I have three confessions:
I've got the scar of a gunshot on my forehead.
I don't remember an entire year of my life.
My name is Kellen Adams...and that's half a lie.
Washington State's Pacific Coast
Yearning Sands Resort
January of this year
On January 27, a low tide revealed ocean caves normally submerged by water, Leo and Annie Di Luca left on vacation, a woman's mutilated corpse was found on the grounds and it rained.
The rain was business as usual.
In early November, US Army veteran Kellen Adams had accepted the position of assistant resort manager. Annie had warned her she had arrived at the beginning of what the locals called the Monsoon Season.
Kellen had chuckled.
But they weren't kidding. In winter, on the Washington coast, wind blew. Rain fell.
The sun rose late and set early. Every day was an endless gray. The holiday season had been busy and full of guests and lights and cheer, but when the decorations came down and January trudged on, their few guests came for discounted prices on meals and rooms. The resort used the downtime to paint, repair and clean, and Annie practically pushed the hospitality staff out the doors, telling them to go somewhere sunny and come back refreshed and ready to face the Valentine's Day rush. Everyone snatched at their chance to vacation elsewhere, and they knew where to find deals. They were, after all, in the hospitality business. They had connections.
Kellen told Annie she had nowhere to go, no relatives to visit and no desire to smell coconut-scented sunscreen. She stayed, reveling in the isolation, determined to learn everything Annie could teach her, and kept so busy she fell into bed at night and rose early in the morning. She loved the schedule; it left her little time to think, to remember
—and to not remember.
Then on that dark, cold, rainy morning of January 27, Annie followed her own advice. She and Leo prepared to fly to warm and sunny Bella Terra, California, to celebrate their family holidays at the original Di Luca family resort.
Under the hotel portico, a group of elderly tourists climbed into a tour bus, so Annie rolled in her wheelchair through the rain toward the limousine.
Her assistance dog, a black Lab named Hammett, trotted beside her.
Kellen walked on the other side, holding an umbrella and protecting Annie from the windblown blasts of rain, her brain's little quirk kicking in, her mind subconsciously scrolling through its catalog of data on the elderly woman:
ANNIE DI LUCA:
FEMALE, WHITE, ELDERLY, HEIGHT UNDETERMINED. TOO THIN. CURLY WHITE HAIR, GREAT CUT, BROWN EYES. WHEELCHAIR BOUND. RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS. RESORT MANAGER. BRILLIANT WITH STAFF AND GUESTS. KIND TO A FAULT. FRAIL. HUSBAND: NAPOLEONE (LEO) DI LUCA, MARRIED "SINCE THE EARTH'S CRUST COOLED."
"We'll be back in two weeks," Annie said. "After my last experience with an assistant, I was determined not to hire a replacement. But Leo insisted, and you know the only reason I relented was because you were a wounded veteran."
"I wasn't that wounded." Kellen rotated her shoulder.
"Enough that the Army discharged you!"
"Men were killed." I was unconscious for two days. Had an MRI to discover the cause of my coma. Tricky things, land mines. Woke to find myself being discharged; I hadn't realized the military could process paperwork that fast.
"I'm sorry, dear, about the deaths. I know how you feel about your comrades in arms."
They reached the car where Mitchell Nyugen waited to drive the Di Lucas to the airstrip. Again her mind spun and Mitch's info popped up, like a little index card:
MALE. VIETNAMESE AMERICAN, SECOND-GENERATION, 26, 5'9", 160 LBS., EXCELLENT PHYSICAL CONDITION, NEEDS LITTLE SLEEP. NO AFFECTIONATE ATTACHMENTS. ARMY VETERAN, HONORABLE DISCHARGE. EXPERT LICENSED DRIVER—MILITARY VEHICLES + COMMERCIAL DRIVER'S LICENSE (CDL) (TRACTOR TRAILER). EMPLOYED 79 DAYS—DRIVER, MECHANIC, ELECTRONICS. FRIEND.