The Bone House

The Bone House

Hilary and Mark Bradley are trapped in a web of suspicion. Last year, accusations of a torrid affair with a student cost Mark his teaching job and made the young couple into outcasts in their remote island town off the Lake Michigan coast. Now another teenage girl is found dead on a deserted beach. . . and once again, Mark faces a hostile town convinced of his guilt.Hilary Bradley is determined to prove that Mark is innocent, but she's on a lonely, dangerous quest. Even when she discovers that the murdered girl was witness to a horrific crime years earlier, the police are certain she's throwing up a smoke screen to protect her husband. Only a quirky detective named Cab Bolton seems willing to believe Hilary's story.She was a hundred yards away, and all Mark Bradley could see was the sheen of her bare skin in the moonlight.

She danced like a water sprite, with her head thrown back so that her hair swept behind her. She had her arms extended like wings. The dark water of the Gulf was as calm as glass, barely lapping at the beach. The girl splashed and kicked at the surf, sometimes running deeper into the warm water until it rose to her knees.

He could hear her singing to herself. She had a sweet voice, but it wasn't perfectly in tune. He recognized the song, which he could remember playing on his Walkman while jogging through Grant Park in downtown Chicago as a teenager. To the girl on the beach, the song must have been an oldie, something from her mother's generation. He heard her chanting the chorus over and over.

It was Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire."

As he got closer to the girl on the beach, Mark couldn't help but admire her. Her body was mature, and the flimsy strings of the red bikini showed it off, but she still had the gangly gait of an adolescent, all arms and legs. She was more girl than woman, with an innocence about her near nakedness in public. He was still too far away to see her face, but he wondered if his wife, Hilary, knew her. He assumed she was one of the girls who had competed in the dance tournament at the resort, and now that the competition was over, she was enjoying a few sleepless moments on the beach before going home.

Mark couldn't sleep either. He dreaded the return to Wisconsin. The vacation in Florida had been an escape for a week, and now he would have to face the reality of his situation at home. Shunned. Jobless. Angry. He and Hilary had avoided the subject for most of the past year, but they couldn't avoid it much longer. Money was tight. They would have to decide: stay or go. He didn't want to give up on their dream, but he had no idea how to put the pieces of their lives back together.

That wasn't how it was supposed to be. They'd left Chicago for rural Door County because they had wanted a quieter life in a place where they could join a community and raise a family. Instead, it had become a nightmare for Mark. Suspicion now followed him everywhere. He was marked with a scarlet letter. P for Predator. All because of Tresa Fischer.

He pounded a fist against his palm. Sometimes his fury overwhelmed him. He didn't blame Tresa; she was just a girl in love. The others, though—the teachers, the parents, the police, the school board—they had ignored his denials and picked apart his life, leaving him with his career destroyed. He wanted revenge for the injustice. He wanted to hurt someone. He wasn't a violent man, but sometimes he wondered what he would do if he met the principal of the school in a deserted county park, where no one would see them and where no one would ever know what he'd done.