Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever.

Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She signed her first book contract at age twenty-one for River, a unique werewolf tale, which was released to critical and reader praise alike and won her the 2007 EPPIE Award for Best Fantasy. She now has multiple series on the go to keep her busy.

In the name of research, she has planned–but not taken–extensive trips all over the world, learned to pick locks, watched dozens of hours of surgeries, and has undergone private investigator training. Her internet search terms have likely put her on numerous government watchlists, but she swears she is not actively trying to murder anyone other than her characters. Really.

Skyla is a fifth-generation crazy cat lady who lives in southern Ontario, where she writes a lot of books, works as a freelance designer, embroiders swear words onto fabric, and plays video games. You can visit her on the web at and get exclusive stories at

The Killing Beach - With Bonus Novella by Skyla Dawn Cameron

Waverly Jones has been called misanthropic. Distant. Obsessive. Manipulative. And that's without people knowing she talks to the hallucination of her dead sister.

She's also a private investigator.

After a lengthy absence, she's returned to Port Milton amidst the biggest homicide investigation her hometown has seen in over a decade. Bodies of middle-aged men have been washing ashore and the police have confirmed foul play but not much else—making it the perfect case for someone like her.

Particularly when she's the one to find the latest body.

It's not a coincidence Waverly happened across the newest victim. She's been combing the beach because these men match the age and appearance of Detective-Sergeant Sebastian Kyle, missing these past eleven years after investigating the now-dormant serial killer who made Waverly's sister his last victim.

Her familiarity with the murders has left her well-prepared when hired by the wife of one of the dead men, giving her a professional reason to dig deeper into these crimes. Have the police unintentionally fumbled this case in the wrong direction, or does the widow not know as much about her husband as she thought?

Port Milton has always had its secrets, and Waverly will drag every single one into the light to get to the bottom of this mystery. And maybe somewhere along the way, she'll get another step closer to who killed her sister and what happened to Sebastian Kyle.

This StoryBundle-exclusive version contains a bonus Waverly Jones novella: "Haunting at Hayward House"


The Waverly Jones mysteries are the Veronica Mars/Twin Peaks mashup you didn't know you needed, but you absolutely must have. Plus, in addition to The Killing Beach, the series kick-off, Skyla has written a new Waverly Jones novella, Haunting at Hayward House—StoryBundle readers get to read it first! Thank you, Skyla, for feeding my Waverly Jones addiction. – Margaret Curelas



  • "The dark and strangely comforting mystery I didn't know I needed in my life."

    – Errant Dreams
  • "The Killing Beach is first in a twisty, intriguing thriller mystery series. New heroine Waverly has a calm, spooky Jessica Jones vibe that I immediately loved. Highly recommend."

    – Sue London, Bestselling Author (historical romance)
  • "The Killing Beach is a masterful addition to the mystery genre that both pays homage to the themes we know and love, while simultaneously breathing new life into them. Complex, calculating, and unapologetically herself, Waverly Jones is the modern PI character you've been waiting for."

    – Michelle Manus, author of the Nyx Fortuna series
  • "Five stars. F#cking hell."

    – Krista D. Ball, author of the Ladies Occult Society series




I don't recognize the dead man on the shore of Miskwa Bay.

And I can't tell if I'm relieved or not.

He's naked. Bleached and bloated, fish-belly-white skin with a faintly blue hue, eyes plucked at long before I arrive to shoo the birds away. Hair is nearly black, plastered against his skull from the water.

Still, though, even without the eyes, even with the hair so similar, even accounting for the years that have passed, I know it's not him.

"I don't know what you expected," my dead sister says from beside me.

She's not really there. She's not even a full-blown hallucination I believe is there. I think my imagination is just vivid enough that, combined with how alone I've always been in my head, I've conjured up Meadow as if it's her ghost following me around offering helpful commentary.

If she is a ghost, somewhere, she's not here with me now. I know that.

I still respond anyway, "I didn't actually expect a body, if that's what you're wondering."

I also only talk to her aloud when literally no one else is around. I try not to advertise my crazy more than I already have.

"It's never going to be him," she supplies unhelpfully.

I know that, Meadow. I'm crazy, not stupid.

A chilly spring wind tasting of the bay rustles my streaked brown hair, pulling strands from the messy bun I've tied it in. It doesn't touch Meadow's shoulder-length bottle-blonde mane, though; in my peripheral vision she remains still and separate from this world, this figment of my imagination. Though her wardrobe changes—today it's cropped white pants and a pink tank top—she's still sixteen, frozen in time while I age, and I don't know anymore if the voice I hear really sounds like she did or if my faulty memory has the details wrong. Still, this pseudo presence—though painful—is a comfort I can't give up either.

