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Award Winning Author Dirk Wyle’s Medical Mystery AMAZON GOLD – A hard-boiled thriller with a scientific twist and readers are raving – 4.5 Stars on Amazon with all rave reviews & now just $3.99 or FREE via Kindle Lending Library

4.5 stars – 4 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Ben signed up to be a highly paid pharmaceutical consultant, not an industrial spy in Miami.

Rebecca signed up to be a world health physician, not a hostage in the Brazilian Amazon.

But strange things can happen when you discover a new kind of gold.

Series author Dirk Wyle has created a new kind of mystery-thriller — powered by medical science, business and anthropology, and driven by the professional challenges of a two-career couple. In a stunning climax, Ben and Rebecca are reunited to discover astonishing truths — and to fight for their lives.

Reviews

“Wyle has given the hard-boiled thriller a scientific twist, making his novels pleasing for both their intrigue and their intellect.” — Booklist

“If Amazon Gold was a movie … it would win it for best screenplay because it is a well-crafted, mystifying, thought-provoking and entertaining story that thrills laymen and science buffs equally well. You are in good company with Ben Candidi and Rebecca Levis – and are ready to go with them wherever their next adventure takes them.” — Amazon Reviewer, 5 Stars

About The Author

Dirk Wyle’s mystery-thrillers play out against an authentically rendered backdrop of biomedical science. His stories are informed by a long scientific career that included a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, postdoctoral work in Germany and service as a medical school professor in Miami (“Google” Duncan H. Haynes). He conducted research in abnormal blood coagulation and drug delivery and invented a drug microencapsulation technology (searchable at www.uspto.gov) which led to the founding of three companies employing approximately 65 people. Countless story ideas came as a byproduct of that quest, and eventual commercial success gave him leeway to create the Ben Candidi mystery-thriller series. Believing there are no stone walls separating the realms of popular science, serious literature, formal mystery and cliff-handing suspense, Dirk Wyle has created stories that play out in all four arenas. Protagonist Ben accepts “straightforward scientific” projects which quickly turn perplexing, mysterious and then sinister. With the help of fiancee Rebecca Levis, world health physician, Ben solves the mystery just before the bad guys (and gals) strike back. Like his protagonists Ben and Rebecca, Dirk Wyle does not regard work and play as necessarily separate activities. He enjoys researching the books’ exotic locations, which include the waters of South Florida, the Bahamas and the Brazilian Amazon.
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Like A Great Thriller? Then we think you’ll love this FREE excerpt from the Thriller of the Week: Dirk Wyle’s Medical Mystery AMAZON GOLD – A hard-boiled thriller with a scientific twist and readers are already raving – 4.5 Stars on Amazon with all rave reviews & now just $3.99 or FREE via Kindle Lending Library

Just the other day we announced that Dirk Wyle’s Medical Mystery AMAZON GOLD is our Thriller of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the thriller, mystery, and suspense categories: over 200 free titles, over 600 quality 99-centers, and thousands more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!

Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Thriller excerpt, and we’re happy to share the news that this terrific read is FREE for Kindle Nation readers during its TOTW reign!

4.5 stars – 4 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Ben signed up to be a highly paid pharmaceutical consultant, not an industrial spy in Miami.

Rebecca signed up to be a world health physician, not a hostage in the Brazilian Amazon.

But strange things can happen when you discover a new kind of gold.

Series author Dirk Wyle has created a new kind of mystery-thriller — powered by medical science, business and anthropology, and driven by the professional challenges of a two-career couple. In a stunning climax, Ben and Rebecca are reunited to discover astonishing truths — and to fight for their lives.

“Wyle has given the hard-boiled thriller a scientific twist, making his novels pleasing for both their intrigue and their intellect.”

Booklist Mystery Showcase (American Library Association)

 

And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:

 

About Amazon Gold—

Ben signed up to be a highly paid pharmaceutical consultant, not an industrial spy in Miami.

Rebecca signed up to be a world health physician, not a hostage in the Brazilian Amazon.

But strange things can happen when you discover a new kind of gold.

Series author Dirk Wyle has created a new kind of mystery- thriller—powered by medical science, business and anthropology, and driven by the professional challenges of a two- career couple. In a stunning climax, Ben and Rebecca are reunited to discover astonishing truths — and to fight for their lives.

