We begin in Costa Rica.

Volcanoes, Surfing and a Missing Brother with Amy Waeschle

Author Amy Waeschle’s protagonist Dr. Cassidy Kincaid is a volcano seismologist. I had to ask Amy what that is exactly. Turns out it’s the perfect profession for an amateur sleuth as it takes her all over the world, where she encounters mysteries of all kinds.

Dr. Cassidy is a surfer, visiting Costa Rica in the excerpt Amy reads. And, from the Small World department, Amy herself learned to surf where I live, on the on the west coast of Vancouver Island. She’s even written a memoir about her surfing adventures.

If you enjoy Amy’s reading from Rescuing Reeve you can get the full book for free at her website.

This week’s mystery author

Amy Waeschle

Amy Waeschle is a bestselling mystery writer who fell in love with mysteries while reading late at night under her covers. Agatha Christie, Trixie Belden, and Ridley Pearson were her favorites growing up. She learned to surf just before her 30th birthday, and the challenging experience inspired her to write her first book, a memoir about surfing and traveling called Chasing Waves. After that, Amy was hooked on storytelling, and wanted to combine her love for adventure with fiction, and has been writing adrenaline-spiked mysteries and heartfelt dramas ever since.

To learn more about Amy and all her books visit AmyWaeschle.com

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the excerpt below. Remember you can also listen on Apple Podcasts,StitcherAndroidGoogle PodcastsTuneIn, and Spotify.

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Excerpt from Rescuing Reeve

Rescuing Reeve by Amy Waeschle

After a sunset surf session at another remote wave, Cassidy slipped to the bow of the Trinity with her stack of documents, hoping to pick up where she left off, but found fellow surfer Benita leaning back against the railing, playing Reeve’s ukulele and singing softly. 

She must have seen the look on Cassidy’s face because she stopped mid-strum. “Is this yours? I found it on my bunk.”

“Uh, no, I mean, yes, it’s mine.”

Benita gave her a shrewd look. 

“You can play it. I don’t mind, I was just surprised, is all.”

“This is actually a really nice one. Do you play?”

“No,” Cassidy said, settling in on her cushion. She realized that her answers were not making much sense. 

“My son learned in school. He got really into it.” She looked up. “Do you have kids?” she asked. 

Cassidy tried not to download all the reasons why she did not. “No,” she said. She remembered that she hadn’t answered Benita’s question the day before about her marital status. 

Benita shrugged. “It’s the kind of thing that happens if you ever do. Your kid gets into something, and then suddenly you’re into it too.”

“It’s my stepbrother’s,” Cassidy said. 

Benita fingered a few more keys and strummed. “The one you’re looking for,” she said. It was a statement, not a question, and Cassidy remembered that Benita was a lawyer. A good one, too, she guessed. 

Cassidy looked out at the blue horizon. The sun would be setting soon, and the soft glow on the water looked like a sheen of pearl luminescence. From inside the boat, she caught the occasional whiff of baking bread. “Yes,” she said. 

Benita gave her a look. “Are you guys close?” 

“Not really,” Cassidy replied, “but there isn’t really anyone else who can look for him.” She looked out again, this time at the distant charcoal-and-brown mountains shrouded in wispy clouds. “He was working for Bruce on one of these trips. He went ashore in San Juan and never came back.”

Benita’s eyes narrowed, and Cassidy could tell her mind was working. “What did the police say?”

“I talked to the police in Tamarindo and Santa Cruz, but they said there wasn’t much they could do because he disappeared in Nicaragua. I don’t know if anyone’s talked to the police in San Juan. My stepsister tried calling, but she doesn’t speak Spanish. She has been talking to someone at the U.S. Embassy, but I don’t think anyone’s taking her seriously.”

“Do you have an idea of what happened?”

“No,” Cassidy replied, then the pieces of her so-called investigation played like a mind-movie behind her eyes. “Maybe.”

“Do you want help?” 

Cassidy looked at her sharply. Help? How could anyone help her with this?

Benita shrugged. “I handle sexual harassment cases, so I understand how to play dirty.”

