The Bayside Murders by John A. Miller, Jr. by John A. Miller, Jr. - Read Online



Cape Cod is magical at any time of year. However, many permanent residents, including sisters Rachel and Beth Brewster, find it hard to make ends meet during the cold, lonely winter months, which is why they must work extra-long hours at multiple jobs all through the short summer season to save enough for the rest of the year. To complicate matters, Beth is only fifteen and is restricted as to how many hours she can work during the school year. It wouldn't be so bad if their mother weren't an alcoholic who absolutely refuses to help with the bills.

Then the dead bodies begin cropping up in the neighborhoods and marshes surrounding scenic Lewis Bay. The Yarmouth and Barnstable Police begin to see a pattern linking both Rachel and Beth to the murders, but they can't seem to assemble enough proof to make an arrest. Meanwhile, a regular patron of a bar where Rachel frequently works in the evening provides some help in the young woman's search for a better-paying job, and life becomes hell for Beth as she is stalked by several teenage boys who have their own ideas about what constitutes a loving relationship.

Published: John A. Miller, Jr. on
ISBN: 9781301126187
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The Bayside Murders - John A. Miller, Jr.

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To Rachel,

without whose suggestion this book probably

would never have been written.

To the Bayside Resort Hotel

in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts

for allowing me to use their bayside beach,

Bellyflopper’s Bar & Grill,

and Moby Dick Pub (hours not accurate),

which are all real locations.

To the great blue heron (name unknown)

that posed for the cover photo

just behind the Bayside Resort.

And last, but not least,

to magical, magnificent Cape Cod,

a place for all seasons.


A great blue heron stood still as a statue in the tall cord grass that covered most of the saltwater marsh bordering the Mill Creek inlet from Lewis Bay; its spindly, long legs blending with the green and bronze stalks. The bird’s attention was focused on a narrow lead of shallow open water until a small fish had the temerity to swim through the passage. The movement of the heron’s head was almost too quick for a human eye to follow—in a split second the fish was wriggling in the bird’s long, thick beak. A casual flip to align the fish lengthwise and the fish disappeared into the deep throat, another victim to the heron’s constant search for food.

Several minutes passed but no more fish passed through the waterway, either because there were no more fish in the area or, more likely, that whatever fish were there had the sense to remain hidden in the grass. The tide was ebbing, and soon the shallow water would recede farther into the creek leaving behind a thick layer of mud. The fish would follow the water, wriggling their way through the green and beige tangles of grass until they reached the deeper inlet where they could dive and be safe from the winged predator. Although that wouldn’t protect them from hungry, larger fish or diving birds, life was always a risk for the small and weak.

Abandoning the narrow waterway the heron spread its broad wings and took to the air, swooping above the marsh until it alighted next to another, perhaps more fertile, pool. In the heron’s world food was where one found it.

Watching the bird a young woman sat on a narrow beach facing the marsh. Her long, dark hair and tanned face contrasted sharply with her pale blue tee shirt that featured the name of the adjacent poolside bar, Bellyflopper’s Bar & Grill, in bold, white letters. Her tanned bare toes, the nails painted a pale pink, curled into the warm sand as the mid-afternoon sun shifted slowly westward. Deep brown eyes peered out from beneath arched black eyebrows and above slightly reddened cheeks that indicated she had already spent some time in the sun.

Shit! she thought, why can’t I be as free as that bird? No responsibilities; no worries; just drift from place to place taking food where I can. Human beings are supposed to be the smartest of all God’s creatures, but we’re the only ones who actually work for a living. Nature provides for all the others.

She turned her head to look behind her, surprised that she was the only person on the fake beach that lay just behind and was property of the Bayside Resort Hotel. Usually at this time of the afternoon several of the guests were sitting in Adirondack chairs strategically placed on the sand or at tables on the concrete patio behind the resort building reading, writing postcards, or just soaking up the sun. A few would even spread blankets or towels on the sand and, clad in scanty swimwear, try to develop a tan. Those who already had the start of a tan or who had been working on it for several days or longer usually bronzed. Others—those just beginning their vacations or with unfortunate skin tones—merely reddened and often suffered for it later.

With all the concern about skin cancer she was surprised how many of the newcomers and the untanned didn’t use powerful sunscreens and lotions to avoid sunburn. She was one of those fortunate people who tanned easily shortly after her first exposure in the early spring, so by early summer she had darkened several shades and no longer feared burning. Supposedly there was still some skin cancer risk, but she had friends with naturally darker skin tones like hers, none of whom had contracted the disease, so she seldom thought about it.

