Summer of 1956:
Maria and Amy are just chilling on the beach, listening to some classic records and staring in shock at the girl who wears a bikini on the beach. Amy has a long-time boyfriend named Ronnie, but Maria is still looking. She likes this guy Stuart who is wild and crazy, but she also kind of likes his friend Buddy. Buddy is a little more serious and reserved. The girls hear him screaming in the water, run over to help, and find out that Stuart stole his trunks, which they think is pretty funny.
Even though Maria made plans to see Buddy that night, Stuart convinces her to blow him off and come to the drive-in with him in his dad's pink convertible Thunderbird. She later sees Buddy in the beach house next to them and realizes that he heard their whole conversation. Buddy calms down the next day and asks her to come for a swim with him.
They swim far enough out that she can't see the shore and notices a fog rolling in. Buddy starts talking about sharks and turns really dark. He starts screaming at her about hurting his feelings and lying to him. She freaks out, especially when he keeps disappearing and reappearing in front of her. Buddy then stabs her multiple times and swims away as the sharks descend. He makes it back to the beach house, laughing to himself about leaving her out there.
Amy, Ronnie, and Stuart all meet at the beach to watch the rescue efforts. The police mention that they spotted sharks in the water and that both Buddy and Maria are missing. They tell them that Buddy lived in the beach house, and the cops let them go with them to check things out. They find the beach house completely empty with no sign that anyone ever lived there.
This Summer (i.e. Summer of 1992)
Ashley and her boyfriend Ross are in town for the summer. They head to the beach to meet her best friend Lucy and her new boyfriend Kip, who is a townie. For some reason Lucy feels the need to have a boyfriend even though she's only in town for two weeks. Kip is really insecure (Ross calls him Vanilla Ice) and mean, and Ross is jealous of any guy who comes near Ashley. He even gets ticked when his friend Denny grabs her and tries to throw her in the water, claiming that she "let him do it."
Lucy introduces her to this new buy Brad. He's cute and super rich with a house that has an Olympic size swimming pool and tennis courts. Ross gets so jealous when Brad suggests she come over for a game of tennis that he storms off. He later apologizes and says that he just doesn't like other guys around her. Later that night, Denny attacks her again and makes it clear that he likes her and doesn't care if she's dating someone.
Ashley and Ross take a walk on the beach late at night, she gets cold, and he convinces her to sneak into the beach house. She looks down on it because of the furniture inside, including a chrome lamp and vinyl couch (basically the kind of furniture I would spend way too much money on for my own home, woo-hoo for mid-century modern!). They hear someone else there and find Lucy and Kip.
Kip is really rude and says that it was their own personal place. Lucy just thinks it's cool that they can share something together. When Ross points out that it's weird no one ever lived there, Kip says it's because of the murders. He talks about all the rumors that people told about the house and why no one ever lived there.
The next day, Ashley sees Brad on the beach and fantasizes about kissing him. Just as she's about to go up and talk to him, she sees Ross. He rushes up and asks if she's heard the news. Lucy and Kip are missing! No one's seen them since they left them at the beach house the night before.
Summer of 1956
Amy tells Ronnie that she can't stop thinking about Maria. She barely looks at what she wears anymore and has terrible nightmares about sharks attacking her in the water. Stuart pops up to tell them that he's heading home for the summer, and she thinks it's strange that she rarely saw him since Maria and Buddy went missing. After he leaves, they take a walk and see someone in the beach house.
Turns out that it's Buddy. He tells them that he last saw Maria on the beach. She wanted to go swimming, but he didn't because the water was too cold and there was an undertow. They had a fight, she called him some names, and he left her in the water. When he heard the news, he went a little crazy and his mom took him out of town. Amy asks him about the blood on his shirt, and he says he cut himself making a sandwich. They talk a little more before he wanders off.
After grabbing a hot dog, the two randomly stumble across Stuart's dead body. Someone bashed him over the head with something and left his body on the beach. The cops come, and Buddy watches it all from the beach house. Later that night, Amy takes a walk to clear her head and hears someone following him. She starts screaming and running, but it's just Buddy. He begs her to take a walk with him and maybe stop by his house, but she isn't sure if she should go with him. Good instincts.