“Well, I don’t know that there’s any dirt.” She thought about it. “He’s had problems with drugs in the past. Did some time in juvie.” Cassidy remembered how she had returned home from a college-scouting trip to discover that some of her things were missing, her mother’s pearl-and-gold pendant among them. “He got in a fight with a taxi driver a few months ago. He was also apparently seeing a prostitute.”

“You find her?”

“No,” Cassidy replied, feeling like a failure.

“No drug charges or activity?”

“I talked to his neighbor at his apartment.” She shuddered, remembering the ratty room and the even rattier neighbor. “And the surf guides he hung out with.” She shook her head. “No one I talked to reported seeing him doing drugs.”

“Could he have been involved with the distribution chain somehow?” she asked. 

Cassidy breathed out a big sigh. She remembered Bruce’s comment about coke making a lot more than tuna. And the fact that drugs moved from Colombia through Central America. Could Reeve have tried to smuggle drugs in order to sell them? The thought was absurd. 

“Sorry. Let me know if this is too much.”

“No,” Cassidy said quickly. “It’s okay.” Before Pete died, his work as an investigative journalist led him to crack a few breaking stories. One thing she had learned from him was that the most logical explanation was usually the right one. “It’s possible. Though that means he’s probably . . . ” the word died before she could force it out. A tide of regret poured into her heart. 

Benita strummed the ukulele a few times. “Could he just be traveling?”

“He promised my stepsister he’d check in. It’s been two and a half weeks.”

Benita frowned. “What’s your plan?”

“Visit the local police. See if they know anything.”

“Then?”

Cassidy sighed. “Check the bars and the back streets.”

“You packing?” Benita asked, her eyebrows arched. 

“No,” Cassidy huffed. 

“We’ll get Libby to go along. That girl can kick the crap out of just about anyone. She has this primal yell. Good God, it’ll turn your blood to ice.”

Cassidy fidgeted with her pencil. “You guys don’t have to—”

“Forget it, okay?” Benita lowered the ukulele. “What did I tell you that first day? Us surf sisters have to stick together. And besides, what else are we going to do all day in San Juan? Sit around and drink margaritas? I mean, I’m looking forward to spreading out on a big, fluffy bed, but other than that, San Juan isn’t exactly a dream destination.” 

Cassidy ran a hand through her tangled hair. Sitting on her duff drinking margaritas sounded pretty good, actually. 

“And besides, you’re picking up the tab, right?”

“Yes,” Cassidy said. “Okay, if you really are sure . . . ”

“Absolutely.”

It rained during the night, a hard, powerful burst that tapped the roof of the cabins and bounced off the decks. The sound helped Cassidy sleep better than she had for weeks. In the morning, they surfed a semi-secret spot in front of a dusty patch of desert by themselves for the first hour. After that a mixed group of San Juan tourists and locals out for a surf before going to work thickened the pack. Cassidy searched the lineup for a head that might be Reeve’s but was not surprised when she didn’t see one. 

She asked the locals in Spanish if they knew of an American body surfer who may have passed through a few weeks ago. She had grown tired of the looks she had gotten when she first began her search—the fear and sadness. So instead of telling people she was looking for her disappeared brother, she explained that Reeve was an old friend she was trying to connect with. No one had seen him. She heard the same story from the tourists. 

When Bruce anchored the Trinity in the calm bay facing San Juan del Sur, Cassidy felt a quiver in her gut. What was she about to learn?

The police station was within walking distance from their hotel and she and Benita arrived after a short walk past brightly colored buildings and a mix of cramped businesses, apartments, and vacation homes. 

The door to the baby-blue building stood open. Cassidy took a deep breath and entered. 

A woman with a round face and hair dyed the color of straw greeted them in Spanish. Cassidy had already formulated her question and asked if anyone could talk to her about a missing person’s investigation. 

The woman pursed her red lips, the top two points coming together in a way that reminded Cassidy of the evil substitute teacher, Miss Switch, in the childhood story. 

“Would you like to file a report?” she asked. 

“Would that help?” Cassidy asked. 

The woman looked at her again, her quick eyes sizing her up. 

“He’s been missing for more than two weeks.”