 Contents

Dedication

Chapter 1 — Santa Isabel Blues

Chapter 2 — The Pilot’s Tale

Chapter 3 — Down the Lazy River, Up the Fast Jet Stream

Chapter 4 — This Old House

Chapter 5 — Michael Malencik

Chapter 6 — An Evening with Dr. Westley Chapter 7 — Locks, Keys and the DEA Chapter 8 — An Afternoon with Edith Pratt Chapter 9 — Shoot

Chapter 10 — Brazilian Bicyclist

Chapter 11 — Mr. Hyde Is the Mother of Invention

Chapter 12 — Sticky Consult, Sticky Jungle Chapter 13 — Applied Anthropology Chapter 14 — Dream Machine

Chapter 15 — Unwelcome Attention

Chapter 16 — Miami River Scramble

Chapter 17 — Northwest by North River Drive

Chapter 18 — Miami and Manaus Chapter 19 — Up the Lazy River Chapter 20 — Santa Isabel

Chapter 21 — Up the Rio Marauiá

Chapter 22 — At the Mission

Chapter 23 — Walk In the Forest with You

Chapter 24 — Hekura Analysis Chapter 25 — Yanomama Maiden Chapter 26 — Hearth and Home Chapter 27 — Open-House Chapter 28 — Paying the Piper

Chapter 29 — Field Medicine and Disinformation

Chapter 30 — Press Conference

Epilogue Acknowledgments About the Author

1    Santa Isabel Blues

 

It was in Santa Isabel, not Rio de Janeiro, that Rebecca and I spent our last evening together in Brazil. Deep in the Amazon basin, we had no sandy beach with inviting water, no promenade to stroll at sunset and no cool breeze rolling down from green hills. Instead, we trudged down a muddy red bank and waded into the Rio Negro. Yes, the humus-saturated water served to wash from our naked bodies the accumulated grime from our four days of westward travel on a river freighter out of Manaus. But the water’s reddish-brown cast was foreboding. After we had waded to knee depth, our feet were barely visible. And at waist depth, they were lost in a realm of impenetrable black. Smelling the river water in my cupped hand, I was reminded of stale tea.

Thus we didn’t splash, we didn’t swim, and we didn’t linger. We washed ourselves quickly, then struggled up the muddy bank to retrieve our damp clothes from the bushes. The sun was low, only a few diameters above that narrow band of tropical green along the distant bend of the broad black Rio Negro. When the sun sets along the equator, darkness comes quickly. Hastily, we blotted the tea residue from our skin and dressed. Quickly, we made our way between the stilt shacks and found the rain forest path leading to our lodging.

There was no room service dinner, no moonlight-drenched balcony, no diaphanous curtains waving in a breeze, and no oversized bed with white sheets. There was no breeze, just tropical swelter. We ate from cans by lantern light, then retreated of our tent where we shed some of our clothes and sat, facing each other, on the two stretched-canvas cots. Expedition leader David Thompson was snoring in a nearby tent and I was slipping into a foul mood.

But the tropical moon did its best to stir romance. It shown down on us through the mosquito screen, glistening Rebecca’s black hair and drenching her narrow, delicate face in a stream of cool light.

Sitting there, stripped down to my underpants, feeling hot, grubby and worried, I lost myself in thought.

Well, Ben Candidi, this is the price you pay for melding souls with an idealistic physician with a passion for Third World medicine. Rebecca’s jetliner didn’t take you to Rio de Janeiro; it took you to Manaus, 800 miles up the Amazon. You boarded that rickety freighter willingly. Nobody said you had to ride up the Rio Negro with her for those 400 winding miles. And you knew that your destination was an umbrella tent behind a Brazilian Indian bureau station across the river from a shantytown called Santa Isabel.

No, of course, a rough-and-ready guy like you wouldn’t be complaining about the heat and humidity. Could it be that you’re irritated about having to say goodbye to her for a month? Hell, Ben, you knew weeks ago that there wouldn’t be enough room in that dugout canoe for you and their medical supplies. But now you’re worried that it’s unsafe for her to go 100 miles north, up the narrow Rio Marauiá into Yanomama Indian territory and work for a month in the health shed at that Catholic mission? Do you think she needs you standing guard over her?

Face it, Ben, you’re projecting your own problems on her. Admit it, Ben: If you don’t get back to Miami and pick up work on that report, your biomedical consulting career will be over before it gets started.

Rebecca must have been reading my thoughts at that moment. “Don’t worry, Ben. I’ll be all right.” Her voice was so beautiful — resonant, high-pitched but self-assured.

“Okay” I replied. “Just be careful on the trip. I keep worrying about you running into bad guys — like rubber tappers, gold prospectors and smugglers.”

