The sea spread satiny glass across the sheltered bay. Amid lazy undulations, a blue heron rode his kelp-bed carpet and peered for minnows. White meringue clouds watched their reflections, overweighted galleons on a cerulean mirror floating towards the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. Up poked the mustachioed face of an acrobatic seal, which flipped in a lazy pose to warm its belly in the soft September sun. Deep below, a red rock crab found something to its liking. Soft tissue gave way as it inched along propelled by large nippers, using smaller chelipads close to the head to urge meaty delicacies into its eager maw. Then a fickle current swept the meal away, and the hapless crab dropped over a shelf to the deeper sea floor where it was seized by an opportune Dungeness cousin.
Trailing a frothy cloud of bubbles, a snorkeler angled down for a peek at a host of purple sea urchins. Carrying an underwater camera, he feathered his fins through the heavy tendrils of bull kelp, bulbous at one end, fat whips which bobbed on the tides until tossed ashore. The man paused to admire a cluster of whelks and a nervous school of sculpins, then took a few grab shots of a sea cucumber. A forest of leathery brown rockweed, clinging to the slippy basalt with its disc-like holdfasts, drifted into his path, then the dark crimson blades of Turkish towel seaweed. Carefully he pushed it aside, startling a juvenile octopus which had scuttled from a mollusk-mounded crevice. He checked his watch. Ten o’clock already. He should be getting back to the car. Monica was meeting him for brunch at Point No Point. With his appetite fueled by the cold water and exertion, he could almost taste their luscious cheese scones.
Then something large glided into his peripheral vision, and he turned, moving his legs to stabilize himself. Whales were seen around the island, but they didn’t usually come so close to shore...unless they were sick or injured. A mane of yellow hair and a chalk-pale face with vacant light-blue eyes searched his like a diffident lover. Hands clutched at him. He coughed out his mouthpiece and surged to the surface with a silent scream, choking as he yanked off his mask and thrashed his fins as if a killer shark rode his tail. As he scrabbled onto the rocky shelf, his prize Canon scraped on the coral, cracking the lens.
Lou Allin is the author of Northern Winters Are Murder, Blackflies Are Murder, Bush Poodles Are Murder, Murder, Eh? and Memories Are Murder. The Belle Palmer series is set in Sudbury, Northern Ontario, the Nickel Capital of the World. Retired from teaching Criminal Justice students in college, Lou lives with Friday the mini-poodle and Shogun and Zia the border collies in Sooke BC on Vancouver Island, overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca where the rain forest meets the sea. Recently, she’s begun a new series starring RCMP corporal Holly Martin. And on the Surface Die features the village of Fossil Bay and a banana slug or two. Five Star Gale published Lou’s hardcover Man Corn Murders. This standalone takes place in the red-rock country of Utah in the Grand Staircase National Monument. Visit her website www.louallin.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.