The Tides of Memory by Sidney Sheldon

“Mom!” she shouted into the wind.


“Mom, it’s me, Summer. Can you hear me?”

But her words were swallowed, not by the wind or the tide, but by another noise.

A noise coming from above.

Lucy Meyer looked up.

Helicopter. That’s all I need.

It was probably just the coast guard on a routine flight. Then again, Summer would have read her letter by now. She couldn’t take any chances.

Alexia was still unconscious. Pulling her hands behind her back and locking the cuffs into place, Lucy dragged her back under the brow of the cliff. She was so frail and malnourished it was like pulling a rag doll. No chopper would see them here. But they couldn’t hide out forever. Already the tides were rising. Within an hour, the cove would be completely submerged.

“Wake up, damn you.” Lucy shook Alexia by the shoulders. A faint movement of the lips, little more than a flutter, but it was enough. Lucy felt relief flood through her.

She’s coming back.

Arnie Meyer spoke into his mouthpiece.

“See anything?”

The police reconnaissance officer shook his head. “Not yet.”

“Can you ask the pilot to go lower?”

“Not really. We have to be careful. Winds can be very changeable out here and these cliffs are no joke.”

“Yes, but my daughter . . .”

The policeman reached across and put a hand on Arnie’s shoulder. “If she’s out here, sir, we’ll find her. Doug, take her down a little, would you?”

They swooped lower over the waves.

Chapter Forty-one

Alexia woke up to find her legs submerged in water. She felt a moment’s blind panic—where am I? Then the pain in her ankle reasserted itself, shooting through her like a lightning bolt, and it all came back.


The cove.

The gun.

“I want you to cast your mind back to that day.”

Lucy’s voice came from behind her. She must still be under the lee of the cliff. Alexia had been dragged forward into the surf and positioned on her knees, like a prisoner about to be executed.

“It was a hot summer in Maine. You were there on the beach—you, Billy, and the children. It was right after lunch.”

Horror stole slowly into Alexia’s heart as it dawned on her what was happening.

She’s re-creating her brother’s death.

She’s not going to shoot me.

She’s going to drown me.

She tried to move, to roll over, anything, but she was stuck fast. Lucy had clipped some sort of weights to her handcuffs, anchoring her to the spot.

“Think about the children now,” Lucy was saying. “Try to picture their faces. Can you see my brother? Can you remember him?”

Remember him? His face has haunted me all my life. Every day. Every night. I tried to kid myself that I’d moved on, that I’d outrun my past. But Nicholas was always there. Always.

“What’s he doing?”

“He’s playing.” Tears rolled down Alexia’s cheeks.

“Playing what?”

“I don’t know.”


“Tag, I think. I’m not sure. He was running around on the sand. He was happy.”

“Good! Very good,” Lucy encouraged. “Go on. What happened then?”

“I don’t know,” Alexia sobbed. The water was rising. It was up to her waist now and as cold as the grave.

“Of course you know! Don’t lie to me. I’ll shoot off your fucking fingers one by one, just like I did with Jenny Hamlin. What happened?”

Alexia closed her eyes. “I lost sight of him. Billy was playing the fool, diving for pearls. He went under and he didn’t come up again and I thought—”

“I don’t care about Billy Hamlin!” Lucy screamed. “Tell me about Nicko. What happened to my brother?”

“I don’t know what happened!” Alexia shouted back. “He was in the water, in the shallows, playing. He was with the others. When I looked back he was gone.”

“NO! That’s not good enough. You must have seen something.”

“Jesus, Lucy, if I’d seen, don’t you think I’d have done something? Don’t you think I’d have tried to save him?”

Alexia was frightened by the desperation in her own voice. She wasn’t afraid of death. But drowning had always been her worst nightmare. To sit helplessly as the water rose around her, sucking her in, to gasp for breath as it filled her lungs, choking her, slowly starving her brain of oxygen . . . She’d lived the terror so many times in her dreams, Alexia thought she had understood Nicholas Handemeyer’s suffering. That she’d atoned for it somehow. But she realized now she knew nothing. The reality, here in the waves, pinned down like a trapped animal, was far, far worse than even her most fevered imaginings.

