One day while on vacation in Montauk, we watched as a woman emerged from her hotel room. She told her young son she was going for a walk by the ocean and to stay with the other kids by the pool. We said we’d keep an eye on the boy and she murmured her thanks. The boy watched his mother walk down the beach until she disappeared behind a sand dune.

Some time later, the boy jumped up yelling “Where’s my mom?! I can’t see my mom!”  The boy became frantic and ran toward the beach. Families followed, scouring the area with binoculars. Lifeguards, police and the Coast Guard were called and searched until dark when the hunt was postponed until morning. Jeff and Nina Morgan, the hotel owners, comforted the boy and watched him overnight.

At dawn the search began again. In the afternoon, the woman’s clothes were found about a mile away, neatly folded and almost completely buried in the sand. Beachgoers and boaters were questioned and a helicopter surveyed the ocean with no luck. The mission was halted. When the police talked to the boy, he tearfully explained that his dad was gone and his mom was very sad. We all had the same dreadful thought: suicide.

The boy told the police his name and address; a few phone calls were made, unanswered questions resolved. The father had abused his wife and son, beating the boy terribly. To save her son, the mother attacked the father, hitting him over the head with a fireplace poker, killing him. The boy said his mother cried for the healing waters of Montauk. He had no relatives and after petitioning the courts, the Morgans were granted custody.

The disappearance of the woman was a ghastly experience for everyone yet most of us returned to the hotel the following summer, I think in part to check on the boy. We learned his name was Tobias but the Morgans called him Toby.

We were delighted to see he was physically thriving under the loving care of his adopted family but the emotional scars were deep. And every day Toby would walk down the beach to where the water meets the sand and stare off at the footprints in the distance.

NAR  © 2023