She pulled a phone from her pocket and checked the time—wristwatches were no longer the fashion. She wasn’t a resort guest, but she worked there tending bar and picking up a few dollars in tips, which helped a great deal during the winter months.

After another fifteen minutes she’d have to head for home to change for her evening job: waitress at Peabody’s Lobster House, which was one of Cape Cod’s better restaurants on the Cape Cod Bay side overlooking Barnstable Harbor. She dreaded it—not the waitress job, which she enjoyed primarily because of the interesting people she met—but the going home, which meant she’d have to face her mother. Oh well, there was no way to avoid it. She made good enough money in the summer months with her tips even though her base salary sucked. However, the restaurant was closed between November and March, and jobs, even bartending jobs, to carry her through those lean times were extremely scarce. She had to save as much as she could from her summer income so there would be something left for the winter. She had even looked for employment in nearby areas off the Cape, but unless she were willing to commute to one of the larger cities such as Plymouth or Fall River or one of the Boston suburbs, there was little available. Traveling to one of those areas would consume an enormous amount of gas, which would eat into her income to such an extent that she still wouldn’t be able to afford a place to live on her own. She loved living on the Cape—had lived all her life here—and really didn’t want to move away. With her current financial situation living with her family was her only option.

** ** **

You’re going to be late for work, Helga Brewster shouted up the stairs.

No, Ma, I’ve got plenty of time. I don’t start until five. Rachel had just run upstairs from the bathroom clad only in her bra and panties and was now in her bedroom donning the short-sleeved black dress with white collar and cuffs she had to wear as a uniform. Having only one bathroom was a pain, especially in the mornings when she had to fight for time with her mother and younger sister, Beth. However, having an evening job meant she could take her shower in the late afternoon when it was nearly always unoccupied, thereby avoiding family conflicts. Lord knows, there were enough of those.

It’s nearly four, Helga shouted.

It only takes me a half-hour at the most. Even if I hit traffic there are plenty of alternate routes. After a few minutes of silence both upstairs and down, Rachel emerged from her room dressed for work and made her way downstairs. She looked at her mother in disgust.

The older woman took a sip from the glass she was holding and then said, I don’t know why you don’t look for a better-paying job. She put the lit cigarette she had been holding in her other hand back into her mouth and took a long drag.

I do. There aren’t any.

Well, you could get a job on the production line at the potato chip factory. Those people make pretty good money.

Yes, but they’re not hiring. Besides, I’d hate being cooped up inside a place like that all day, every day.

You’d have your weekends off.

"Sure, and fight with all the weekend visitors from Boston to do anything fun. Why don’t you get a better job? That tee shirt shop where you work pays shit."

It’s all I can do. You know my back’s bad.

Yeah, and they’re the only place that’ll put up with your constant sick days. It’s not your back that’s your problem.

Oh, and what is my problem? Helga approached her daughter and exhaled in her direction. Rachel winced as she was forced to inhale the alcohol fumes.

You’re usually drunk. That’s your real problem.

Are you calling your mother an alcoholic?

If the shoe fits… Oh shit, now I’ve got to be going or I really will be late. Rachel grabbed her phone and purse and ran out the front door. Fortunately, her car had been the last one in the driveway so she didn’t have to shuffle vehicles to get it out.

Her mother came to the door, opened it, stuck her head out, and shouted, You’re a disrespectful child. That’s what you are. I don’t know why I put up with you. I should have thrown you out of the house long ago.

Rachel didn’t reply, but as she was driving away she thought, Yeah, and if it weren’t for my income and the few bucks Beth earns cleaning up at Charlie’s Clam Shack you wouldn’t have crap. Hell, your miserable salary barely pays for the booze you drink. Thank God we own the house and don’t have to rent a place. We wouldn’t have enough money left for food.

** ** **

When he heard the shouting Peter Marshall looked out his bedroom’s side window at the Brewsters’ house next door, a typical Cape Cod dwelling in a block of such houses. Each was painted a different pastel shade and had two bedrooms downstairs and two upstairs beneath a peaked, beige roof, except that Miles Brewster, before he died of a heart attack at age forty-three, had converted one of the downstairs bedrooms into a small TV room with a bar, a sofa, and two recliners. This had become Helga’s regular daytime haunt, primarily because of the combination of the television and the bar.

However, Helga had also acquired a certain degree of notoriety in the normally quiet neighborhood because of her loud and frequently foul mouth, especially when she was roaring drunk, which surprisingly at the moment she didn’t appear to be. Peter pitied the two daughters, Rachel in her early twenties and Beth just fifteen, but whenever he attempted to converse with them Helga would call him a pervert and chase him away.