The woman pulled out a small pad of lined paper. She asked a series of questions and jotted down the information: his name, age, height, hair and eye color, where he lived, his occupation, the date he was last seen. 

Cassidy wished Bruce had come. He was the last person to see Reeve before he disappeared. 

“Any physical characteristics?”

Cassidy’s gut churned. So we can identify a body? she thought. “Not that I know of,” she said. 

“Wait here,” the woman replied, and disappeared behind the window. There were two rows of spindly chairs. She and Benita chose a pair against the wall and then sat. 

“This feels like a waste of time,” Cassidy groaned. 

“Maybe, maybe not,” Benita said with a shrug. Outside in the garden, an iguana stepped into the open and snatched a hibiscus flower from a low-hanging shrub. He devoured it in two flicks of his tongue and darted off. 

Cassidy sat back and looked at the slow-turning ceiling fan and the layers of scrum visible on the mount. In the corner, a pair of geckos in the far corner rested, no doubt waiting for evening when they could crawl around feasting on bugs. 

A man with graying hair and thick eyebrows stepped into the room, holding the pad of paper. 

“Please,” he said, then frowned when Benita also rose. “Who is this?”

“I’m her lawyer,” Benita said, standing. The look she gave him blared, DO NOT MESS WITH ME. 

“I assure you there is no need for this,” the man said, his expression of kindness slipping a notch. 

“Then you won’t mind if I tag along,” she said, her small body unmoving. 

The man paused but only for a moment, then he extended his hand to the hallway he had come from. “Please,” he said again, and Cassidy and Benita walked a short distance to an open doorway. Inside, the officer’s desk and chair faced two visitors’ chairs. The officer indicated that they should sit and then seated himself. 

“I’m sorry for your trouble,” the officer said. 

“Do you have any information about Reeve?” Cassidy was unable to hide her impatience. “And what might have happened to him?”

The man adjusted his posture, leaning forward on his forearms. “We received a call from the embassy,” he said, his grandfatherly eyes connecting with Cassidy. “From your sister, yes?”

“Stepsister,” Cassidy corrected. 

“And we have no trace.” 

Cassidy grimaced. “I think something happened to him. Something unexpected.”

“Unexpected things are known to happen. You party, you meet a nice woman . . . ” he trailed off and shrugged, as if this was an enviable outcome. Maybe he had even dreamed of it himself. Fall in love and disappear in a haze of passionate lovemaking that lasts for weeks. 

“He left something valuable on the boat. But his other possessions are gone.”

The man was watching her as if able to read her mind. 

“Reeve has a history of using drugs,” Cassidy said, knowing that it was important to say this, yet it made her feel she was betraying Reeve somehow. “And I hear that there’s a turf war going on,” she added, picturing the narc boat. 

The man’s eyes flashed. “We do not allow the gangs in our town. They are off in the jungle, killing each other.” 

“Okay,” Cassidy said. “But this is a resort town. Surely there are drugs, and dealers, and . . . ”

“San Juan is like many resort towns in Nicaragua,” he said. 

“So have you looked into this possibility? That he got into trouble with drugs?”

The man opened his hands. “We have looked into every possibility.” 

The woman from the front window stepped into the doorway. She asked him something in rapid Spanish. Cassidy didn’t quite catch it, but there was an urgency to her request. The man frowned and turned back to Cassidy and Benita. 

“We have used all available channels to find your brother.” He gave them both a soft smile. “I’m sorry.” He showed them to the entryway, nodded a cordial goodbye, and left. A moment later, they heard a motorcycle engine rev up and then fade away as the man drove off. 

Cassidy continued walking, ready to leave the building but stopped when the receptionist called out from behind the window. She looked both ways, her made-up eyes trying to tell her something. Cassidy realized that both of her hands were hidden from view.

“My son, he is good with electronics,” she began. “When no one comes to claim these things, sometimes I can give to him. To sell.” Her chin lifted with pride, or maybe it was defiance. 

Cassidy was confused. “Does she want a donation, or something?” she said to Benita under her breath. 

The woman placed a box on the window ledge and opened the lid. 

Cassidy stepped closer to peer inside, her heart doing a pitter-patter-whump into her ears. Inside the box was a collection of phones, a few wallets, keys. She looked at the woman, but she evaded Cassidy’s eyes. Cassidy looked into the box again. 