“You? Try to save him?” Lucy laughed. “All you cared about was yourself. You didn’t have an unselfish bone in your body. Not then, when you were plain old Toni Gilletti. And not now, as Mrs. High-and-Mighty De Vere. You, you and Hamlin, you let Nicko die!”

The water was almost at Alexia’s shoulders now.

“That isn’t true. You weren’t there, Lucy. You don’t know what happened. I loved your brother. He was a lovely little boy.”

Lucy let out a howl, more animal than human. She put her hands over her ears. “Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare say you loved him.”

“It’s the truth!” Alexia spluttered. “He was always my favorite. He used to make me little cards.”

Before she could say any more, Lucy ran at her with a roar of purest rage. Grabbing her from behind, she forced Alexia’s head down under the waves.

After a moment’s sharp terror, Alexia stopped struggling.

This was it. This was the end.

Beneath the surface, all was dark and silent and peaceful. There was no Lucy here, no shouting, no madness, no pain. Alexia’s earlier calm returned. She allowed herself to go limp, each of her muscles submitting to the cold embrace of death.

There’s nothing to fear.

Everything slowed down. She was aware of nothing but the faint drumbeat of her own pulse. One by one, the people she loved came to her.

Michael, healthy again, smiling and laughing, bursting with life and youth and promise.

Roxie, walking toward her, her arms open with love and forgiveness.

Teddy, as he was when they met. Funny, kind, self-deprecating, adoring.

Billy Hamlin, young and strong and smiling on a Maine beach.

Alexia started to pray. Let Michael be at peace. Let Roxie forgive her father. But for herself she had nothing to ask.

How arrogant she’d been to think she had any control. To think she could escape her fate.

Lucy was right about one thing: Nicholas Handemeyer’s death did deserve a sacrifice. But that sacrifice had to be Alexia’s. All her life the ocean had called to her, pulling her back, demanding she return and pay what she owed: a life for a life, a soul for a soul. Now, at last, the circle was closing.

It was time.

“What’s that?”

The pilot pointed through the glass.

Arnie Meyer and the surveillance officer both followed his finger.

“What?” said Arnie. “I don’t see anything.”

“Under the rock face,” said the pilot. “We’ve passed it now. I’ll circle back. I thought I saw . . .”

“Figures.” The surveillance officer lowered his telescopic binoculars. “Definitely, at the water’s edge. It has to be them.”

“I don’t see anything,” said Arnie desperately as the chopper banked sharply to the right, swooping low over the ocean like a bird scanning for fish. “Where? Was Summer with them? What did you see?”

The surveillance officer ignored him. “Coast guard!” He barked coordinates into his radio. “We need urgent assistance. Two females. Uh-huh. No, we can’t go in from here.”

“What do you mean you can’t go in from here?” Arnie Meyer felt the panic creep through his veins like snake venom. “The tide’s coming in. They’ll drown!”

The surveillance officer looked him straight in the eye.

“We can’t go any closer without hitting the cliff.”

“But we have to do something!”

“We’ll crash, Mr. Meyer. We cannot reach them. I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry.

Alexia De Vere was still praying.

Please forgive me. For Nicholas. For Billy. For all the suffering I’ve caused.

Lucy Meyer had released her a few minutes ago, scrambling up onto a small ledge on the cliff face so she could watch her die more slowly. As Alexia gasped for air, wincing with pain as the oxygen surged back into her lungs, it occurred to her for the first time that Lucy was also going to die. The waves would claim her too, just minutes after Alexia’s own life had ebbed away.

She must have known that when she brought me here. She doesn’t care about dying any more than I do. She wants it. The peace. Just as long as she sees me punished first. All she wants is closure. We’re so alike, in the end, Lucy and I.

A noise distracted her. At first she thought she was imagining the low, droning sound, like the buzz of a bee. But then it got louder and louder, overpowering even the cymballike crashing of the waves. Alexia tipped her head back and looked up.

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon