I took photos of the turtle nests and of Selma driving the Gator, making sure to get the lighting right to display her passion for this work. I was glad for the sunscreen I’d applied on the ferry because the June sun was already brutal at mid-morning. Even so, I knocked back two bottles of water before we reached the south end of the beach.
A nice cross breeze cooled the sand flats around us. Water sparkled everywhere, as small waves built and crested on the sand. Gulls winged happily overhead, and little plovers chased after each retreating wave. The Turtle Girl may have a lowly job on the scientific totem pole, but dang if the benefits weren’t spectacular.
I wished I’d been more adventurous during my college years, but my brother’s death and my fear of water kept me from seeking intern opportunities like this. That’s how I’d ended up writing for a science journal in Atlanta. The job had been safe, not scary. I’d gotten over my fear of the water recently, but I would always have a huge respect for the sea. Fishing, boating, or swimming in the ocean would never be my first choice for recreation.
“I may have news for you about the egg thefts on Friday,” Selma said.
Two days from now. “Oh?”
“The wildlife agency is going to try something.”
“Their top secret test?”
“Can you give me a hint?”
“You’ll have to be patient. This is for the good of the turtles.”
Friday came, and each minute ticked slowly off my life clock as my phone didn’t ring. By noon, I couldn’t take the suspense any longer. I phoned Selma, and my call went straight to voice mail. I tried her again at three. Same result. Since I had her boss’s number, I tried that, only to be told that Dr. Jernigan hadn’t heard from her. I phoned the research center’s onsite answer gal. “Do you know where Miss Crowley is?” I asked.
“She’s probably out there with her turtles,” the receptionist said, her voice cheery.
Her good mood darkened mine. “I tried her phone already. Left messages. She isn’t returning my calls. I’m concerned about her.”
“I’ll take a message and put it in the lab, hon. That’s all I can do.”
I hung up, miffed. Selma was so passionate about her turtles. I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t returning my calls. Needing to talk to someone about this in person, I whistled up my dog, Bailey, a rescued black lab mix, and walked over to the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office.
Ike was delighted to see me. He told his Deputy Alice Ann Harper, his sister, to hold his calls and watch Bailey. The office door locked behind us, he drew me into his arms for a senses-drugging kiss.
“I’ve been thinking of you all day,” he murmured in my hair as his hands went to work on my clothes.
The need to be with him thrummed in my head, in my heart, and I gave myself up to the heat of the moment.
Afterward, we cuddled together in his chair. “We should do this more often,” Ike said. “Instead of lunch.”
“Did Alice Ann hear us?” I asked as my thinking cleared.
“Not if she knows what’s good for her.”
“So, did you come over here to seduce me, or is something else on your mind?”
“The Turtle Girl is on my mind. Selma Crowley isn’t returning my calls.”
“She might be busy.”
“All day? I doubt it. She has a flexible schedule. There was supposed to be a break in the turtle egg case by now. She said something was happening today.”
“Is she on the island?”
“I don’t know. The receptionist was vague.”
Ike snorted. “She’s always vague. Not much between those ears.”
I playfully punched his bare chest. “Get serious. I’m concerned about Selma. Something’s wrong.”
“You got spidey senses now?”
“No. But it’s like when I knew who killed the judge last fall. My gut says Selma’s in trouble. She really wanted to catch this egg thief.”
Ike gazed out the window for a few moments. “We could watch the ferry unload this evening.”
That was a good idea. Selma hadn’t confirmed what time she’d have news today. Maybe she’d hop the last ferry and then call me from the safety of the mainland.
“I should go out there by myself. Since you’re a cop, you might spook her or whatever’s going down.”
Ike’s arms tightened around me. “I insist on going with you.”
The atmosphere in his office shifted from fun to stifling in a heartbeat. I tried to get clear of him, but his arms caged me like jail bars. “What gives you the right to insist? This a free country.”
“You nearly died investigating the judge’s murder. I can’t take that chance again. I know you have this Nancy Drew, girl detective, streak in you. I can handle that. As long as I get to come with you. I can’t risk losing you, Linds.”
The way his voice cracked melted my heart. He wasn’t locking me behind bars. He was helping me do my job. “Okay. You can come.”