Brooke made small talk with Andy on the way out from Anacortes, but it was hard over the roaring drone of the runabout’s outboard motor. And she was distracted besides. He asked about her dad, but she didn’t have much to tell him – he just assumed that it was a sensitive case and didn’t press any further.
“There!” he shouted over the sound of the motor, and pointed toward a hump of land ahead as it was beginning to make itself distinguishable from the larger masses around it. The morning fog was beginning to burn off and the chill was being lifted from the air, but she thought it was curious just how much of the silvery wisps still clung to the island she was heading for. She couldn’t make out a single structure this way; just a mass of trees.
“Not sure where the dock is,” she shouted in return. Andy nodded and once they were within a hundred or so yards of the shore they began to head around and see where he might be able to drop her off. Eventually they found one jutting modestly out from the north-western part of the island. The fog was so thick on this side that they almost went right past it, though; it had Brooke wondering if this area had some kind of unique low pressure spot that encouraged such a drastically different microclimate than the sound and islands around it.
A looming white shape came into view as they approached the dock: it was the unmistakable silhouette of a Lazzarra 60-foot yacht. “Holy shit,” Brooke murmured as she gathered up her bag and opened up the front her jacket. She turned to Andy. “Stay here for a minute in case he doesn’t want me coming in.” Her father, while carrying the credentials of a private detective, still didn’t have the authority of a real law enforcement official, and could only set foot on private property by permission. Brooke didn’t even have that much, and was going to play it safe.
She stepped out of the runabout and helped him to loosely tie off on one of the dock’s cleats before pausing to glance at the massive boat sitting in the water on the other side. It seemed… disused. Moss was beginning to grow around the teak-capped railings, dust dulled her tinted windows, and as she walked up the boards toward the shore, she saw that the vinyl lettering adorning the stern of the thing was cracking and faded. Even the ropes holding the boat to the dock were green with moss and algae, and in parts, overgrown with barnacles.
Brooke came to a gate at the end of the dock, and a kind of slim kiosk featuring an input pad, security camera, and video screen. Summoning her courage, she pressed the call button and waited.
“Hello, how can I help you?” a charismatic voice soon answered. It had a faint hint of an accent she couldn’t place.
She brought her mouth to the speaker. “Hi there, my name’s Brooke Foster. I’m the daughter and assistant to Martin Foster, and I’m here to make sure things are going smoothly with Mr. Ilyin.”
There was a long, suspicious silence that didn’t leave her with much confidence in the situation. With a frown, she narrowed her eyes at the camera and spoke clearly. “If you do not let me in or let me speak to my father in person, then I will be more than happy to let the police convince you to do so.”
Brooke started when the gate automatically unlocked with a harsh buzzing and she quickly pushed it open before it locked again. She turned, waved at Andy through the fog, gave him a thumbs up, and watched him pull in the ropes. With a deep breath she turned back to the gate, pushed it open, and headed up the cedar-planked path through the trees.
There was an unsettling sort of quiet about the place, she noticed, and security was high: two-hundred feet of pathway yielded four cameras, and she could feel their electronic eyes on her. The dense tree cover masked whatever water traffic passed the island by; it seemed to mask her own footfalls too. She wondered how far a scream would carry in an environment like this.
Eventually, a house came into view. Well, ‘house’ was an understatement: it was a beautifully designed, sprawling, three-story villa of stark modern design. This, like the yacht, seemed normal at first glance, but the closer she got, the less sure she was. One of the west-facing, floor-to-ceiling windows was cracked, and she could barely make out the silhouettes of upturned furniture inside. The wall around the house, made from more planks of handsome cedar arranged horizontally, sported another gate, which this time just buzzed open as she approached. The pathway was slabs of expensive-looking stone now, mossy in the gaps between them. But there were leaves and pine needles everywhere, and, it seemed, plants sprouting up where no landscaper worth his salt would have permitted.
Brooke only stopped when she came to the mahogany door, inlaid with rough slices of redwood burl. Door alone probably worth ten grand, she thought with raised brows. She sucked in a deep breath, ignoring the camera and viewscreen beside her, and pulled out her own little case file: a few printed articles on Orcasoft, a satellite photo of the island, and some of her father’s insurance information… just in case.
At the top, though, she’d paper-clipped a photo of Jack Ilyin: he was a man in his mid-thirties, with dirty blond hair and blue eyes, and a rugged facial structure that was very obviously of Russian stock. As part of her research she watched a video of him giving some kind of TEDx talk a few years back, and he lacked all trace of a foreign accent. But he’d been very good with his audience – he was a natural. Which, of course, begged the question even more: what could force such a talented, charismatic, handsome man from the tech world’s limelight?
Tucking the folder under her arm and pretending that she had every right to be here, she ignored the call button and simply knocked on the door.