When paramedic Ashley Grant’s parents visit her in the Victoria and Albert Islands, her father, Frank, soon becomes bored with the beach vacation. When a plumbing emergency has him feeling useful again, he makes friends with Ashley’s neighbor Paul McIntosh. Then Paul disappears. Ashley isn’t worried; after all, he’s a single man on vacation. But Frank is determined to find out what happened to his friend, and he soon stumbles on the dark secrets of this Caribbean paradise.
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Copyright © Vicki Delany 2018
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Title: Coral reef views / Vicki Delany. Names: Delany, Vicki, 1951– author. Series: Rapid reads. Description: Series statement: Rapid reads
Identifiers: Canadiana (print) 20190168846 | Canadiana (ebook) 20190168854 | ISBN 9781459822955 (softcover) | ISBN 9781459823501 (PDF) | ISBN 9781459823518 (EPUB)
Classification: LCCPS8557.E4239 C67 2020 | DDCC813/.6—dc23
Library of Congress Control Number: 2019943959 Simultaneously published in Canada and the United States in 2020
Summary: In this work of crime fiction, paramedic Ashley Grant helps her visiting father solve the mystery of a missing neighbor.
Orca Book Publishers is committed to reducing the consumption of nonrenewable resources in the making of our books. We make every effort to use materials that support a sustainable future.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Design by Ella Collier Cover photography by gettyimages.ca/Jeffery Richards
ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERSorcabook.com
Printed and bound in Canada.
23 22 21 20 • 4 3 2 1
To my mother, a teacher
MY FATHER DOESN’T do vacations well. It’s hard for him to relax. He’d rather be working in the garage, puttering about fixing things, or taking care of the garden. He also likes to help around the house. When he does that, my mother follows him, putting things back where they belong.
He didn’t want to retire. But when he realized he was being offered a retirement package instead of being laid off, he took the package.
He wanted to go to on a cross-continent RV trip, but my mother had always dreamed of a Caribbean beach vacation.
At the moment I’m living and working in a Caribbean tourist destination. So here they are in the Victoria and Albert Islands. Visiting me.
Mom’s loving it. The hot sun, the cool sand, the warm ocean. Relaxing in a lounge chair with a book on her lap and a cold drink by her side. Getting up now and again to splash in the waves or swim in the pool.
He doesn’t read, and he doesn’t relax. He doesn’t like the food here much. He’s not fond of fish, or so he says. He seems to like fish when my mom cooks it at home.
I took a couple of days off work to spend some time with them. I wanted to show them around Grand Victoria Island, which I now call home.
That took about half a day. Then we stopped at Club Louisa, one of the nicest hotels on the island. Mom and I had conch fritters and margaritas under umbrellas on the patio restaurant and enjoyed a swim in the infinity pool.
Dad had a burger and a beer inside, where he could catch a football game on the big-screen TV.
The next day we went on a boat tour in the morning and snorkeled in the afternoon. Mom loved being out on the water. She also loved the attention of the handsome young tour guide who showed her how to breathe underwater. Dad talked to the captain about football. He checked the weather forecast on his phone and worried that the driveway at home wouldn’t get shoveled.
Tuesday I went back to work. I left Mom making breakfast and planning a morning on the beach followed by a walk to a beachside hotel for lunch. Dad was reading the weather report for Toronto again. “Another two feet of snow tonight. I told you we shouldn’t have left, Donna. I don’t trust that guy you hired. I’ll have a heck of a mess to clean up.”
“He’ll do a fine job, dear.” Mom flipped the bacon.
I gave her a kiss and headed out. I’d called my regular cabbie to come and pick me up. I’m lucky enough to live in a small vacation complex. While I waited I popped into the office to say good morning to Darlene, the day manager.
I found her slamming down the phone, her face twisted into a dark cloud. She is about my age and very attractive, with big dark eyes and perfect bone structure. Her hair is shaved down to the scalp on one side and tied into long braids on the other. The look suits her.
“Problem?” I asked.
“Ashley, good morning. Sorry about that.” She gave me a weak smile. “Nothing I can’t handle. Actually, it is something I can’t handle, which is why I need a plumber. We’ve got a broken pipe somewhere in building two, and the ground-floor units are flooding. George and Philip are running around with buckets, but they’re having trouble keeping up. I’ve been trying everyone I know, but they all say they can’t come for hours yet.”
“You need a plumber? You’re in luck. My dad’s a plumber.”
A spark of interest showed in her black eyes. “He is?”
“Fully licensed and employed as such until he retired a couple of months ago. I’ll go get him.”
The spark faded. “I can’t ask him to work on his vacation,” Darlene said.