Helga was no prize. Whatever good looks she may once have possessed had been destroyed by her heavy smoking and her love affair with the bottle. Now her long, gray-brown hair was straggly and her complexion grayish and pitted. She used makeup, but unskillfully. If she had been trying to look like a typical floozy, she had succeeded admirably. However, Peter suspected looking like a floozy wasn’t her real intention. It was merely that she had no interest in trying to look better. Peter tried to recall what Helga had looked like before Miles’ sudden death, but that had been seven years ago and the image had faded from his memory. As he recalled she had not been a prize even then although the two daughters had been cute little girls and still were attractive. He didn’t think Helga had been a heavy drinker then—maybe Miles’ demise had triggered it—but because none of the Brewsters had been particularly close to any of their neighbors it was possible that the drinking had taken place indoors and out of sight.

Helga came out of her house and stood on the front walk holding her glass in her hand and staring after Rachel’s departing vehicle. Her cigarette dangled from her lip. Fuckin’ bitch, she muttered, just loudly enough for Peter to hear. He closed his window to block any more profanities from Helga’s direction. It wasn’t that he was against the use of foul language, especially in the appropriate environment. He even used it himself occasionally. However, once Helga got going she could make a sailor blush, and now that his two kids were home from school he shuddered to think what words they might be learning during one of Helga’s tirades. Peter decided to keep out of sight and earshot, and maybe the woman would go inside and drink herself into a stupor or whatever she did when she was alone. He hoped Beth wasn’t home to see and hear her mother’s performance, but then he guessed the girl was all too used to the outbursts and had learned to deal with them as Rachel apparently had done.

Peabody’s Lobster House

What’re the specials for tonight? Rachel asked as she entered the small break room off the kitchen where the staff could hang coats and store purses and other belongings during their shifts.

Here’s the list, her coworker and friend, Alicia Palonski, said, handing her a piece of paper.

Gee, don’t we look special tonight, minced Barry Godolphin, dancing into the room and intoning the words sweetly. Twenty-two years old, the young man wore his dark brown hair swept back above his clean-shaven, almost baby-like, face.

And why do I look special? This is the same old uniform I’ve been wearing since last summer.

I know, but you fill it out so nicely. I wish I had a shape like yours.

Yes, I’m sure you do. However, you’re built just a little bit differently, especially where it matters.

And where does it matter?

You know; down there. She pointed at Barry’s crotch while Alicia tried her best to suppress a giggle.

But I don’t like that thing; don’t even want that thing.

So, have it cut off. Lots of guys do it.

Can’t afford it. I can’t even afford those pills so I could have boobs like yours.

Boobs would look a bit funny pushing out the front of your shirt and coat. Barry, like the other male servers and bussers, wore black trousers, a white dress shirt, a black dinner jacket, and a black bowtie.

Hey, I’ve been in places where the women wore outfits like this. Besides, I could always wear a dress if I didn’t have a lump in my crotch.

Yeah, I’m sure that would go over big with Mrs. Hildegarde. It’s bad enough having an obviously gay busser in a place like this although I must admit you manage to appear pretty normal in front of the customers. A gay busser in a dress would be a bit too much.

Are you down on gays?

No, not particularly. Everybody has a right to live pretty much as they want. It’s just that to retain a job you’ve got to play the appropriate part. The clientele here tends to be a bit older, more upscale, and probably not too friendly to men who love men. I’ve often been surprised you haven’t gotten a job at a gay bar or nightclub. There must be something available, especially in Provincetown.

"Too much competition in the summer and too damned dead in the winter, plus it’s too far to drive every day to work. There’s more around here, but The Purple Oyster isn’t hiring. Besides, Jerry wouldn’t like me working in P-town. He’s the jealous type, you know, and there are a lot of attractive men up there, especially at this time of year. The patrons here don’t try to pick me up.

"So why don’t you have a boyfriend? Barry continued. Or do you have a secret girlfriend we don’t know about?" He giggled.

Oh, I have plenty of girlfriends, but I don’t sleep with them like you do with your boyfriends. As far as boyfriends go, how do you know I don’t have one?

Well, for one thing you’ve never mentioned him. Every other girl I know either brags about her boyfriend or complains about him or both.

Maybe I don’t have time for a boyfriend. Besides, finding the right person isn’t all that easy.

Don’t I know it? I sometimes wonder why I took up with Jerry. He can be a real bitch at times, especially when another guy talks to me; even a straight guy.

How would Jerry feel if you had your wazoo cut off?

I don’t know. I guess it depends on what I replace it with. After all, I am the girl, you know.

That’s kind of obvious.

There you go again, always gay-bashing.

