Southernmost Murder -
Beach Livestream Coda
“I’m taking you out, cutie pie,” I stated. I opened the door of my cottage and stepped into the Key West sunshine in late February. I pushed my sunglasses up the bridge of my nose and looked at the live video on my phone of my antiquing friend in New York City—Sebastian Snow.
“That’s sweet and all, Aubrey,” Sebastian replied. “But I’m seeing someone and it’s kind of serious.”
“You’re hilarious.” I walked across the tiny front lawn and stopped at my Vespa parked on the side of the road. It was pink and fucking fabulous.
“So that’s like what— a four hour flight?” Sebastian continued. He looked away from his computer screen briefly before saying, “I’ll expect you around seven? Is this a dinner date? Should I wear a tie?”
“Aren’t you full of bullshit,” I said.
“Sorry. I haven’t seen Calvin in a few days. I need to blow off some steam.”
“That’s what masturbating is for.” I set the phone on the scooter seat and took a minute to put my helmet on.
“Masturbating lost its appeal after I started dating a six foot brick wall with a badge and handcuffs.”
I picked the phone back up. “TMI, dude.”
“Why are we Skyping? Are you taking me on a virtual tour of the island?” Sebastian asked.
“I’m taking you down to Smathers Beach.”
Sebastian had this rare eye condition— Achromatopsia— which caused him to see only in shades of black and white. It also severely affected his ability to see in daylight and as such he tended to avoid bright, sunny places. It’s not that I felt bad for him. No way would I ever be so stupid as to pity someone like Seb. He doesn’t let life get the best of him, just like how I take my narcolepsy in stride.
He didn’t leave New York like ever, and I knew he’d never visit me in Key West, so I’d been thinking lately maybe he’d enjoy a little Key West brought to him. At the very least, it’d make him feel better before trudging home in the freezing wind and frozen rain.
“You’ve never been to a beach, right?” I asked.
“Does Coney Island count? I think I was about eight.”
“No, no, no. Not an urban jungle beach. A real beach with palm trees and white sand—”
“I thought you said Key West imported the sand,” Sebastian chimed in.
“Shut up. You’re ruining the magic.” I leaned over the front of my Vespa and began strapping my phone to a contraption I’d prepared for this event.
“Your phone is going to fall and you’ll run over me,” Sebastian’s voice murmured from the speakers.
“Okay, Negative Nancy.” I took the scooter off its kickstand, sat, and started the engine.
Smathers wasn’t more than two miles from my place in Old Town, but when you have a tendency to doze without warning, two miles is typically my driving limit. In order to get there in a reasonable amount of time however, I had to take sideroads to avoid flocks of tourists, since it was primo visiting season. But with those little one-way streets came the gangs of fearless chickens that crossed when and where they pleased.
I slammed on the breaks when a hen raced out from under a parked car, her little babies following close behind. “Goddamn chicken! Use the crosswalk!”
I could hear Sebastian laughing from my phone. At least I knew the live feed was still working and not endlessly buffering.
After mama and one, two… four chicks made it to the other side of the road and hopped onto the sidewalk, I continued driving. The warm sun was offset by the downright brisk breeze whipping through my T-shirt. It was a good thing I didn’t swim. It was winter after all, and maybe seventy degree water didn’t sound cold to the rest of the country, but I’d acclimated to Key West weather quickly, and that was ‘eeep, my balls!’ kind of chilly.
The beach came up on the right. The water went on for miles, interrupted only by anchored boats rocking in the waves. There were plenty of people out relaxing on towels, playing volleyball, and lining up in front of food trucks. I snagged a parking spot on the side of the road as a car pulled away. I took off my helmet and then walked in front of the Vespa. I crouched down to look at the screen.
“Enjoy the ride?”
“I got a little car sick. Nice helmet head,” Sebastian answered.
I reached up and briefly messed my bleach blond hair. “So that was Old Town. Now we’re a few minutes from the airport. You’re always welcome, you know. I’d pick you up on the Pink Princess and everything.”
“Yeah, I know. Thank you.” Sebastian made a face. “Key West isn’t really my speed though.”
“I figured you’d say as much, curmudgeon.”
“Are too.” I unstrapped my phone from the scooter and walked toward the beach. “Put your sunglasses on.”
Sebastian took off his regular glasses and did as instructed. “Somehow I doubt the water is going to be that blinding when it’s being filtered through— Jesus Christ.”
I laughed and turned the phone enough to look at him. “Nice, huh?”
“Hold on, I’ll go somewhere without as much of a glare.” My Chucks sank into the soft white sand as I wove in and out of groups of people. I stopped underneath a few palm trees and turned the phone to give Sebastian a view. “Can you see the boats out there?”
“Yeah,” he murmured. “Wow, it’s really pretty.”
I reached down and yanked my Converse off one-handed. I wobbled on one foot as I removed each sock, stuffed them into the shoes, and walked out toward the water’s edge. I hiked my skinny jeans up as much as they would allow before wading just a little into the ocean.
“Are there fish in there?” Sebastian asked.
“Sure.” I turned the phone so he could see into the water. “Lots of seaweed too. The beaches aren’t perfect, but I don’t swim anyway. I’m more of the ‘appreciate from the sand’ kind of ocean-goer.”
“What the hell is that?” Sebastian asked, the speakers crackling as his voice raised considerably.
“Huh?” I turned the phone to look at him.
“There was a big thing in the water! To the left!” He pointed.
I pulled my sunglasses up to rest on my head and looked around. “Oh! It’s a horseshoe crab.” I got as close as I dared, holding the phone over the water. “See it?”
“It looks like a dinosaur,” Sebastian protested. “That’s kinda cool.”
I heard a few people nearby shouting in excitement and looked to the right. A dark shadow was making its way through the shallow water. “Seb, look at this!”
“What is it?”
“It’s a huge stingray!”
“Aren’t those dangerous, Aubs?”
“I’m being careful.”
“Damn….” Sebastian said. “Hey, dunk your phone underwater so I can watch it swim away.”
“Worth a shot.”
I trudged out of the water and watched the creature from the safety of dry land. “So,” I began, glancing down at the screen to see a big smile on Sebastian’s usually more subdued features. “Like my little island beach?”
“You know, the beach stays open till eleven.”
“If you ever do leave New York— we can hang out under the palm trees and stars.”
Sebastian shook his head. “How romantic.”
I winced. “You’re right. Screw you, I’m going to call Mr. FBI. Maybe he’ll come visit me.”
He started laughing. “Thanks for showing me around, Aubrey.”
“No problem, cutie.”