“Believe me,” I said. “He’ll thank you. My mother will thank you.”
“I don’t know that I can pay Canadian rates. Whatever they are.”
“Don’t worry about that. He’ll pay you to let him do it.”
“He’s not enjoying his vacation?”
“When my mom said she wants to stay longer next time, I heard him mutter the word divorce.”
We both looked up at the sound of a car horn. I waved to Henry, the taxi driver. “I’ll get Dad and meet you at building two. He doesn’t have any of his tools, but he can make an assessment of what you need and maybe do a temporary fix.”
Darlene leaped up from behind her desk. “Unit twelve is the worst.”
I went to the taxi and asked Henry to wait. He leaned back in his seat and pulled out his phone. I ran upstairs and explained the situation to Dad. He got to his feet so fast he almost knocked his chair over.
“Aren’t you going to finish your breakfast?” Mom asked.
“It can wait,” he replied, heading for the door.
If Darlene’s problem turned out to be nothing, I might have to go to some of the other hotels on the island and sabotage their plumbing.
Dad charged off to building two, a man on a mission. I headed for the cab and another day in the ambulance.
MY SHIFT WAS busy. The near-drowning of a Japanese tourist who couldn’t swim but thought he’d dive into the deep end anyway. A fender bender caused by an American who rented a car but forgot we drive on the left-hand side of the road here. A couple of locals in a bar brawl—at ten o’clock in the morning. A call came in from one of our “frequent flyers”—a lonely old man who used a ride in the ambulance and a chat with the hospital nurses as his regular social outing. I’d once suggested he join the bridge club in his apartment building. He told me he didn’t like any of the members.
We’d been busy, but I managed to get off shift in time. I found my mom reading in the shade of a royal palm on my small private patio. I gave her a kiss on the top of her head and asked, “Where’s Dad?”
“Work? You mean working on the plumbing? That’s taken all day?”
“No, but he decided all the taps needed inspection. He’s been doing that.”
I laughed. “I’ve invited a friend to join us for dinner. I’ll find Dad and let him know.”
“A friend. That’s nice.”
“My friend’s a Canadian police officer who’s working with the V&A police. I thought Dad would enjoy having a man to talk to.”
Mom’s eyes opened wide. “A man?”
“A man? As in a gentleman friend?”
“A man. As in a friend who happens to be a man.”
“Oh,” she said, trying to hide her disappointment. I’m the youngest of four daughters, the only one not married. Even with three sons-in-law and ten grandchildren, Mom still has hopes for me.
“I’ll go find Dad,” I said. “We’re meeting Alan at seven.”
I headed over to building two. Four buildings make up the complex where I live. It’s pretty nice, with two pools, beautiful gardens, walkways and a thirty-second walk to the beach. I was about to phone Dad to ask where he was when I heard his laugh.
I smiled to myself. My dad has a deep, rolling laugh, the sort that makes everyone around him laugh too. I hadn’t heard that laugh much on this visit.
I found him sitting under a palm tree, beer in hand, with a man about his age.
“Hi,” I said.
Dad’s new friend stood up.
“Paul,” Dad said. “This is my daughter, Ashley. Ashley, meet Paul Saunders.”
Paul thrust out his hand. He was a big guy, tall and broad with a shock of curly gray hair and a deep tan. He wore baggy shorts, a Toronto Blue Jays ball cap and an Ottawa Senators T-shirt. His handshake was warm and friendly. “Frank’s been telling me all about you,” he said. “How are you enjoying living on Grand Victoria?”
“It’s different,” I said. “The work is challenging but interesting. Did you fix the problem, Dad?”
“Got that leak shut off with no problem at all. But the pipes here aren’t in good shape, so I gave them all a once-over.” He shook his head. “I told your friend in the office she better see to that right quick before the whole place is underwater.”
“I’m sure she appreciated your help,” I said. “I came to tell you we’re going to dinner at six forty-five.”
He lifted his beer bottle. “Water,” he said to Paul, “is a dangerous thing when it’s where it isn’t supposed to be.”
My friend Alan Westbrook is an RCMP officer on temporary assignment with the local police. The Victoria and Albert Islands is a small country in the Western Caribbean. It’s made up of numerous islands, many of which are uninhabited. I’ve been to concerts where there are more people than this entire country has. Grand Victoria is the biggest and most populated island. But it’s not more than sixty square kilometers in area and just four kilometers wide at the broadest place. It’s still a British colony, now mostly self-governing. It’s a major tourist destination, and the tiny local population can’t support it all. So plenty of Canadian and British people work here. Like Alan and me.
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