. “I scheduled an interview with the jailer who was on duty when the break occurred. He lives just outside of town, and his wife told me to come by at two. But then I got an appointment to speak with Albert’s cellmate at the county jail. But the visiting hour is at two as well.”

“Which one do you want me to take?”

He rubbed his chin. “Well, I’m not sure a woman would be very welcome inside the jail. So you probably should talk to the jail-keeper. His name’s Tom Gardner. He works the night shift. According to his wife, he doesn’t usually get up until around three, but she was willing to wake him earlier for me.” He handed her a slip of paper. “Here’s the address. It’ll take you about forty minutes to get there.”

“I’ll go home and get the Runabout and a quick bite of lunch, then I’ll be on my way.” Anna reached for her hat and satchel.

“Be careful out there.”

“Why?”

“The chief is concerned that Albert could be hiding out in town.”

“I know. I’ve been wondering if he might try to get supplies or money or even a boat from his business.”

“Police are posted around the docks. But if Albert sees them, he’ll probably lay low or look for another opportunity. And you know that he’s not very fond of you.”

“That’s putting it mildly.” She grimly shook her head. She knew better than anyone how much Clara’s husband despised Anna’s “interference.”

“So watch out.”

She nodded. So much for breathing easy in Sunset Cove now. But she didn’t really mind. Excitement was always a part of a reporter’s life, and, although she didn’t like taking unnecessary risks, she did like the adventurous side of her work. She would hate to imagine Sunset Cove returning to a sleepy little coastal town with nothing beyond the grange meetings and bridge club to report on. Apparently that was not going to be a problem just yet.

Chapter 2

Lucille immediately set her live-in housekeeper to work after Katy’s phone call. But with so much to do in preparation for the return of her houseguests, she decided to roll up her sleeves as well. While Sally was at work in the kitchen, Lucille prepared the guest rooms by opening the windows, setting out fresh linens, and even putting small bouquets of autumnal flowers in pretty crystal vases.

Clara and Ellen had returned to their house near the docks shortly after Albert’s arrest. Lucille understood their desire to move back home, but she’d instantly missed their company. She’d enjoyed the hustle-bustle activities that her houseguests had brought with them, including numerous visits from her daughter and granddaughter. It had been fun—and their absence had made her large home feel rather quiet and lonely. Although Lucille wasn’t exactly glad that Clara’s good-for-nothing husband was on the loose again, she couldn’t help but be happy to have her houseguests returning.

“Grandmother!”

“I’m up here,” Lucille called down the stairs.

“Thank you for opening your home again.” Katy embraced Lucille. “Ellen was so happy to hear you didn’t mind.”

“I’m delighted to have them.” Lucille set the last towels on the bureau, looking around with satisfaction.

“I thought they’d be here by now, but I suppose it takes time to pack.”

“Should I send my car for them?”

“No. Ellen said she’ll drive their truck back to town.”

“Any news on the whereabouts of that nasty Albert Krauss?”

“Nothing more than I already told you. And I was just at the newspaper office, and Mother didn’t mention anything.” Katy looked at the vase of flowers. “Pretty!”

“Thank you.” Lucille beamed at her. “I do want Clara and Ellen to feel welcome.”

“I’m sure they will. Ellen sounded very grateful.” Katy’s face turned serious. “Grandmother, I’d like your opinion on something.”

“Well, as you know, I’ve never been one to keep my opinions to myself. What is it?”

Katy began to describe her discontent with Sunset Cove High School. “It’s so small. Only twelve students in my class.” She rolled her eyes. “Do you know that I had nearly two hundred in my old school?”

Lucille felt alarmed. “Do you want to go back to Portland for your schooling?”

Katy waved a hand. “No, no. Not at all.” Now she explained her teacher’s suggestion that she take a test to acquire her diploma early. “But the problem is college. It might make it difficult to get into a college.” She looked at Lucille with a slightly desperate expression. “But that is exactly the issue, Grandmother. I’m not sure I want to go to college.”

Lucille smiled. “Then why should you?”

“Grandpa and Mother both want me to go.”

“Oh…I see.” She nodded knowingly. Mac and Anna could be awfully stubborn about some things.

“The things I most want to do don’t require a college education.”

“You mean things related to art?”

“Yes, I suppose. Art and film both interest me. But not as much as dress design. You know how much I love fashion, Grandmother.”

“Yes.” She nodded. “I know. That’s why I offered to help Ellen and you to start a dress shop—after you’re done with your schooling.” Lucille had not forgotten the rather terse warning she’d received from Anna about this. Neither Anna nor Mac wanted anything to interrupt or derail Katy’s education.

“But what if I was done with my schooling now?” Katy asked eagerly.

“I, uh, I don’t know.”