“Does anything look like his?” Benita asked. 

Cassidy picked up a worn leather wallet and opened it. The slots for credit cards were all empty. She pulled out a worn card inside advertising plumbing services in Palm Beach, Florida and a rewards card for Sam’s Club. She had no idea if Reeve carried a wallet. There was another wallet, a faux leather one in the shape of a rectangle. She ignored the keys because they didn’t have any way to verify if they were Reeve’s, so the keys wouldn’t help find him. Cassidy’s attention turned to the phones. There were three: an old-fashioned Motorola and two smartphones: an iOS and an Android. She tried the home button on both, but, of course, they were dead. 

Cassidy wondered if Rebecca would know anything about Reeve’s phone. The woman looked nervously towards the door. 

“Do you know when these were found?”

The woman pulled out a sheet of folded paper from an envelope taped to the lid and read. She pointed to the Motorola. “Octubre veintiuno.” Then, she pointed to the Android. “Cinco de noviembre.” Then, the iPhone. “Siete de noviembre.” 

Cassidy did the math and ruled out the Motorolla, both because of the date it was found and its design. Reeve would have a smartphone—if he hadn’t sold it for drugs. 

She looked at the remaining two. The Android was in a scuffed, black case. The iPhone’s case was a sunset design: overlapping bright orange, pink and creamy white clouds wrapped around a mountain. 

“Where was this one found?” Cassidy asked the woman. 

She consulted her list again, and squirmed. She looked again at the door. “There was a stabbing. It was found in the dumpster behind the Uno station.”

Cassidy wanted to drop the phone like it was contagious. “Who was stabbed?”

The woman ignored this question. “This did not belong to the victim.”

Cassidy turned the phone over, then back. “But the victim wasn’t Reeve?”

The woman shook her head. 

“I guess it could be his,” Cassidy said. “But I don’t know. If I could turn it on, maybe the home screen would tell me something.” She turned to the woman. “Do you have a cord?”

The woman paused, looked at the door again and took the box away. She returned with a dirty cord and plugged in the phone to an outlet out of view. 

In the distance, a motorcycle engine approached. The woman’s eyes widened. 

Cassidy looked at the screen, but it was still blank. “Is it working?” she asked. 

“Sometimes it takes a minute when it’s really dead,” Benita said. 

The motorcycle engine grew louder. 

Cassidy pushed the home button, and the screen flashed a low battery signal. 

The motorcycle engine sound stopped outside. The woman’s face snapped into a look of terror. She tried to take the phone away.

“Wait!” Cassidy hissed, and pushed the home button again. This time the screen flashed an image: it was a beautiful young woman, standing close to a brown-haired man wearing a sideways grin.

Reeve.  

Rescuing Reeve, book 1 in the Cassidy Kincaid mystery series

Excerpt

After a sunset surf session at another remote wave, Cassidy slipped to the bow of the Trinity with her stack of documents, hoping to pick up where she left off, but found fellow surfer Benita leaning back against the railing, playing Reeve’s ukulele and singing softly. 

She must have seen the look on Cassidy’s face because she stopped mid-strum. “Is this yours? I found it on my bunk.”

“Uh, no, I mean, yes, it’s mine.”

Benita gave her a shrewd look. 

“You can play it. I don’t mind, I was just surprised, is all.”

“This is actually a really nice one. Do you play?”

“No,” Cassidy said, settling in on her cushion. She realized that her answers were not making much sense. 

“My son learned in school. He got really into it.” She looked up. “Do you have kids?” she asked. 

Cassidy tried not to download all the reasons why she did not. “No,” she said. She remembered that she hadn’t answered Benita’s question the day before about her marital status. 

Benita shrugged. “It’s the kind of thing that happens if you ever do. Your kid gets into something, and then suddenly you’re into it too.”

“It’s my stepbrother’s,” Cassidy said. 

Benita fingered a few more keys and strummed. “The one you’re looking for,” she said. It was a statement, not a question, and Cassidy remembered that Benita was a lawyer. A good one, too, she guessed. 