Oh, stow it. Besides, I hear Mrs. Hildegarde in the kitchen. She’ll bash your little gay ass if you don’t get out there and start filling water glasses. Benny turned and danced out of the room. Rachel could hear him greet the manager with, Hi, Sweetums, how’s tricks? She couldn’t hear Mrs. Hildegarde’s reply, if any, but if there were any word she’d have used to describe the formidable manager, Sweetums was not the one.

I guess we’d better get out there, too, Alicia said. Otherwise Sweetums will be all over our asses, and somehow I don’t think we’ll get a lot of sexual pleasure out of it. Both girls laughed and headed toward the dining room to greet the first customers.

** ** **

I don’t know why I put up with this shit, Helga thought as she poured a healthy dollop of Scotch into her glass. She was sitting in her recliner facing the television, which was blaring some sort of quiz show. However, if somebody had asked her the name of the show or what kind of quiz, she would have been unable to even hazard a guess.

She raised the Scotch bottle so it was between her and the bright screen. Shit! she thought. Nearly empty, and I don’t have enough cash to get another. I wish to hell Cape Liquors would let me run a tab. Hell, they know I’m good for it. I mean, that one time when Rachel had to pay off my tab shouldn’t have gotten me banned for life. She reached for the pack of cigarettes lying on the table beside her. Damn! Only two left. They’d have to last until somehow she could get the money to buy another pack. She lit one, put it into her mouth, and took a long, deep drag.

Helga had had to declare bankruptcy two years earlier when her credit cards were maxed out and her income was far too small to make even the minimum payments. If it hadn’t been for Rachel’s paychecks and tip money, they probably would have lost the house to a sheriff’s sale because of unpaid taxes. But hell, she was the mother. Her girls should support her in her old age. Not that Helga thought of herself as old—forty-seven wasn’t old by anybody’s standards—but it came in handy to claim old age when she was trying to cadge money from her elder daughter. Beth—well, she still had some influence with Beth although the kid was too young to go to the liquor store for her, and Rachel, although over twenty-one, flat-out refused. Still, her younger daughter seldom forked over any cash, even when Mommy begged. True, Beth made very little money sweeping out Charlie’s Clam Shack, and much of what she made she used to buy herself necessary clothing. What remained she usually gave to Rachel for groceries or other household expenses. Helga guessed she’d have to put in a few days at the tee shirt shop, as much as she hated the place, or else that Scotch bottle was going to remain empty.

** ** **

Alicia still had a party of four at one of her tables although it looked like they finally were getting ready to pay their check and leave. Rachel’s last table had departed a good half hour earlier, so she had already changed all her tablecloths and set up silver and glasses for the next night. Mrs. Hildegarde didn’t object to her staff clearing tables and setting up as soon as each party left—after all, they did that all evening between parties—but she insisted that all of them remain on the premises until the last server had finished, regardless of whether they still had customers or not. Rachel found this a bit odd because that meant that the manager had to pay her the minimum wage of two sixty-three per hour until she clocked out. The extra few dollars were helpful, especially on slow nights like this one had been when tips were few and far between, but if she had been manager, she would have avoided the extra expense by requiring her staff to clock out and leave as soon as they had finished their setups for the next day.

She walked to one of the large windows that overlooked Barnstable Harbor. The sun had already set—it was nearly ten—but there was still a faint glow in the far western sky. To the north she could see the sky glow over the Boston metropolitan area. Even on a clear night such as this the city lights threw enough illumination upward to cause a brightening in the air above them. The lights in the harbor had flickered on earlier, just as it had begun to get dark, and she could see clearly the myriad of moored boats—fishing boats, small cabin cruisers, and sailboats with their sails furled or their masts bare.

Barnstable Harbor opens into Cape Cod Bay, which separates the enormous, right-arm-shaped peninsula—technically now an island since the construction of the Cape Cod Canal in 1914—from the mainland. Shallow in many places, the bay still draws its share of marine traffic. Most of the watercraft in the marina below drew little water, but sailboat owners had to be careful that their deep keels didn’t stick in the muddy bottom, or worse, cause the boat to capsize. Many of the sailboats had centerboards that could be raised in shallow water, but then they usually had to furl their sails and switch to engine power. The bigger boats with deeper drafts tended to stay on the south side of the Cape in places like Chatham, Dennis, Hyannis, Falmouth, and Woods Hole where the harbors open onto the Atlantic Ocean, Nantucket Sound, or the deep channel between the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard.