Ashley and Ross take a walk on the beach, it ends up raining, and they run into the beach house. While walking around, she stumbles across something in a closet. It turns out to be an expensive scarf that she bought Lucy. This is a big deal, but she completely forgets about it the next day when the go to Brad's house for tennis. They meet his maid, Mary, who wears a long sleeved shirt and heavy clothes.
Ashley sees him with a hot girl and gets a little jealous before learning that it's his cousin Sharon. Ross gets more and more jealous as the day progresses, mainly because she keeps flirting with Brad and touching him. Ross ends up storming off, while she stays to swim. She sees him again, they fight, and Denny shows up to defend her honor/push him away. Ashley ends things with Ross over the phone because he couldn't control his jealousy, even though she was acting like a huge slut. She then gets a phone call from someone claiming to be dead and warning her to stay away from Brad.
Cut to her going out on a date with Brad. He makes fun of her for liking and actually laughing at a Chevy Chase film, and they kiss a few times. Brad tells her that he has a secret that he wants to show her. He reveals that he never had a girlfriend before, and just as she starts worrying that he might propose, he convinces her to come with him to the beach house so he can show her his secret.
Summer of 1956
Amy and Buddy head to the beach house, but he doesn't really seem to want her there. She wanders through the house and looks at all the cool stuff, like the huge 16-inch television, and starts to walk in the closet. He grabs her and warns her that she shouldn't go in there. He then makes a bunch of cryptic comments about how she's gone, totally gone.
Buddy then rambles on about Maria, Stuart, and Ronnie and reveals that he killed them all. Poor Ronnie just wanted to go home and watch his dad grill, but Buddy killed him. Buddy then tries to grab her and she runs away. Amy manages to get outside, but it's raining and there is no one nearby. She blacks out and wakes up tied to one of the stilts on the bottom of the house. Buddy plans to leave her there and let the tide drown her. She starts screaming as he walks inside and shuts the door.
Ashley doesn't want to go in the beach house, so she sits outside and gets Brad talking. He tells her about how all the men in his family were explorers. One explored the west, and one created rayon, which explains why his family is rich. His father took off when he was a kid, and his little brother became an explorer. His brother died when he crashed through the floor in a house under construction and broke his neck when Brad was supposed to be watching him.
Brad takes her into the house and convinces her to go into the bedroom. Even though she doesn't want to, he grabs her and drags her into the closet. She notices a gray mist swirling around them, and Brad pulls her out the door. Another hand grabs her and drags her back into the closet. Brad follows and they see someone holding a torch on the other side. It's Mary, his maid, and she warns Buddy that he'll never leave again.
Ashley wants to know why she keeps calling him Buddy. She says it's his nickname, he says no one called him that for years and demands to know who she is. Mary unbuttons her shirt to reveal a mess of scars and screams that he killed her back in 1956. She explains that the house was built on a time portal that led back to the 1950s. Going back in time is easy, but going forward isn't.
Two fishermen found her in the water and saved her, but she so disfigured that she never contacted any of her old friends. She lived most of her life as a recluse before coming back to the beach house and seeing Buddy step out of the time portal. She went in, got lost in the fog, and came out as an older woman. It's the same thing that happened to poor Kip and Lucy.
Buddy/Brad tries to climb out of the closet, but she threatens him with the torch. She tells him that she poured gasoline on the house and plans to set it on fire, killing them all. His only other option is to go back in time, where the police are waiting for him after discovering he killed all those people. Mary sets him on fire before torching the house. Ashley blacks out and wakes up in Ross's arms. He followed her to the house and saved her life.
Ross tells her that the police found the body of a woman in what was left of the house. She wonders if Buddy actually went back in time, if the police caught him, and if he got the electric chair like Mary predicted. The book ends with the two of them out in Ross's car and talking. Ashley says that she thinks she's starting to get over what happened to her, and then she tells him to turn off the oldies station on the radio.
I cannot believe I haven't recapped this book yet! I checked the inside cover, and I bought this from a no longer in business used bookstore by my parents' house. This was actually one of the first books I ever bought when this blog was just a random thought it my head, which means I've had it since at least 2009 and somehow never got around to recapping it!