Cassidy looked out at the blue horizon. The sun would be setting soon, and the soft glow on the water looked like a sheen of pearl luminescence. From inside the boat, she caught the occasional whiff of baking bread. “Yes,” she said. 

Benita gave her a look. “Are you guys close?” 

“Not really,” Cassidy replied, “but there isn’t really anyone else who can look for him.” She looked out again, this time at the distant charcoal-and-brown mountains shrouded in wispy clouds. “He was working for Bruce on one of these trips. He went ashore in San Juan and never came back.”

Benita’s eyes narrowed, and Cassidy could tell her mind was working. “What did the police say?”

“I talked to the police in Tamarindo and Santa Cruz, but they said there wasn’t much they could do because he disappeared in Nicaragua. I don’t know if anyone’s talked to the police in San Juan. My stepsister tried calling, but she doesn’t speak Spanish. She has been talking to someone at the U.S. Embassy, but I don’t think anyone’s taking her seriously.”

“Do you have an idea of what happened?”

“No,” Cassidy replied, then the pieces of her so-called investigation played like a mind-movie behind her eyes. “Maybe.”

“Do you want help?” 

Cassidy looked at her sharply. Help? How could anyone help her with this?

Benita shrugged. “I handle sexual harassment cases, so I understand how to play dirty.”

“Well, I don’t know that there’s any dirt.” She thought about it. “He’s had problems with drugs in the past. Did some time in juvie.” Cassidy remembered how she had returned home from a college-scouting trip to discover that some of her things were missing, her mother’s pearl-and-gold pendant among them. “He got in a fight with a taxi driver a few months ago. He was also apparently seeing a prostitute.”

“You find her?”

“No,” Cassidy replied, feeling like a failure.

“No drug charges or activity?”

“I talked to his neighbor at his apartment.” She shuddered, remembering the ratty room and the even rattier neighbor. “And the surf guides he hung out with.” She shook her head. “No one I talked to reported seeing him doing drugs.”

“Could he have been involved with the distribution chain somehow?” she asked. 

Cassidy breathed out a big sigh. She remembered Bruce’s comment about coke making a lot more than tuna. And the fact that drugs moved from Colombia through Central America. Could Reeve have tried to smuggle drugs in order to sell them? The thought was absurd. 

“Sorry. Let me know if this is too much.”

“No,” Cassidy said quickly. “It’s okay.” Before Pete died, his work as an investigative journalist led him to crack a few breaking stories. One thing she had learned from him was that the most logical explanation was usually the right one. “It’s possible. Though that means he’s probably . . . ” the word died before she could force it out. A tide of regret poured into her heart. 

Benita strummed the ukulele a few times. “Could he just be traveling?”

“He promised my stepsister he’d check in. It’s been two and a half weeks.”

Benita frowned. “What’s your plan?”

“Visit the local police. See if they know anything.”

“Then?”

Cassidy sighed. “Check the bars and the back streets.”

“You packing?” Benita asked, her eyebrows arched. 

“No,” Cassidy huffed. 

“We’ll get Libby to go along. That girl can kick the crap out of just about anyone. She has this primal yell. Good God, it’ll turn your blood to ice.”

Cassidy fidgeted with her pencil. “You guys don’t have to—”

“Forget it, okay?” Benita lowered the ukulele. “What did I tell you that first day? Us surf sisters have to stick together. And besides, what else are we going to do all day in San Juan? Sit around and drink margaritas? I mean, I’m looking forward to spreading out on a big, fluffy bed, but other than that, San Juan isn’t exactly a dream destination.” 

Cassidy ran a hand through her tangled hair. Sitting on her duff drinking margaritas sounded pretty good, actually. 

“And besides, you’re picking up the tab, right?”

“Yes,” Cassidy said. “Okay, if you really are sure . . . ”

“Absolutely.”

It rained during the night, a hard, powerful burst that tapped the roof of the cabins and bounced off the decks. The sound helped Cassidy sleep better than she had for weeks. In the morning, they surfed a semi-secret spot in front of a dusty patch of desert by themselves for the first hour. After that a mixed group of San Juan tourists and locals out for a surf before going to work thickened the pack. Cassidy searched the lineup for a head that might be Reeve’s but was not surprised when she didn’t see one. 

