Without a Grave

Marcia Talley

Without a Grave

The eighth book in the Hannah Ives series, 2009

To the most critically endangered horses in the world, the Abaco Barbs.

May you always run free.


Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll!

Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;

Man marks the earth with ruin – his control

Stops with the shore.

He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,

Without a grave, unknell’d, uncoffin’d, and unknown.

Lord George Gordon Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto iv, Stanza 178-179


Thanks to:

My husband, Barry, whose love of sailing first took us to the Bahamas where I fell in love all over again.

Pattie Toler, who invented the Cruisers’ Net, on the air in Abaco every day, rain or shine, for eighteen years. She graciously stepped aside to allow Hannah to fill in as moderator, and cheerfully answered my endless questions.

Milanne ‘Mimi’ Rehor, whose love and unqualified dedication to the Abaco Barbs has brought them back from the brink of extinction.

To Brent Morris for Paul’s project.

To Ben Stavis, captain of Astarte, a Rhodes Reliant 41, for Wanderer.

And to Chris Parker, for the weather.

To the Annapolis Writers’ Group – Ray Flynt, Lynda Hill, MaryEllen Hughes, Debbi Mack, Sherriel Mattingly and Bonnie Settle – for tough love.


The islands of Hawksbill Cay and Bonefish Cay are not on the charts. I have taken the very great liberty of sandwiching them between Scotland Cay to the north and Man-O-War Cay to the south while pushing Fowl Cay a bit further out into the Atlantic Ocean. I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this will cause, especially to cruising sailors.

In the Bahamas, Cay is pronounced ‘Key,’ never ‘Kay.’

It would be impossible to set a book anywhere in the tiny out-island chain known collectively as the Abacos without including local personalities like Pattie Toler, Mimi Rehor, Troy Albury and Vernon Malone. While these people actually exist, I have written a work of fiction. Their roles in this book, and the words and deeds attributed to them, are entirely figments of my imagination and should in no way be construed as fact.

The Abaco Wild Horse Preserve and Conservation Area is located on the island of Great Abaco in the area of Treasure Cay, but if you try to follow my directions, you will not find it. For the protection of the horses I have left my descriptions purposely vague. If you’d like to visit the Preserve, Mimi Rehor will happily be your guide. Contact Mimi at: http://www.arkwild.org/visitbarbs/visit.html

And while you’re there, give a buck for the Barbs!



We’d lived on Bonefish Cay for a week before it occurred to me. Take your clothes off, Hannah. Swim nude.

On a jagged limestone bank behind me, Windswept Cottage hunkered down in clumps of sea grape and towering palms, their fronds rattling softly in a brisk, offshore breeze. Our landlords, a pair of crackerjack attorneys from New York City, had bought up the property – a cottage and two outbuildings – as well as the vacant lots on either side to ‘help out’ a client in the wake of an ugly, divorce-spawned foreclosure. Barring curious fishermen with binoculars, or a bored passenger on the occasional passing cruise ship, there was no one to see me as I shook off my flip-flops, eased my cut-offs down to my ankles and stepped out of them on to the sand. With a swift, cross-armed motion, I hauled my T-shirt over my head, exposing my body, not exactly as Mother Nature intended – there’d been too many surgeries for that – but in all its post-op, what-you-see-is-what-you-get glory.

I stood for a moment on the narrow strip of beach, eyes closed, face to the sky, wiggling my toes deeper into the sand. The sun had been up for only an hour, but it had already taken the night’s damp chill out of the pink, sugar-fine grains. It warmed my eyelids, my cheeks, too, as I surrendered to its rays and to the kiss of the wind as it lifted my curls and caressed my body gently, like a lover. Not for the first time, I was thanking whatever gods had led Paul and me to this tiny Bahamian island, an unpolished gem in the Abaco chain just one hundred and fifty miles – as the seagull flies – off the coast of Florida.

Not the gods, exactly, I corrected as I stepped into the curling surf and waded in up to my knees, but the chair of the Naval Academy math department and the Academic Dean who’d granted my husband a six-month sabbatical at full pay. Paul was writing a textbook that would revolutionize the way geometry is taught in high schools, the perfect text that would open the door to advanced calculus for thousands and thousands of college students. He’ll explain it to you, if you ask, but prepare yourself for folding three-dimensional paper figures that don’t hold up very well in the humidity. The price one pays for working in paradise!

That the property became available was another miracle wrought not by the gods, but by our family attorney, Jim Cheevers, who represented the occasional investment banker with a second home and a three-count conviction. Jim had once engineered our getaway to a secluded cabin on Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland, but if anyone ever ran a vacation rental sweepstakes, Windswept would be first prize.

I turned my back to the sea and studied our home-away-from-home, a pale-aqua board-and-batten octagon cantilevered over the Sea of Abaco. Wooden windows all around afforded a three hundred and sixty degree view. We kept the windows flung open to the trade winds, flipped up and hooked to the underside of a generous roof that extended at least ten feet over the wrap-around porch. With typical Bahamian efficiency, the roof collected every drop of rain that fell from the tropical sky, carrying it through a series of gutters and pipeways into a concrete cistern, our only source of fresh water.

I’d left Paul on the porch with his laptop on his knees, happily Skyping with his buddy, Brent, back in Maryland about their hero, mathematician Andrew Gleason. Paul took full advantage of the on-again, off-again unprotected wireless signal drifting our way from some good Samaritan in the settlement across the channel on Hawksbill Cay.

Hawksbill settlement: year-round home to two hundred souls, serviced by a marina, two boat yards, three churches of unaffiliated (but competing) denominations, a tiny branch of the Royal Bank of Canada, a hardware store, the Cruise Inn and Conch Out restaurant, and Harbour Market, the grocery store where we bought most of our supplies. Rush hour on Hawksbill Cay was two golf carts passing on the six-foot wide ribbon of concrete grandly named The Queen’s Highway.

On Bonefish Cay, where we lived, there were no roads.

Parking my swim mask on top of my head and leaving my snorkel to dangle loosely by my right ear, I turned and waded out in the direction of Hawksbill Cay, toward a white scar on the otherwise verdant shore less than a half-mile away where construction had already begun on a controversial resort. The offending slash was a runway, built to accommodate the Piper props of the poodle and pedicure crowd. From its denuded banks silt bled into the sea, an almond-colored cloud that flowed toward Hawksbill reef slowly but relentlessly, like lava, threatening to smother it. I prayed wind and tide would keep it well away from our little corner of paradise, pristine Bonefish Cay.

Through the gin-clear water at my waist, I noticed a starfish, tangerine-red and the size of a dinner plate, ghosting along the bottom on little tube feet. I held my breath, bent down and picked it up. The starfish felt hard and spiky under my fingertips as I turned it gently, admiring the intricate lines and dots that both delineated and decorated its five, perfectly symmetrical arms. Paul tells me that if enough of the central disk is included, a whole new starfish can be regenerated from each severed arm. Very cool. Too bad the same thing doesn’t apply to women, and breasts.

The drone of an engine shattered the silence. Wouldn’t you know it? The first time I decide to do something even remotely risqué, a plane flies by. I scrunched down, heart pounding, hoping the pilot was too far away to notice that I was naked. As I cowered in the water, the little Cessna strafed the palms on nearby Beulah Point, then skimmed the Sea of Abaco like a red and white dragonfly before alighting on the unfinished runway across the way. Danger past, I stood u ...

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