“Access to the river is controlled. David has made the trip five times already. Nothing happened.”

“I still wonder about those Indians outside the Mission.” “Ben, you’re going by descriptions that Napoleon Chagnon wrote decades ago. The newer anthropological studies say the Yanomama aren’t so fierce anymore. Don’t worry, David will take care of me.”

Right!” I said it with a touch of irony. That guy would take care of her, alright. He’d start laying his paws on her the first night out.

Rebecca laughed. “You’re not worried that I won’t be able to keep him in his place, are you?”

“No, I promise not to worry about that. But there are a few things I want to run down with you.”

“Yes,” she sighed.

“First off, when you’re traveling in the Third World it’s a mistake to be too nice to people — especially ones you don’t know. Let them get too familiar and they start taking advantage.”

“Okay.”

“That applies doubly to indigenous people.”

“Yes, Ben. If they get too close to our bags, I’ll bark at them,”

she said sassily, “just like you did in Manaus.”

“Right. And when you’re alone, don’t let anybody get too close to you. If they grab you, hit them where it hurts.”

In my thirty-some years, I’ve had more than my share of tough situations. Growing up around Newark will toughen anyone up, especially if he’s in the habit of carrying his schoolbooks home at night. I left those troubles behind when I went off to Swarthmore College but they caught up with me in Miami, ten years later. That was when I’d enrolled in a pharmacology Ph.D. program and agreed to do an undercover project on the side. A Ph.D. won’t keep people from trying to murder you when you go around uncovering their scams. Muscle memory of Newark has saved my life three times already.

Rebecca sighed like a teenager resisting an elder’s advice. “Yes, if they grab me I’ll scratch their eyes out.”

“And don’t depend on Thompson to protect you. Sure, his skin’s made of leather, but he doesn’t have enough muscle to put up a good fight. And listen — never give in to a threat. Never let them increase their advantage over you.”

Rebecca sighed again. “If someone holds a knife to David’s throat and says he’ll slit David’s throat if I don’t throw down my pack, I don’t do it. I pull out my own knife.”

“Right.”

“Yes, ‘right’ — for the fifth time. You know, Ben, I have learned a few things from you in the years we’ve been together. Just trust me. Promise?”

“I promise.”

Yes, Rebecca had learned a few things from me. And I’d learned a lot from her. Although she’s five years my junior, she’s

the mature one when it comes to professional goals. At 14 she was already planning to be a doctor. And she’d never wasted a year. I had wasted six of them. After Swarthmore I had worked half-heartedly in the medical examiner’s laboratory by day, had bummed around Miami’s Little Havana by night, and had boat-bummed around Coconut Grove every weekend. Hell, if I hadn’t met her, I might never have finished my Ph.D. Left to my own devices, I’d probably go back to dilettante life.

Rebecca was still looking at me, waiting for an answer.

“Yes, girl, I promise not to worry. Now let’s talk about one more thing — communication.”

“I’ll e-mail you as soon as we get to the Mission and David unpacks the satellite dish. My e-mail will get to Miami faster than you will.”

“And I’ll e-mail you every day.”

Rebecca smiled. I’d probably sounded like a fatuous hero in one of those Merchant-Ivory period films. Her smile was so charming in the moonlight.

“But don’t be upset if you don’t hear from me every day. Some days it might be raining too hard for David to put up the dish. Or something might happen to the equipment.”

“If David can’t put up the dish when you arrive, then you have the Mission get on their shortwave radio and report back to the Indian bureau station here.”

“It’s called a Funai office,” Rebecca said with an ironic smile. “It stands for . . . . Now you’re the one who’s supposed to be the expert on Portuguese.”

Rebecca smiled as I fumbled and failed to translate the acronym into Portuguese. For the last four days I’d been having mixed success with my efforts to convert my fluent Spanish into acceptable Portuguese.

I suggested more backup plans for communication. “Ben, you’re looking worried again. Stop it!”

I willed myself to relax. Rebecca sighed. I looked at her, sitting across from me in panties and unbuttoned khaki blouse. She wasn’t sweating. That thin, angular body would serve her well as she glided through the jungle, buoyed by the optimistic belief that her health care work would make a difference. Yes, we’d let David Thompson — over there in the next tent, snoring like the 60-year-old that he was — we’d let him sweat the details. Let the old snorer pay for spoiling my last evening with my fiancée in Brazil. I fell silent, listening for forest sounds between the rasps of Thompson’s saw blade.

