Brianna Pike and her husband moved from Hemet, California to the east coast in the late nineties. Although she had lived in California all her life, for some reason she felt New England beckoned her. When she met Tom the store manager of Wal-Mart was making a very big deal of the situation. Tom saved Brianna a lot of embarrassment by discreetly talking with the manager and the police officers. She still had to go through being booked and the mug-shot session and fingerprinting down at the station. She also would be on probation for the next year, but Tom saved her the humiliation of being handcuffed and taken away like a criminal. It wasn’t the first time she was in trouble with the law. She had been caught shoplifting at other places but this was the first time she had actually been booked for the crime. It wasn’t that she couldn’t afford the items. It was an addiction. It was a game to her to see if she could do it without getting caught. It made the adrenaline flow inside her, and getting caught was more intense than the excitement of getting away with it. Now her record and fingerprints were in the system for the world to know.
When she found out that Tom was from Maine, she knew it was fate. The desire to move east summoned her even more. It would be a place to start over. To stop the steeling and do something different with her life. Tom, a truck driver, was able to get a transfer to a New England trucking company. Brianna took correspondent courses to get her real estate license for Maine and New Hampshire, and they found a quaint cape in the town of Camp Eaton. She had been working for the Tidwell Company in South Portland for about three years when she first heard the story of the Salt-Water Killer.
It was just after lunch when Brianna punched in the code for the lock at 221 East Atlantic Avenue. She remembered looking at the house when she and Tom first moved to Camp Eaton. She was kind of surprised it hadn’t sold yet. It was a cute little cottage, but not big enough if children were part of the package. She and Tom were planning to have children at some point in their lives, but hadn’t gotten around to it.
The dust bunnies floated through the air in the afternoon sunshine. She wrote herself a note to have the Merry-Maids come in and do a quick once-over sweep and dust. She pulled open the drapes that gave view to the harbor and the jetty, and smiled, pleased the tide was in. It was so much prettier when those ugly mud flats were covered with water, and the scent of fish wasn’t quite as strong. The white caps crashed against the stone wall that crept out into the Atlantic Ocean.
John and Martha Beckett pulled in the yard right on time. Brianna loved new clients who actually showed up when they said they were going to. John and Martha’s credit checked out very well in the low seven hundred score. Not many people fell into that category these days. That was a huge plus when it came to commission. More times than not, people would come to view a house, and not even have the preliminary paperwork done. There were more these days who were no-credit, no-shows, and didn’t even bother to call to cancel. She hated that aspect of selling real estate. When she found what looked like a good prospect to sell to, she did all she could to make her sales pitch a winner.
“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Beckett?” She offered her right hand. “I’m Brianna Pike. Nice to meet both of you.”
Mr. Beckett shook her hand, Mrs. Beckett did not. This struck Brianna oddly, but she brushed it off. Maybe Mrs. Beckett was shy, or maybe she was just in a mood. Women were funny that way, and that was one thing Brianna learned quickly in the business of real estate. Go for the one that is interested, but try not to ignore the other. Don’t let the detached one discourage your sales pitch either.
“We’ll start with the kitchen. Would either of you like coffee or a soda? It’ll only take a minute, I have a Keurig in the kitchen.” She always brought the Keurig with whenever she was showing a house. It usually impressed her clients when they could have whatever flavor coffee they wanted while pondering thoughts of signing a 30-year mortgage contract. She also was an avid coffee drinker and liked that every cup was fresh, never that sludge that typically came from the bottom of a coffee pot.
She guided them towards the kitchen. “Unless you have any questions?”
“I have a question,” Mrs. Beckett said, still standing just inside the front door.
“Marti, come on, we talked about this.” John put a hand on her shoulder.
Marti pulled away from her husband. “Tell me, Ms. Pike, what do you know about Sheila Nelson?”
Brianna looked at Mr. Beckett, and back to Mrs. Beckett inquisitively. “Should I know Sheila Nelson?” She looked at the notes on the clip board of the house.
“You don’t know anything about her?” Mrs. Beckett’s question was more like an interrogation. She scoffed and walked over to the bay window, arms crossed over her nonexistent chest.
“That’s enough, Marti.” Mr. Beckett put a hand on his wife. “I’m sorry Ms. Pike, you’ll have to excuse my wife.”
“Do you know Sike Nukpana?” She pressed.
“I’m really sorry, but I don’t know who you’re talking about or why I should know these people.”
“Well, maybe you should have done your homework before you decided to sell this house. Why do you think all these houses along here are for sale?” She pointed up the street.
It was true, there were four or five houses just on East Street alone that were for sale. Not unusual for a small town. A lot of times families would live in little compounds together. When one family decided to move, a lot of time the rest would pack up, and follow suit. But, it wasn’t the case for these houses. None of the residents were related. Brianna did know that, because she had the names of the other homeowners as well as the agents who were handling the sales. Sometimes agents would barter with each other to get sales, so they all took turns at showing the houses to their clientage.
“It’s my understanding that the quarry has a lot of people upset, and that is the reason they have decided to sell.” Brianna reviewed her notes on the house. “Am I missing something?”
“No, you’re not. That is why all of these houses are going so cheap. Most of the people have been here for years and having the traffic, not to mention the dirt and dust from the quarry have people packing up and leaving. They tried to fight it, but more people want the revenue than the neighborhood.” Mr. Beckett had done his research.
“Shelia Nelson was raped!” Mrs. Beckett huffed. “And then as if that wasn’t enough after he finished doing his business with her, he slit her throat and then tied her body to the buoy out there where the mud flats start just before the lighthouse.” Mrs. Beckett pointed out the bay window.
“What? That’s horrible.”
“Alright, I think we’ve taken up enough of your time. Obviously my wife is not ready to take advantage of the low price this house is selling for.” Mr. Beckett directed his wife to the door.
“But wait, I don’t understand.” Brianna, flabbergasted, didn’t know what to say, or ask.
“The Salt-Water Killer. You should have known about that before coming down here telling people what a great deal they are getting you should be telling them how a young girl lost her life on the beach out there and then as if it weren’t enough that she was brutally raped by an older man, he tied her body to a buoy as if he were showing off his kill.” Mrs. Beckett literally spit the words out of her mouth.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Pike, that we have wasted your time.” Before she could ask any more questions the Beckett’s were in their car, backing out of the drive-way.
The Salt-Water Killings is currently in proofing stages and should be available later this year.