Instead of looking at her, I stare down at the body and take in what I can before this scene is swarmed with police and media.

No human footprints other than mine, the sand dark and smooth from last night's rain. He's been dead a day or two by my guess, but I'm not the coroner. The water and predation make it hard for me to tell.

I snap my fair share of photos from a few steps away in the early morning sun until I've run out of time. Red and blue lights whirl in the corner of my eye, sunlight spearing from gleaming hoods of police vehicles. I'm long done with the photos by the time car doors slam, phone tucked away and hands stuffed in the pockets of my oversized, fleece-lined red-plaid coat.

Nothing to see here, certainly not photographing a corpse for future reference.

Meadow looks at me skeptically, like she knows what I'm thinking. Considering she only exists in my head, that's accurate, but it still annoys me.

Police and EMTs make their way across the beach, leaving the boardwalk path that leads from the parking lot in favour of the direct—if awkward—route over the uneven ground. The gurney totters, people throw their arms out for balance as sand gives underfoot.

I should be smiling. Playing nice. But my face doesn't work that way; it remains neutral, which is somewhere past Resting Bitch Face and into Resting Sociopath Face—or so I've been told—while I watch the approach of a white woman I recognize. Inspector Carolyn Farley.

Her eyes narrow on me as she fights for balance on the sand. She's been around for years—I remember her as a young constable handed a grisly homicide over a decade ago. Now here she is, top of the Port Milton detachment of LCPS—Lynton County Police Services, which encompasses this municipality and the neighbouring one of Marshville.

There's no snarky remark about Farley from Meadow, but Meadow wasn't really the snarky one. She respected authority figures, and probably still would.

Even one that failed to find her killer.

Whether Farley remembers me, I'm not sure yet. There's familiarity in her expression, only partially hidden by the scowl she's sporting.

"Morning, Inspector," I call.

She stops. Farley's in her early forties but she's letting her blue-black hair go full grey without intervention, and currently she's got Rogue-ish streaks of white at the front of her glossy bob. The breeze off the bay kicks up and she draws her hair back from her eyes with an irritated gesture.

"Waverly Milton," she says.

I suppress the urge to twitch; I've got good practice with that, at least. "It's Jones now."

Her arched brows rise. "Married?"

I hold her eye. "Just Jones now."

So much surprise from everyone that I wouldn't want to keep the family name—Milton—in the town my ancestors named after themselves. As if me changing my name is the weird part.

Farley gives me a slow, steady look, and in it I read the truth: she knows it's Jones now because it's impossible to have a new office in Port Milton, even tucked on a side street, with a sign that says Waverly Jones Investigative Services and not have local law enforcement notice. I haven't put up the brass plaque yet, so the sign is on a white board stuck in the narrow window by the door, but still...Farley has noticed there's a new PI in her tiny town. Hard not to.

Especially when that PI is me.

Meadow is blessedly silent; I think I'd tip from Resting Sociopath Face to Raging Murder Face if she was talking to me too while I'm attempting to navigate the police.

I'm not a sociopath by the way. I don't think. There's possibly a personality disorder of some description, but I've only ever been diagnosed with other fun stuff like anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, attachment disorder, and some depression, but most of that varies depending on the psychiatrist I'm forced to talk to at the time. So I'm probably not a sociopath. Morbid, yes. Antisocial, yes. Cold, yes.

Let's just move on, shall we?

"You called it in?" Farley asks.

I nod and give a quick summary of that call. If she wants much more than a basic witness statement, I'm going to have to call Legal Aid because I don't know defence lawyers in the area.

"And you stood here to wait for us."

"Shooing the birds away."

She nods. Regards me. "I see." She gestures to the steps around the body that come to stop directly where I'm standing. "You needed a three-sixty view to ensure he was dead?"

"Like I said: shooing birds."

"We can't have photos of the crime scene leaked."

Of course she recognizes why I circled the body. "Sharing crime scene photos would be crass and inappropriate."

"Taking crime scene photos when you're not law enforcement is crass and inappropriate."

"Only if I plan to sell them on t-shirts." I drop that retort pretty deadpan, but I don't think she fully processed it. No one ever laughs at my jokes and I'm sure it's in the delivery, because everyone here should be into gallows humour.

Farley waves over her shoulder, wind lifting her bob-cut hair high as she crouches. "Constable McKinley will take your statement."

I want to discuss the body. Marks indicate strangulation, and I suspect they'll match the twine used on the others, but I'd like a look at his lungs to be sure. Farley definitely doesn't want to talk, though, and this is not the place to press my luck. So I give her a nod of acknowledgement and take my leave.

I'm careful to follow my previous footprints in the sand until I'm far enough away to veer toward the approaching officers.