In the distance I could make out the rhythm of a fast samba. It was probably from a battery-operated boom box. It was probably the night’s entertainment for a caboclo couple in a nearby shack. There’s no single translation for caboclo. Fishermen? Pioneers? Subsistence farmers? I’ve even heard “backwoodsmen.” If you’re into racial definitions, call them mestizos. The husband probably fished the river. His wife probably grew açaí, manioc and peach palms in a small garden. After four days and a dozen stops on this river, we’d seen so many caboclo couples that I had no trouble imagining this pair. He would have mixed Indian features and would be gritty and unshaven, probably wearing a hat, an undershirt and long pants — his Friday evening finest. He might even be wearing leather shoes. She would be in flip-flops or barefoot, but wearing a long dress. I imagined them dancing, moving their feet and shaking their hips to the beat of cowbells, whistles, bead shakers, seed gourds and rubbed drum-skins. About as sexy as a sponge bath with stale tea.

Rebecca slid over to my cot and kissed me on the cheek. I opened my eyes and looked up. She was on hands and knees, in a cat pose. She caught my glimpse of her open blouse and smiled. She stretched forward and kissed me on the mouth — deeply and hungrily. But I still felt gritty and annoyed.

Rebecca pushed me down on the cot and kissed me again. “Don’t let him irritate you anymore,” she whispered. “He’s deep asleep. We have the whole world to ourselves, just like on the Diogenes.” She got up and made a minor adjustment to the tent’s entrance flap. She wiggled out of her panties, tugged at my underpants, cast off her blouse and took charge.

Balancing on knees and toes on the wooden rails of my cot, Rebecca showed me how much a 25-degree shift in latitude could change a woman. It seemed like the tropical rain forest had unleashed a new species of passion. This was not the delicate, languid, open-air love that we had made while anchored in the Florida Keys. This was fast samba love. Something had converted her 120 pounds into an untiring, vertically resonant love machine. She shook me to the roots. It seemed like the spirit of the torpid jungle permeated her brain stem. Or maybe it was the spirit of the mythological Amazons.

Seemingly immune to heat exhaustion, she performed a dance of gyrating hips, pumping abdomen and fluttering arms. Tropical moonlight poured in through the opened roof flap, illuminating her small, charming breasts as they jiggled in Brazilian carnival rhythm. How much longer could she continue like this? She sensed my question and answered it wordlessly. As we reached our precious seconds of shared ecstasy, the chirps and squawks of rain forest birds and reptiles grew louder. Perhaps they were augmented by sounds from our own throats.

Expended, my body dissolved into the stretched canvas. Exhausted, Rebecca took three deep breaths before reaching for the cot’s rails and collapsing onto me. She buried her face in my neck. A bony shoulder rested on my matted chest hair. Sensing that her legs were cramping, I raised my hips to unburden them. Our legs intertwined and she molded her broad hips to mine. Her skin felt cool on the surface and her flesh felt so hot at our pressure points. Spent and clinging to each other like vines, we shared heartbeats, breaths and whispered endearments. We shared these for a long time, filling each other’s reservoirs with what only the soul can offer, preparing for a four-week drought.

Rebecca’s reservoirs filled more rapidly than mine. But she didn’t let go of my hand when she rolled into the other cot. “Don’t worry, Ben, everything will be okay.”

We slept.

The next morning, I woke to find Rebecca smiling down on me. She was already dressed for the expedition: light khaki, multi- pocketed shirt and shorts with Oregon rafting sandals. I dressed quickly. Rebecca’s near shoulder-length hair was drawn up into a ponytail which she’d pulled through the back of her blue ball-cap. It stuck up at a sassy angle and bounced with her steps as I followed, carrying her two bags down to the dock.

David Thompson was standing next to a couple of canvas bags and was frowning down on a soggy 16-foot dugout canoe that was nosed up at the bank and was floating between two poles. Thompson was arguing in broken Portuguese with Hashamo, the native guide, about where to place the satellite dish. With a three-foot diameter, it was wider than the canoe. Why the hell hadn’t Thompson retired

that geostationary contraption and bought a hand-held satellite phone that works off the lower orbiting system? Do you have to be old-fashioned to be an academic?

With white hair, a long nose, gaunt cheeks and wearing a rumpled safari suit, Thompson did have the disheveled look of a university professor on a field expedition. He also had a desk worker’s slouch. But grudgingly, I had to admit that whatever this tall, large-boned specimen lacked in athleticism, he could probably make up with willingness to persist in the face of obstacles. All he needed was a little more common sense.

