Practice to Deceive
WHIDBEY ISLAND, WASHINGTON, IS one of the largest islands in the continental United States, a vacation spot for some, home to sixty thousand residents, and a massive duty station for navy personnel. Ferries and the Deception Pass Bridge transport visitors and residents alike to this idyllic body of land that floats on Puget Sound with any number of passages, inlets, bays, and other waterways.
Whidbey is a study in contrasts. The sprawling Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is in the town of Oak Harbor at the northern tip of the forty-seven-mile-long island. It is the premier naval aviation installation in the Pacific Northwest and the location of all electronic attack squadrons flying the EA-6B Prowler and the EA-18G Growler. It is also home to four P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol squadrons and two Fleet Reconnaissance squadrons that fly the EP-3E Aries.
South of Oak Harbor along Highway 520, there are smaller, homier towns: Coupeville, the Island County seat,
Greenbank, Langley, Freeland, and Clinton. Although supermarkets and a few modest malls have opened in the last several years, much of Whidbey Island is composed of hamlets, bucolic pastures, evergreen forests, marinas, and a good number of lavish waterfront estates built by people from the mainland.
Visiting much of Coupeville is akin to stepping back in time; the tree-shaded streets are lined with any number of restored houses more than a hundred years old.
From some island locations, there are views of Seattle rising out of a fog-smudged mist, but mostly Whidbey Island is still a place to get away from the stresses of city life. With so much waterfront and so many parks, Whidbey draws tourists in every season. And it is a great place to raise a family with good schools, friendly neighbors, and a true sense of community.
A number of high school graduates move off-island as they search for a quicker-paced world, but they almost always come back for reunions and holidays to catch up with family and old friends.
There isn’t a lot of crime on Whidbey; bank robbers prefer spots where they don’t have to wait for a ferry to make a clean getaway. There are, of course, some sex crimes, and a murder from time to time. When law enforcement officers do have a homicide to investigate, it tends to be out of the ordinary, even grotesque. Island County detectives have investigated explosive cases that made headlines in Seattle, and sometimes nationwide. Colton Harris Moore, “the Barefoot Bandit,” a brilliant teenage lawbreaker who went from robbing cabins to stealing airplanes and boats, began his crimes on Camano Island where he grew up—but he was tried on Whidbey Island.
Like all insular areas, Whidbey Island has active gossip
chains of communication. Illicit liaisons seldom remain secret for long. There aren’t many “No-Tell Motels” or discreet cocktail lounges where lovers can hope to escape prying eyes. Frankly, some of the posher restaurants and health clubs have been headquarters for swingers and “key clubs,” and they aren’t all that secretive. With the advent of the Internet, gossip spreads more rapidly with every year that goes by.
During the last days of 2003, the chains were buzzing. Some residents were fascinated with a violent mystery and some were just plain frightened.