The constable in the lead is familiar to me. I left Port Milton several years ago, rarely even came back for the holidays, and I've only been back a week and a half. But last weekend, I met dark-haired Constable Devin McKinley at the local bar, struck up a conversation. He got a little flirty. I dropped my guard enough to return the banter, hoping it would get me some information.

Running into him then was not an accident—I knew who he was, because I did not return to Port Milton to insert myself in this investigation without a thorough review of the tiny local police unit. At the time we met, he did not yet realize who I was, but that's clearly no longer the case with the look he's giving me now. He's put two-and-two together. Possibly on the way to the body, since my name attached to the call would've sent tongues wagging.

Oh, Waverly Jones—used to be Waverly Milton. Ever heard of her, McKinley? Her sister was murdered. Waverly's a little cuckoo. Better watch out for that one. Ah, you've already met her—did you tell her anything about the case? Dumbass. I can only imagine.

He looks disappointed now. I'd feel bad for using him if I had any feelings. Alas, I do not. At least in this circumstance.

"He's cute," Meadow says from beside me.

I wish I did wish her gone, but a part of me still wants to gossip about boys with her.

McKinley stops on the path that slopes between long grasses toward the beach parking lot, other officers parting around him to continue to the scene. For a long moment, he stares at me and says nothing.

I search his gaze for reproach or anger, but no. It's just disappointment.

It's a pity he doesn't smile as he isn't a bad-looking guy when not scowling at me. Thirty-six and single, clean-shaven, a deep voice I like a lot better when he's trying to flirt with it. Being anonymous in Port Milton having grown up here is difficult; I enjoyed those brief moments when McKinley didn't know me.

He pulls a notebook from his back pocket and a pen. "Give me the summary. You can come by later for a full statement."

I stuff my hands back in my pockets and look along the beach, screeching gulls cutting over the roar of wind on the water. Waves beat against the shore, and I glance back at where police now mill around the body, wishing I could hear them. The water rolls toward the dead man, nearly brushing his feet.

"Waverly." Constable McKinley draws my attention back to him, where he taps the pen against the notepad.

"I was out for a walk," I say.

"At..." He glances at his watch, a new-ish gold number that's either a gift or quite the purchase on a civil servant's salary. "...Seven-thirty in the morning?"

"At six-thirty—at least that's when I left my place. Walked down to Harry's Marina, took a stroll northwest along the beach, came upon the body ten or fifteen minutes later."

His head is tipped down to view his notepad, but he stops his scribbling to raise his blue eyes to me and cock his eyebrows. Probably because he knows I called it in about twenty after seven, so I spent several minutes with the body before doing so.

I'm not volunteering anything in that regard. Farley will share her suspicions that I might've been inspecting, if not photographing, the body, but I'm the only one out here so there's no proof I've done anything wrong.

None of them need to know that I stared at the dead guy for so long I could almost impose another's face over it. Or that I discussed the scene with a figment of my imagination.

"Did you move the body?" he asks.

"No. He was quite clearly dead; there was no need to check."

"Did you remove anything from the body?"

"No, considering he doesn't even have his skivvies. Had he been wearing clothes, I would not rifle through pockets thereby compromising evidence."

"Did you see anyone in the area?" he continues.

I lift my hand to count each person on my fingers. "Harry was up at the marina." McKinley doesn't ask how I know Harry and doesn't need to; he's been running the marina since before I was born. Everyone knows Harry. "Looks like chairs were knocked over during last night's storm and he was checking the patio damage. He waved. Second: Marla McIntosh, I think she works at the elementary school still? Or used to. She was jogging in the opposite direction, southwest. Jogs every morning. I don't know her route, you'll have to check if she went past the body. She didn't wave. Third: there are occupied boats at the docks. A man was tying one off, looked like he just got in. Fifties, grey hair, Black, five-eleven-ish—I saw him from a distance."

Constable McKinley looks up at that. "You guessed his height from that distance?"

"I compared it to posts on the dock," I hold my hand to my stomach, "they're three feet, about this high. He was this high," I lift my hand to an inch or so over my head, "approximately. If he turns out to be five-ten or six-foot, I apologize. Also, white windbreaker."

"Anyone else?"

I shake my head. "Fresh pawprints—dog, small to medium size. Running loose and someone should do something about that—there are leash laws in Port Milton."

"I'll make it our utmost priority. Any vehicles—"

"None. And no footprints around the body, either, until I circled it about eighteen inches back. Either it washed ashore, or it was dumped prior to the rain. I'm guessing the former. Thoughts?"

"I think that it's none of your business." That tone tells me he's still sour at my attempts to befriend him for information previously. He flips the notebook closed and gestures over his shoulder. "On your way. We'd like a proper statement sometime today at the station."