Hashamo ended the discussion by setting the satellite dish on end towards the rear of the boat and by jamming in a box of canned food to secure it. He turned his attention to Thompson’s bags, hauling them from the bank and packing them a couple of feet away from the slosh that had accumulated in the center of the boat. Hashamo had lively, intelligent eyes. He looked about 19 years old, but it is difficult to judge the age of an Amazon Indian. His five-foot, six-inch frame was lean and his reddish skin was stretched tautly over his well-developed muscles. His stomach was flat. And his only clothing was a pair of red boxer shorts.

Now, Hashamo was looking up at me, trying to tell me something. Over the last several days, I had learned to overlook the major differences in Amazon Indian and European physiognomy— the prominent cheekbones, that certain prominence of the mouth and forward set of the upper jaw, and the broad nose with large nostrils. I had also gotten used to their hair and hairstyle: their straight dark-black hair that was always cut in soup bowl fashion, creating a bang over the forehead and an abrupt overhang in back. Hashamo gestured that he wanted Rebecca’s bags placed in the front of the boat. I did his bidding.

Hashamo moved forward to help Thompson aboard. After the old professor was comfortably seated, it was time for Rebecca to take her place in the bow. Quickly, I hugged and kissed her before helping her in.

Hashamo was now turning his attention to the outboard motor. It was probably a Johnson, although it was hard to tell with the housing so bashed, scraped and painted over. Probably 15 horsepower and as many years old. It’s hard to judge the age of an Amazonian outboard.

“Take good care of her,” I yelled down to Thompson.

He answered with an impatient frown. “Be careful on the river,” I added. Thompson shook his head like I was talking trash. He had assured me yesterday that Hashamo had been making this trip for years, supplying the Mission and delivering goods on a regular schedule.

Then Rebecca surprised me.

“Ben. One thing I forgot. In two weeks, there’s going to be a tropical anthropology conference in Miami. I’m preregistered for it — too late to get a refund. Could you attend it for me?”

“Sure.”

“The announcement is on my desk at home.” “Anything special you want me to do?”

“Dr. Edith Pratt is going to speak. Could you take notes on her presentation?”

“Sure. I’ll take good notes and e-mail them to you. What does she do?”

“She’s a tropical anthropologist, specialized in Amazon Indians.”

“Which tribe?”

Thompson was fidgeting. Hashamo pulled the starter cord and

the engine came alive.

“I don’t know,” Rebecca called back over the roar.

Hashamo was goosing the accelerator, trying to keep the motor alive and was making a lot of white smoke in the process.

“Do you know her, David?” I asked.

“No,” he said with a grimace. Obviously the fields of tropical medicine and tropical anthropology had nothing to do with each other.

“Just thought maybe I could say hi to her for you, David.” Thompson answered with a signal that I was to cast them off.

Hashamo threw the motor in gear. The propeller beat a lot of air into the reddish water and stirred up a lot of silt in the process. Rebecca blew me a kiss as the boat pulled away from the dock. And for the next half hour, I watched as the boat traversed that vast expanse of black looking water — the Rio Negro. The river was very broad — several miles at least — and the far bank was just a strip of green. But I didn’t stop looking at the boat until it disappeared between the black and green horizons where I imagined a gap that would be the Rio Marauiá.

Then I remembered something I had forgotten to tell Rebecca: “Don’t forget to take your mefloquine once a week.” I didn’t want her to catch malaria.

I didn’t want her to leave me, either. But she had left me there to sing the Santa Isabel Blues.

 

2    The Pilot’s Tale

 

It was a real nutty blues lyric that I cooked up while standing there, needlessly, in the morning sun:

Oh, riverboat come get me, come take me away!

Take me down to Manaus, you can get there in four days.

Blow your horn and I’ll come running with my backpack shouldered high,

An’ four days later Saint Varig’s chariot will lift me in the sky.

To a blue heaven where the air is cool enough to think, Where you can get a glass of water that’s pure enough to drink.

Ol’ riverboat, come get me, or my consulting job I’ll lose, Ol’ riverboat please don’t leave me here to sing the Santa Isabel Blues.

If I didn’t get back to Miami quickly, my consulting project would go down the tubes. I thought long and hard about that three- foot stack of papers sitting on my desk in Miami.