“Do you know what my dream is?” Her eyes sparkled with hope.

“What’s that, dear?” More than anything, Lucille would love to help her granddaughter’s dreams to come true. “What is your dream?”

“To study under someone like Jeanne Paquin.”Katy let out a long wistful sigh.

“Who is Jeanne Paquin?”

“Oh, she’s this amazing French woman. One of the first world-renowned female dress designers. A truly amazing artist. I first read about her in Vogue magazine. She’s won some prestigious awards and runs the House of Paquin in Paris. And she designs for theater too. Her designs have been shown all over the world. She even toured the United States a few years ago. Oh, I would give anything to go and work for someone like Jeanne Paquin.”

“You’d go to France?” Lucille concealed her shock.

“Well, I know it’s impossible right now. Not with the war over there.”

Lucille felt calmer. “So…how did this Jeanne Paquin get her start?”

“As a dressmaker. She started as a very young woman.”

“Why couldn’t you do something like that? You’re so talented, Katy. Such an artist. I see no reason why you couldn’t become an American Jeanne Paquin, with time and work. And perhaps when the war is over… Well, perhaps I could take you to France.”

Katy grabbed Lucille’s hands. “Oh, Grandmother, that would be a dream come true! Would you really take me there?”

“Why not? In the meantime, until the European war is over, you could be getting plenty of experience right here—in your own little dress shop.”

“That’s exactly what I want! I could take that test and be done with high school and start designing dresses. But there’s Mother and Grandpa and… Well, you know/ what they’ll say.”

“Yes, I do know. But perhaps if we work together on them. Maybe we can persuade them…encourage them to see your side.”

“Will you help me?” Katy peered hopefully into Lucille’s eyes.

“Of course I will.” Lucille heard the front doorbell. “I do believe our guests have arrived. Please go let them in while I finish up in here. I still need to put some soaps out.”

Katy kissed Lucille on the cheek. “Thank you. I knew you’d understand.”

Lucille did understand. A young girl should not be deprived of her dreams. As Lucille unwrapped a bar of rose-scented soap, she remembered when she was about Katy’s age…meeting Mac down in San Francisco and being swept off her feet by the charming young newspaperman. After marrying him in haste, with high hopes in her heart, they returned to Sunset Cove to live happily ever after. And they might’ve too. If only Mac’s mother hadn’t insisted on running their household in her own way. Lucille set the soap in the dish. How her mother-in-law disapproved of such luxuries. Never mind that they could afford such things. “It’s a waste of money,” she would chide young Lucille. Day by day, she would rule and reign over Lucille, squashing all her hopes and dreams until Lucille felt like a prisoner in her home. Was it any wonder she’d left her husband and child? It had seemed the only answer at the time.

Hearing excited voices downstairs, Lucille fluffed the last pillow, then went down to greet her guests. “I’m sorry for the circumstances.” She placed a hand on Clara’s shoulder. “But I’m very glad to have my houseguests back.” She turned to Ellen. “Your rooms are ready for you to get settled in.”

“We better get back to school.” Katy grabbed Ellen by the hand. “I promised Mr. Johnson we wouldn’t be too late.”

“Yes, you girls grab something from the kitchen and hurry along,” Lucille told them. “I’ll get Sally to help get your things upstairs.”

“You be careful,” Clara warned Ellen. “Keep your eyes open as you go through town. Remember what Lieutenant Collins said.”

“Don’t worry about her,” Katy assured Clara. “I won’t let her out of my sight.”

After they were gone, Clara deflated. “I thought the worst of this was over.” She let Lucille lead her to the sofa to sit. “And now this. It’s so upsetting to know that Albert is out there…somewhere. Who knows what he might do next. I honestly believe he may be crazy.”

“I’ll bet you haven’t had lunch.” Lucille called out to Sally, asking her to bring some tea and sandwiches. “And when you’re done, Sally, I’d like you to help unload the ladies’ bags from their vehicle.” Now Lucille sat down next to Clara. “I know this must be difficult, but remember you have friends to help you. And everyone in town will be on the lookout for Albert. If he’s anywhere nearby, I’m sure he will be picked up soon. In the meantime, why not enjoy your stay here?” She smiled. “I know I’m looking forward to it.”

“You’re so kind.” Clara seemed to relax. “I don’t know what we’d do without you and the rest of your family. These friendships make me realize how terribly isolated and lonely I was…before. I never want to go back to that.”

Lucille understood. Before returning to Sunset Cove last spring, she had felt lonely too. In fact, she’d felt lonelier than ever when she’d first arrived. It had seemed that the whole town—most of all, her only daughter—were intent on shunning her. But time and persistence had paid off. She felt more at home than ever now. And it was wonderful being able to help someone else.

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