Title: The Drowning Bay
Author: Geoffrey Wells
Genre: Eco-thriller/Romantic suspense
Allison’s freedom after getting out of prison hinges on keeping a secret from an adopted refugee boy. His mother is missing, but with the hacking skills that sent her to prison, Allison discovers the activist’s unpublished blog—the boy’s mother is never coming home.
To win her back Allison’s grieving ex-boyfriend breaks his commitment to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and joins her search to reunite the activist with her son. But a treacherous detective in the pocket of an unscrupulous developer is planning to have them join the body that floats with the fish and osprey in the poisoned bay.
Can Allison learn about belonging from the tides of the lost ecosystem?
Can she find freedom?
BEFORE RAF PULLED out of the beach parking lot he checked his mobile, swiping up, then stopping to read.
"Allison, I have an Airbnb message that your father has extended your stay with us," Raf said. "Apparently the new sewer system that his house hooks into has ruptured and the sewage is spilling into the Down’s Creek wetland."
"Did he say . . . when . . . never mind. I’ll call him."
"Let’s go and take a look," said Raf, swinging the Jeep onto Route 25 and cutting across Moore’s Lane down to the New Suffolk coastal road.
They slowed and stopped on the bridge that crossed over the Down’s wetland.
"There’s the wastewater plant next to the school over there," Raf said, pointing up the creek. "It must have ruptured before it got to the plant."
Allison could see a green iridescent tinge on the wetland water. It appeared to be a wet sandbar. As they approached, the glimmering on the surface intensified. At an intersection, they could see the flashing lights of a police squad car. Raf idled on the bridge.
"What’s going on here?" He pulled over onto the shoulder. "What the—"
They jumped down from the Jeep. The four of them were too mystified, confused, and too taken up with trying to calculate the immensity of what they were looking at to talk. Below the bridge they pushed through the phragmite reeds, till they came out on the water’s edge.
Cristina’s palms flew up to cover her mouth. "Oh my God."
Tens of thousands of dead fish floated on the surface. From bank to bank the blanket of glistening fish heaved slowly, gasping as the incoming tide pushed more fish into the wetland.
"Fishkill," Raf said.
"What does that mean? It’s so awful," Allison asked.
"It happens from time to time. These are bunker. They say, in the old days, they were used as fertilizer. This fishkill would have been a gift to farmers."
The last light of the day was fading and with it so were Allison’s hopes. Why was it she always got caught up in disaster? On the other side of the bridge an officer was reeling out police tape, blocking traffic from using the road. A gray sedan with a flashing light in its windshield was leaving. Allison did not want the detective to see her. She stepped back behind the embankment that supported the bridge and listened as the Ford Crown Victoria decelerated to pass by the looky-loos.
Raf called down the bank to Allison. "We’ve seen enough, haven’t we?"
"Yes, I’m coming," Allison said.
But as she turned away from the floating fish she thought she noticed something else caught under the bridge. An outline. Just an impression beneath the fish. Not wanting to see more she nevertheless stared until the fish on the swell accentuated the outline of the squat adult body. She could not discern male or female as its head sank and rose face down, its almost short black hair unfurling like seaweed. The clothes were black or dark, hidden under the fish and water. Allison stepped away, her hands shaking.
Could that be Raf’s wife?
Sipho helped her scramble back up the bank.
She overheard Cristina. "If this is not an accident, guess who they’re going to blame?"
Raf responded, "Your mother, the environmental activist. Let’s get out of here."
"My dear eco-terrorist mother, what have you done?" said Cristina under her breath.
As Allison approached them she stole a quick glance back at the water. From the higher angle of the bridge she saw nothing, except dead fish.
"Is that what they call her?" she asked.
"That’s what people think," said Cristina.
Raf frowned at Allison. "You okay?"
"Yes. I’m . . . shocked."
The brown tide, the fishkill, the body had unnerved her. The implication of what she had seen in the context of why the detective wanted to question her in the first place convinced Allison to keep what she had seen in the water to herself. Getting implicated in the disappearance of an activist was bad enough, but being the first person to report a body in the fishkill would lead to endless questioning and expose her parole violations.
Everything will get worse now.
Even if the detective had recognized her or Raf or Cristina the body would move on with the tidal flow, so he would not be able to claim they were associated with the body. The police action was down the road and they would find it. There was no need to be the hero and report it. Not right now. Whether the fishkill was at all linked with the cause of this drowning, or whether it was a murder, the investigation would take time, unless they caught a lucky break. However, together with the brown tide, these events meant there was something bigger going on—something was terribly wrong.
I’m not ready for this—and this place is not ready for me. I’ll go back to the city.
Kobo, Apple Books, Nook: https://books2read.com/u/4XrnE6
What makes your featured book a must-read?
The Drowning Bay is the third suspense in The Trilogy for Freedom.
If you like Where the Crawdads Sing and enjoy delving into the psyche of a committed character who must weigh hard ethical choices against a global responsibility to the environment, then read this book.
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Winner will be drawn on August 23, 2021.
Geoffrey Wells is the author of three stand-alone novels on freedom, now a series entitled, The Trilogy for Freedom.
In his latest eco-thriller, *The Drowning Bay*, based on a water crisis and climate change, published in 2021, Wells looks at what the responsibility of freedom means and how it might lead to finding a belonging in a lost ecosystem.
Inspired by his ascent of Kilimanjaro in 2003 and horrified by the devastation of elephants, he published, *Atone for the Ivory Cloud*, in 2016. Wells writes about how respect for all life liberates us.
In *A Fado for the River*, published in 2011, based on his experience in Mozambique one year before the Portuguese revolution spilled into the colony, Wells explores the quest for personal freedom, which grew out of a nation struggling for its liberation.
Wells started writing fiction after a career in IT, rising to VP and CIO at two major broadcasting companies.
Concurrent with his corporate life, he wrote and produced an award-winning animated film, The Shadow of Doubt, directed by his wife, Cynthia Wells, an animator and painter. The film showed in 27 film festivals and won 5 awards.
In 2015 he edited, designed and published the award-winning children’s book, Moonglow written by Peggy Dickerson and illustrated by Cynthia Wells.
He lives on the North Fork of Long Island where he participates in triathlons and swims the open water with his wife and their dog, Luciano.