But my thoughts were not productive. Standing in the morning sun like a lazy river boy, I began to wonder if I was more like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. Physically, I’d make a better match with Huck Finn. You might describe my features, inherited from my second-generation Italian parents, as Mediterranean. I have lots of black hair on my head, and on my chest, too. At five-foot- eight, I’m a little on the short side. But a lot of girls have said that I have a winning smile, so maybe that’s more like Tom Sawyer. I did admire the way Tom handled that fence painting assignment. And, come to think of it, our love interests have the same name: Becky is just short for Rebecca. It was Aunt Polly who’d cracked the whip over Tom, and it was Chief Medical Examiner Geoffrey A. Westley who’d administered the kick in the butt that got me into the Ph.D. program.

Of course, my river was bigger than Tom’s. The Amazon is a heck of a lot longer than the Mississippi and it puts out 12 times as much water. Even the Rio Negro, its northern tributary on which I was standing, puts out more water than the Mississippi.

And the sun over the Rio Negro was a lot hotter. Maybe that’s why so many of the Brazilian caboclos sat around chewing hallucinogenic ebene seeds like Huck Finn’s Arkansas rednecks with their “chaws.” How hopeless, when your only source of food is the fish you can pull from the river and the vegetables you can grow in your garden. How lucky I was to be born in the U.S. and to have a white collar job, even if it did require a lot of hard work and scheming.

Standing under the brain-deadening sun, I began to understand the mindless exploitation of the Amazon basin. It’s not easy to find a high-value product. It’s easier to tear down forests to make paper pulp and charcoal. It’s easier to rent your body to the owners of the gold and diamond mines. And if you turn stream beds into stagnant ponds and mountainsides into ugly pits, so what? Natural beauty is nice, but it doesn’t put much food on the table.

I waded into the water and soaked my head. I unbuttoned my khaki shirt and splashed my chest. That was much better, but the water was full of decay products from the rain forest floor: tannin and carboxylic acids. Jacques Cousteau reported that the pH gets as low as 3.2. Actually, the average value is about 5.2, which is low enough to kill mosquitoes. I wondered how fish could live in it.

Attempting to fight off stupor with purposeful physical action, I walked along the river’s banks in the downstream direction, working my way around stilt-mounted caboclo shacks, beached boats and fishing nets. One-half of a mile downstream, I found something

interesting: a seaplane tied to a floating dock that extended a dozen

yards into the river.

I recognized it as a Lake Amphibian. It wasn’t just a regular aircraft mounted on pontoons. This was a truly amphibious aircraft that sits in the water. Its underside had the hydrodynamic design of a high-speed boat. I walked up the dock and peered through the plane’s large, rounded windshield. The cockpit was enormous. The pilot and copilot would have plenty of shoulder room. The high- winged plane would also afford good visibility through the large, rounded side windows. The aft portion of the fuselage tapered and rose. From just below the tail assembly protruded a tightly stowed grappling anchor. It looked like someone had stuck a multi-barbed fishhook up the plane’s rear end. Oh, what innovations these bush pilots think up!

The engine was mounted on a pylon, high above the passenger compartment and protected against splashing water. Retractable wheels were tucked in above waterline on either side. Nice plane if you live on the water. I heard that Jimmy Buffet has one of them down in the Florida Keys.

Painted on the side of the aircraft was “Amazon Touristic.” Funny suffix they used to end the word “tour.” Certainly not Portuguese or English. What kind of tours did this plane take, anyway? Being 400 miles northwest of Manaus, our location was too remote for an “eco-lodge” catering to ecology-minded North American and European tourists. And the sport fishing boats didn’t prefer the Rio Negro either. The river was dead compared to the main branch of the Amazon. And it seemed pretty expensive to use an airplane for a fishing boat.

Maybe Amazon Touristic was providing “tours” for illegal substances. What would they be? The plane wouldn’t have enough range to fly cocaine to the Florida Keys. It would have to refuel at the Venezuelan coast. And this area wasn’t good for growing coca, anyway — too wet and hot. The Andean growing regions were over

600 miles to the west and northwest. Maybe the plane was shuttling untaxed diamonds from the south. Or maybe it was supporting an illegal gold mining operation in the Yanomama Indian territory directly north of us.

Several dozen yards up the bank was a stack of fuel drums. Farther inland was a sprawling shack with a tin roof. Of course, it would have been ridiculous and possibly dangerous to knock on the door and try to talk with someone about the plane.