Port Milton's police station will be sardine-packed with people the day of a murder—a few desks and a couple of small offices can't accommodate many even on a quiet night shift, and right now things definitely are far from "quiet" in Port Milton. Piling people into the conference room won't help either. Last thing I want is to be crammed in there all afternoon, not when Inspector Farley would have them all tight-lipped and not willing to offer anything for me to eavesdrop on.

"I'll have my people call your people," I offer, though of course I have no people.

He must be rattled, not even offering a snarky reply before waving me off and heading toward the inspector. And really, why wouldn't he be? This is the fourth man's murdered body to wash ashore in as many months, and just three weeks after the last one. All bound, including around their necks, with twine. All stripped down to nothing. All submerged in water. And all with not a shred of forensic evidence to suggest a perpetrator. It's enough to rattle anyone, particularly local law enforcement.

Meadow follows as I make my way past the ambulance and police cars to where yellow crime scene tape snaps back and forth in the early morning wind.

"Remember how mad Mom got that you had 'find a dead body' on your bucket list when we were kids?" she asks.

Mom was mad I even had a bucket list; the dead body part was what likely led to her regretting having children in the first place. When I was nine or so, there was a big murder investigation in the city of Wharton, across the bay south of Port Milton, with a killer grabbing a couple of school-aged kids—we got warnings about it all the way up there, and I think that stuck in my psyche. That and all the books I read, where finding a dead body leads to solving a mystery—I thought it was weird that no one else wanted to find corpses.

"How many bodies have you found now?"

Technically this is only my third. And that might be a high number for the average person, but most people don't go looking.

Onlookers are crowding in the parking lot on the other side of the crime scene tape. My gaze traces a few familiar faces but most of them I don't know. No doubt the police are noting everyone in attendance, but I take my own internal survey as well. A few joggers, sweat glistening on their foreheads and earbuds popped out; others have pulled over on their way to work, cars parked haphazardly beyond the tape, folks in suits with cell phones out. Too early in the season for vacationers, thankfully—if bodies keep dropping past May Two-Four weekend next month, that will cause a few issues. But folks from the marina, mostly retirees who spend time on their boats all year round, have made their way to the crowd. All of them gawk shamelessly, though I won't judge given I'd taken photos twenty minutes earlier.

I reach the tape, duck under and right myself again, weave my way through the crowd.


My name comes out as a stage-whisper, a poor attempt at being quiet, and I pause to give the crowd to my left a scan. Port Milton's resident gossipy Golden Girls gesture for me.

"Another body, was it?" the first one, an elderly Latina named Gwen Navarro-Larson, says when I stop beside them. The woman is tall but stooped, her shoulders hunched, and she leans heavily on her cane. I swear she's going on a century and a half, and I'm certain she's killed at least two or three deceased husbands.

Shanni Delucus, shorter but without the hunch, is a Black woman with curly salt and pepper hair she pins pink barrettes to. She gives me a little tap with peach-tipped fingernails. "Did you find it? Who was it this time?"

I spread my hands wide. "I wouldn't know."

"Psssh," Gwen scolds. "Not fooling anyone, Avey Milton."

I begin to back up, hands splayed helplessly in front of me. "Best ask the inspector, ladies."

"Bet it's another of 'em men." Gwen studies me critically, likely looking for anything past my lack of an expression, but then I've been playing poker since I was ten.

"Haven't seen anything this bad since...well." Shanni goes silent and Gwen's expression falters as she gives her shorter friend a nudge.

I give a little wave, turn back around, and continue toward the town. Head tucked down, hands in my pockets, steps faster—and more determined—than they were before I hit the crowd. Really, I ought to be grateful they tactfully ended with "well". "Well" means so many things, after all.

Meadow recites the real meaning, though, as she trails at my back: "Well, since the last time Port Milton had a serial killer."

Eleven and a half years ago. When I was seventeen years old, and The Crossroads Butcher killed two local girls before taking Meadow as his last victim.

And when Detective-Sergeant Sebastian Kyle went missing too.

As I put more distance between me and the crowd, I hear the two women stage-whispering to each other, and even without their words being audible I know what they say. What they gossip about, what rumors swirl. Over a decade later, it hurts in a way I cannot describe. And even if I never say it aloud to anyone, I know the truth of it.

I am back at Port Milton after all these years away for exactly one reason.

These men whose bodies have washed ashore all have the same profile: tall, white, late thirties to early forties. None of them were missing for over a decade, but still, I show up. Just in case. Because there is a part of me expecting Detective Kyle to roll up with the others.

I still can't decide if I'm relieved or not the new one isn't him. Or which would be preferrable.