She asked the locals in Spanish if they knew of an American body surfer who may have passed through a few weeks ago. She had grown tired of the looks she had gotten when she first began her search—the fear and sadness. So instead of telling people she was looking for her disappeared brother, she explained that Reeve was an old friend she was trying to connect with. No one had seen him. She heard the same story from the tourists. 

When Bruce anchored the Trinity in the calm bay facing San Juan del Sur, Cassidy felt a quiver in her gut. What was she about to learn?

The police station was within walking distance from their hotel and she and Benita arrived after a short walk past brightly colored buildings and a mix of cramped businesses, apartments, and vacation homes. 

The door to the baby-blue building stood open. Cassidy took a deep breath and entered. 

A woman with a round face and hair dyed the color of straw greeted them in Spanish. Cassidy had already formulated her question and asked if anyone could talk to her about a missing person’s investigation. 

The woman pursed her red lips, the top two points coming together in a way that reminded Cassidy of the evil substitute teacher, Miss Switch, in the childhood story. 

“Would you like to file a report?” she asked. 

“Would that help?” Cassidy asked. 

The woman looked at her again, her quick eyes sizing her up. 

“He’s been missing for more than two weeks.”

The woman pulled out a small pad of lined paper. She asked a series of questions and jotted down the information: his name, age, height, hair and eye color, where he lived, his occupation, the date he was last seen. 

Cassidy wished Bruce had come. He was the last person to see Reeve before he disappeared. 

“Any physical characteristics?”

Cassidy’s gut churned. So we can identify a body? she thought. “Not that I know of,” she said. 

“Wait here,” the woman replied, and disappeared behind the window. There were two rows of spindly chairs. She and Benita chose a pair against the wall and then sat. 

“This feels like a waste of time,” Cassidy groaned. 

“Maybe, maybe not,” Benita said with a shrug. Outside in the garden, an iguana stepped into the open and snatched a hibiscus flower from a low-hanging shrub. He devoured it in two flicks of his tongue and darted off. 

Cassidy sat back and looked at the slow-turning ceiling fan and the layers of scrum visible on the mount. In the corner, a pair of geckos in the far corner rested, no doubt waiting for evening when they could crawl around feasting on bugs. 

A man with graying hair and thick eyebrows stepped into the room, holding the pad of paper. 

“Please,” he said, then frowned when Benita also rose. “Who is this?”

“I’m her lawyer,” Benita said, standing. The look she gave him blared, DO NOT MESS WITH ME. 

“I assure you there is no need for this,” the man said, his expression of kindness slipping a notch. 

“Then you won’t mind if I tag along,” she said, her small body unmoving. 

The man paused but only for a moment, then he extended his hand to the hallway he had come from. “Please,” he said again, and Cassidy and Benita walked a short distance to an open doorway. Inside, the officer’s desk and chair faced two visitors’ chairs. The officer indicated that they should sit and then seated himself. 

“I’m sorry for your trouble,” the officer said. 

“Do you have any information about Reeve?” Cassidy was unable to hide her impatience. “And what might have happened to him?”

The man adjusted his posture, leaning forward on his forearms. “We received a call from the embassy,” he said, his grandfatherly eyes connecting with Cassidy. “From your sister, yes?”

“Stepsister,” Cassidy corrected. 

“And we have no trace.” 

Cassidy grimaced. “I think something happened to him. Something unexpected.”

“Unexpected things are known to happen. You party, you meet a nice woman . . . ” he trailed off and shrugged, as if this was an enviable outcome. Maybe he had even dreamed of it himself. Fall in love and disappear in a haze of passionate lovemaking that lasts for weeks. 

“He left something valuable on the boat. But his other possessions are gone.”

The man was watching her as if able to read her mind. 

“Reeve has a history of using drugs,” Cassidy said, knowing that it was important to say this, yet it made her feel she was betraying Reeve somehow. “And I hear that there’s a turf war going on,” she added, picturing the narc boat. 

The man’s eyes flashed. “We do not allow the gangs in our town. They are off in the jungle, killing each other.” 

“Okay,” Cassidy said. “But this is a resort town. Surely there are drugs, and dealers, and . . . ”

“San Juan is like many resort towns in Nicaragua,” he said. 

“So have you looked into this possibility? That he got into trouble with drugs?”

The man opened his hands. “We have looked into every possibility.” 

The woman from the front window stepped into the doorway. She asked him something in rapid Spanish. Cassidy didn’t quite catch it, but there was an urgency to her request. The man frowned and turned back to Cassidy and Benita. 

“We have used all available channels to find your brother.” He gave them both a soft smile. “I’m sorry.” He showed them to the entryway, nodded a cordial goodbye, and left. A moment later, they heard a motorcycle engine rev up and then fade away as the man drove off. 

Cassidy continued walking, ready to leave the building but stopped when the receptionist called out from behind the window. She looked both ways, her made-up eyes trying to tell her something. Cassidy realized that both of her hands were hidden from view.

“My son, he is good with electronics,” she began. “When no one comes to claim these things, sometimes I can give to him. To sell.” Her chin lifted with pride, or maybe it was defiance. 

Cassidy was confused. “Does she want a donation, or something?” she said to Benita under her breath. 

The woman placed a box on the window ledge and opened the lid. 

Cassidy stepped closer to peer inside, her heart doing a pitter-patter-whump into her ears. Inside the box was a collection of phones, a few wallets, keys. She looked at the woman, but she evaded Cassidy’s eyes. Cassidy looked into the box again. 

“Does anything look like his?” Benita asked. 

Cassidy picked up a worn leather wallet and opened it. The slots for credit cards were all empty. She pulled out a worn card inside advertising plumbing services in Palm Beach, Florida and a rewards card for Sam’s Club. She had no idea if Reeve carried a wallet. There was another wallet, a faux leather one in the shape of a rectangle. She ignored the keys because they didn’t have any way to verify if they were Reeve’s, so the keys wouldn’t help find him. Cassidy’s attention turned to the phones. There were three: an old-fashioned Motorola and two smartphones: an iOS and an Android. She tried the home button on both, but, of course, they were dead. 

Cassidy wondered if Rebecca would know anything about Reeve’s phone. The woman looked nervously towards the door. 

“Do you know when these were found?”

The woman pulled out a sheet of folded paper from an envelope taped to the lid and read. She pointed to the Motorola. “Octubre veintiuno.” Then, she pointed to the Android. “Cinco de noviembre.” Then, the iPhone. “Siete de noviembre.” 

Cassidy did the math and ruled out the Motorolla, both because of the date it was found and its design. Reeve would have a smartphone—if he hadn’t sold it for drugs. 

She looked at the remaining two. The Android was in a scuffed, black case. The iPhone’s case was a sunset design: overlapping bright orange, pink and creamy white clouds wrapped around a mountain. 

“Where was this one found?” Cassidy asked the woman. 

She consulted her list again, and squirmed. She looked again at the door. “There was a stabbing. It was found in the dumpster behind the Uno station.”

Cassidy wanted to drop the phone like it was contagious. “Who was stabbed?”

The woman ignored this question. “This did not belong to the victim.”

Cassidy turned the phone over, then back. “But the victim wasn’t Reeve?”

The woman shook her head. 

“I guess it could be his,” Cassidy said. “But I don’t know. If I could turn it on, maybe the home screen would tell me something.” She turned to the woman. “Do you have a cord?”

The woman paused, looked at the door again and took the box away. She returned with a dirty cord and plugged in the phone to an outlet out of view. 

In the distance, a motorcycle engine approached. The woman’s eyes widened. 

Cassidy looked at the screen, but it was still blank. “Is it working?” she asked. 

“Sometimes it takes a minute when it’s really dead,” Benita said. 

The motorcycle engine grew louder. 

Cassidy pushed the home button, and the screen flashed a low battery signal. 

The motorcycle engine sound stopped outside. The woman’s face snapped into a look of terror. She tried to take the phone away.

“Wait!” Cassidy hissed, and pushed the home button again. This time the screen flashed an image: it was a beautiful young woman, standing close to a brown-haired man wearing a sideways grin.

Reeve.