I went back to my tent and ate a quick lunch of combat rations. Afterwards, I knocked on the door of the Funai station. The husband and wife team who were running it invited me in for a cup of coffee. Marcello and Lucia Campos de Carvaloh weren’t much older than me. Marcello had the dark curly hair and olive complexion that you might expect to see in Lisbon. Lucia had a long, handsome face with nicely formed eyebrows and a robust head of black hair that made charming curls around the collar of her white blouse. Trade their shorts and sandals for a J.C. Penney ensemble and neither would have looked out of place in the downtown of Providence, Rhode Island.

They spoke little English, so we made do with Portuguese — their Portuguese and my Spanish which I tried to bend in the direction of Portuguese. The conversation was hard work, requiring ingenuity of everyone’s part. Most of the time, Marcello stood back with crossed arms, letting Lucia do most of the talking and supplying only an occasional nod. Lucia worked hard to answer my questions, emphasizing certain words with a blink of the eye and elaborating on others with a diverse repertoire of gestures of her shapely forearms.

She said that I was welcome to stay another night in the tent and not to worry — a southbound freighter was sure to come by the next day. She explained that this was their first government assignment. They were responsible for indigenous affairs for part of the Pico da Neblina National Park in the southwestern portion of Yanomama territory directly north of us, on the Rio Marauiá. The whole territory is about the size and shape of Pennsylvania, with the southern part belonging to Brazil and the northern part to Venezuela. She explained that a low mountain range makes the division. Access from the Brazilian side is via a half-dozen rivers that flow into the Rio Negro.

Lucia said that I shouldn’t worry about Rebecca’s safety because Senhor Doutor Thompson has made this trip every year for five years with no trouble. Theirs was not the busiest or most troubled of the Funai posts responsible for the Yanomama Indians. Of course, the eastern section by Boa Vista had a lot of trouble with the garimpeiros — the gold miners — when they invaded the

region, 15 years ago. But the garimpeiros were thrown out and the damage is healed.

I thanked my hosts for the explanation and asked how they could help Rebecca if she got into trouble.

Lucia said that they control access up the Rio Marauiá and that no one is allowed up the river without a permit. They had shortwave radio contact with the Mission and had a satellite phone to speak to Manaus in a rare emergency. Sometimes they had to ship a young man down the river for treatment when he breaks his arm in a fight. But the Indians who are in contact are more peaceful, now. Machetes are allowed up the river now, because they are used to construct shabonos — the tribes’ communal huts. But handguns, rifles and shotguns are not allowed.

Lucia said one of their jobs was to coordinate public health programs. Once a year, an Army doctor goes upriver to give vaccinations. “It is nice that Senhora Doutora Levis is helping at the Mission and giving them better health care,” she said with a sympathetic smile. “No, there is no chance that she will come into danger.”

The conversation took nearly two hours. I thanked Lucia and Marcello for their hospitality and retired to my tent where I ate a dinner that was a lot like lunch — freeze-dried military rations.

When nightfall came, it came very quickly. Although intending to go to sleep early, I was distracted by music wafting in from the distance. I wondered if it was coming from the waterfront bar that Rebecca and I had seen by the landing where our freighter had put in. Encouraged by the thought that I’d done something that day to earn a cold beer, and that alcohol would help me to get to sleep, I grabbed a flashlight and followed the jeep trail to the Rio Negro.

The bar was a couple of hundred yards up the river. It was built on poles for protection against flooding. I walked up a wooden stairway along the woven reed wall, ascending to a planked platform that held a bar and two rough-hewn picnic tables, lighted by several bare bulbs hanging from the thatch ceiling. The music was coming from an oversized boom box, also hanging from the ceiling. I guessed the power was coming from the portable generator I’d heard while approaching the stairs. The edge of the platform was secured with a rope strung between the outside poles that held up the roof. The bar was little more than a high, eight-foot-long table with a woven reed skirt. Behind it was a barmaid, wearing a string bikini bottom and a shapeless, tight-fitting halter top that flattened her small breasts. Yes, this was probably the halfway station to a cathouse further up the river.

One of the tables was occupied by three caboclos who were engaged in serious conversation. The other table was empty, but it sat directly under the boom box which was turned up full blast. So I grabbed a wicker stool at the end of the bar. At the other end sat a blond, gringo-looking guy who must have been six-foot-three. He had heavy bones, solid muscles, brooding posture and a broad, solid face that was deeply furrowed. He was probably in his upper thirties but could easily pass for mid-forty. His left cheek bore a long scar and his forehead bore a short one. Were these the result of an on-the-job accident or a knife fight? Coarse, wavy blond hair hung well over his ears but not to the shoulder. I gave him a respectful nod before sitting down.

