Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write for the SUSPENSE and/or THRILLER Genre (10/23/14)
TITLE: Hermit Island
By Yvonne Blake
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After thirty years of answering phones, I used my savings to follow my dreams. I purchased a big tumble-down house on an island. It took a lot of sore muscles and parade of carpenters, but it would be a wonderful bed and breakfast spot. Who wouldn’t want to spend a vacation on a peaceful secluded island, with the sound of waves lulling you to sleep and sea gulls waking you in the morning?
“You know why they call it Hermit Island, don’t you?” Pete, the electrician, rolled up his flannel sleeves.
My ears perked up with interest. “No, I was wondering about that.”
“The story goes that there was a fellow who lived out here all by himself.” He hitched up his faded pants. “Some say he busted out of prison, and some say he run away so he wouldn’t have to pay his taxes and bills.”
“Is he still here?”
He slapped his cap on his head. “Don’t know, Ma’am. I ain’t never seen him, but some says they have. They say he has a black dog and prowls along the beaches at night, scavenging things that wash ashore.”
I looked down the path that led to the beach.
He saw I was nervous. “I wouldn’t fret, if I was you. He ain’t hurt nobody yet.”
As I watched Pete’s skiff bounce over the inlet to the mainland, I shook off the chills down my back. Silly Goose, it’s only a local legend. Stories like that will just give your place a little more character.
Summer was fast approaching. My first guests would be here at the end of the week. I penciled out a welcome sign to post near the boat landing. I thought I had seen a can of white paint in the shed. Where can it be? I found blue and yellow, but no white. I’d have to pick up some at the village store. Having to go back and forth by boat made things more complicated, but I knew I’d get into a routine eventually.
The bell jangled as I entered Sally’s Store. Smells of burnt coffee, sliced salami, and fresh fish filled my nose. Sally looked up and smiled. “Evenin’, Ma’am. How’s things going, out on the island?”
I don’t know if I can get used to being called ma’am. “Fine, fine. I just have a few more things to finish, and I’ll be ready for guests.”
“Don’t you get lonely out there by yourself?” She shivered. “I don’t think I could stand living on Hermit Island all by myself.” She glanced at me, as if she were deciding to say more or not.
“Pete told me about the hermit,” I told her. “But I haven’t seen him.”
“No, you wouldn’t see him, but people say they know he’s there because of the flowers.” Another customer came in, she tended to them, and I headed back to my island.
Flowers? Come to think of it, I had noticed how the gardens never needed weeding – not that I had time to think much about them recently . . . and there was a man’s footprint near the front steps, but I had attributed it to a workman.
While I ate supper, my guests called. “Hello? ...Tomorrow evening? ...Yes, I suppose so. I wasn’t expecting you ‘til Saturday, but I can be ready tomorrow.” I groaned as I hung up the phone. Tomorrow? Oh there’s so much more to do! I’d just have to get up early.
Normally, I hadn’t bothered locking up, but tonight, I checked both front and back doors before heading upstairs. Just in case, I reassured myself. Besides, the guests will feel better if I get into the habit of locking up at night.
In the morning, the sun sparkled on the riffling waves. I was ready to paint and clean and hang some curtains and … well, first things first. I’d better finish that sign.
As I opened the shed, I smelled turpentine. A dog’s paw print of white paint marked the cement floor, plus a large smudge – like someone had tried to clean a spill. My heart pounded. I hurried back to the house to call the sheriff.
Then I saw it and stopped short.
It was standing right there at the foot of the steps, right in the middle of the red tulips. The perfectly painted white words mocked me.
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