As she stood and watched the small vessels tied to their piers and bobbing in the gentle swell that rolled through the harbor, she thought about what a wonderful thing it would be to own one of those boats—just a small one—to use on her days off. Then she turned her back on the view. Let’s face it; she was poor. Poor people don’t own boats. She remembered a friend of her father who had taken her and Beth on boat rides a few times. He had a fast speedboat, and the girls had really enjoyed when he opened it up and the wind blew their hair straight back from their heads. However, after Dad died her mother hadn’t maintained that friendship—come to think of it, she didn’t recall her mother ever going with them—so she had lost contact with the man.

She noticed that Alicia had cleared and reset her last table, so she followed her into the break room where Barry was joking with one of the assistant chefs. Barry really should have been out front helping Alicia. However, he was good at disappearing when there was work to be done and Mrs. Hildegarde didn’t happen to be watching. Rachel clocked out and followed the others out to the back part of the lot where the staff was permitted to park. Not in a sociable mood she said goodbye quickly to her coworkers, got into her car, lowered the windows, and then checked her phone for messages. Nothing, but then she hadn’t expected anything. Her mother didn’t text although she did have a simple flip-phone for calls, and they simply couldn’t afford a phone for Beth, as much as the girl wanted one.

Rachel worried about her sister when the younger girl had to work late at Charlie’s Clam Shack. Several times Beth had been unable to arrange for a ride home after work and had had to walk the two miles to their house. Rachel had suggested to her mother that the woman give her cellphone to Beth, at least on the nights the younger girl was working, because Helga seldom used it. She preferred to use the landline in the house when she was there, claiming that she could never position the small cellphone correctly at her ear. At least Beth would have been able to use the phone for calls or messages, and with the current state of affairs a pretty, fifteen-year-old girl was taking a big risk walking alone at night along mostly unlighted streets without some means of calling for help. However, Helga wouldn’t hear of giving up her phone regardless of how sensible the reason.

Rachel started her car, noted that the gas gauge read half-full, and drove out of the lot.


As she pulled into the driveway behind her mother’s beat-up old van, Rachel pulled her phone from her pocket and checked the time. Two a.m. She had left the restaurant a bit after ten. During those nearly four hours she had taken care of a few personal, but to her very important, items, and then driven to the locked gate at Seagull Beach, empty at this time of night with nobody staffing the booth where fees were collected. Gas was expensive, so she always tried her best to minimize her driving distance. Seagull Beach was a good place to sit and think—near home, but dark and lonely. When she had arrived there she had parked along the road, walked across the beach to the gently lapping waves, and rinsed her hands in the salt water, but because she was still wearing her uniform from the restaurant she had decided to return to the car rather than sit on the sand. She had been careful not to spill anything on herself, so she hoped she could get another night’s wear out of it before having to wash it. Excessive washing of a black uniform tends to fade the color quickly. For a moment while staring over the open water toward the low, distant island of Nantucket, too far away to see, she had considered stripping naked, plunging into the sea, and swimming away from shore until total exhaustion set in, but then she had decided against it. Would drowning herself help anything? It would certainly leave Beth in a precarious situation although perhaps the girl would do better in a foster home.

After Rachel returned to her car she realized a patrolling police officer could have shown up and chased her, but none had. After all, what was here to steal or damage except maybe the little, wooden booth at the entrance. At least she didn’t have to go to work in the morning.

She got out of her car in the driveway and closed the door quietly. She was always as quiet as possible, almost furtive, when she parked there at night. Although she had no personal problems with Peter Marshall, the next-door neighbor, she seldom had much to do with him or his family. However, disturbing them after dark would have been unthinkable, especially as it was a quiet neighborhood, and a slamming car door would have been a real source of annoyance.

It was a dark night. Although the sky was clear there was no moon and the starlight wasn’t bright enough to make out more than the difference between the paved area and the grass. No lights gleamed from the house, but then they seldom did at this time of night. Louise Street, part of a lower-middle-class housing development about fifty years old, sported no street lights. Most of the houses were owned by summer visitors although a few, such as theirs and the Marshalls’, were occupied year-round. It was late June and already some of the summer people had arrived, especially the seniors who didn’t have to worry about maintaining jobs. The others mostly lived and worked on the mainland and came to the Cape for weekends although some families with one non-working spouse would come with their children for the entire summer, the working parent commuting to his or her job or again showing up only on weekends.

Rachel unlocked the side door and entered the kitchen. She switched on the light, made sure everything looked in order, and then switched it off again before making for the stairs and her second-floor bedroom, which she was able to do in the dark because she had lived in the house all her life and could find her way around it blindfolded. Beth had the other second-floor room while their mother slept in the front bedroom on the first floor. After entering her own room and switching on her bedside light she glanced through the doorway across the small landing at the top of the stairs. Beth’s door was closed, which was good. It meant the girl had made it home okay and was in bed because otherwise the girl left her door