Lee opened his mouth, but any words were obliterated by the sound of screams coming from the water’s edge.
The murky water churned yellow-green a few feet into the bay as something struggled…could it be a shark? Lulu stood where she was. There was no sign of the little redhead.
Maggie shrieked, “SallySallySally” while Lee ran to the water and dove in.
Maggie shot to her feet and ran through the sand, each step taking hours with her leaden feet. Bodies writhed in the water. She saw Sally’s head, she saw Lee surface and pull Sally away from something…something large and heavy tangled around her little legs.
Sally screamed when her mouth got above water. “Daddy! Daddy! That’s my Daddy!”
Maggie stopped at the water’s edge, trying desperately to figure out what was going on. Then she saw what had trapped her daughter. A body. A man’s body, head down in the bay. A man with red hair. A dead man.
She entered the water just as Lee fought against the arms of the floater and Sally’s screams. The kid kept reaching out toward the body, her beautiful little face contorted with emotion, repeating her cry of “daddy daddy daddy” loud and clear. When Lee tried to turn away from the sight, Sally struck him in the face then turned back, wriggling in Lee’s arms, desperate to get away.
“No, Sally! It’s not Daddy!” Maggie forced her voice to sound calm and authoritative. “It can’t be Daddy.”
The kid screamed in rage. “It’s Daddy. He was lost at sea. I found him and he found me!” Again, she struck out at Lee who tried to bring her close within his arms to calm her and keep her from escaping.
Meanwhile, the body bobbed on the surface. The red hair rippled in the wavelets and one larger wave lifted the face above the water. A crowd had gathered, mostly teenage boys. At the sight of the fish-eaten flesh, they stepped back. One young man gagged. Lee put his hand on Sally’s head and turned her face into his shoulder.
“Somebody went to call the cops,” one of the kids said. “He has to find a telephone. Can we help?”
The line of kids parted as Lee finally made it to shore in front of Maggie. Maggie’s arms moved, offering to take her daughter from Lee but by now, Sally had wrapped her arms around his neck and refused to let go.