Una cervesa,” I said to the barmaid. She understood that a beer was ordered and ducked under the bar and rummaged in a tiny refrigerator, the type that runs off of 12 volt power in recreational vehicles.

Although I hadn’t spoken those two words half as loud as the boom box, the guy at the end of the bar got into the act immediately. He started telling me, in heavily German-accented English, that I wasn’t pronouncing the word for beer right in Portuguese.

Uma cerveja,” he corrected. He said it again and again, drawing out the m in uma and the j in cerveja like I was a dumb kid who was hard of hearing. He gave me no choice but to repeat it after him.

He finally let me off the hook. “So ist’s richtig, mein Ami Brüderlein.” His deep, forceful bass voice sounded strangely familiar. It was those records that a Swarthmore prof had played for us back in German 101 — of a guy singing in German about sailing the high seas and visiting ports all over the world. “Freddy” or “Heino” was the singer’s name.

And this drunken Nordic Goth had just called me “little brother.”

 

Continued….

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AMAZON GOLD >>>>

Like A Great Thriller? Then we think you’ll love our brand new Thriller of the Week: From Dirk Wyle’s Medical Mystery AMAZON GOLD – A hard-boiled thriller with a scientific twist and readers are already raving – 4.5 Stars on Amazon with all rave reviews & now just $3.99 or FREE via Kindle Lending Library

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Amazon Gold: A Ben Candidi Mystery (Ben Candidi Mystery Series)

by Dirk Wyle
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Here's the set-up:
Ben signed up to be a highly paid pharmaceutical consultant, not an industrial spy in Miami.

Rebecca signed up to be a world health physician, not a hostage in the Brazilian Amazon.

But strange things can happen when you discover a new kind of gold.


Series author Dirk Wyle has created a new kind of mystery-thriller -- powered by medical science, business and anthropology, and driven by the professional challenges of a two-career couple. In a stunning climax, Ben and Rebecca are reunited to discover astonishing truths -- and to fight for their lives.

"Wyle has given the hard-boiled thriller a scientific twist, making his novels pleasing for both their intrigue and their intellect."

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Sally Jane Riley is not your typical mild-mannered librarian. Living and working in her hometown of Waxhaw, NC, she challenges the symptoms of her schizoaffective disorder every day in her best attempt at living a normal life. Soon after moving into her new home, she begins to experience dreams and...
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"You'll feel like you're living in this book ..."Sam Milton's normal life is turned upside-down by a chance deathbed revelation:"There's a gold mine out there ... "This sparks a ten-year obsession and Sam's life becomes a solitary struggle of self and purpose. He works in secret, lying...
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Like A Great Thriller? Then we think you’ll love our brand new Thriller of the Week: From Dirk Wyle’s Medical Mystery AMAZON GOLD – A hard-boiled thriller with a scientific twist and readers are already raving – 4.5 Stars on Amazon with all rave reviews & now just $3.99 or FREE via Kindle Lending Library

Our Thriller of the Week Sponsor, Dirk Wyle’s Bahamas West End Is Murder, Provides This Free Excerpt!

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by Dirk Wyle
Here’s the set-up:
As vacationing Ben Candidi and Rebecca Levis sail through International Waters toward Grand Bahama Island, they receive a strange welcome—a sinking cabin cruiser with a dead man at the helm. Ben knows how to patch bullet holes below the waterline and Rebecca knows how to estimate time of death. And they agree that the West End marina is the right place to bring the body. To avoid trouble, they play it dumb and treat the cocaine-smuggling marina tenants as the divers and sport fishermen they are pretending to be. Unfortunately, the mailbox corporation in Miami that owns the yacht ignores Ben’s $100,000 salvage claim—and the Bahamian police won’t let him move the yacht to Florida. The harder Ben and Rebecca press their claim, the more sinister West End becomes. Should they cut their losses and run? Or is it too late already?
And now, for you to ‘try before you buy’, the author offers this lengthy, free excerpt:

Chapter 1 – Lucky 13

 

“Sunrise 6:45 a.m., Latitude 27° 39.6, Longitude 79° 0.8, heading for the Little Bahama Bank, 13 miles due south.”

I made the notation in the Diogenes’ log one minute after sunrise. I made it promptly, then pushed aside the hand-held GPS satellite navigation unit and marked the position on our two-by-three-foot chart of the Little Bahama Bank. I had no idea how important the notation would become – one minute later.

My plan was to approach the Little Bahama Bank at a point between the Middle Shoal and the Lilly Sand Bank. I called up the revised course to Rebecca.

We had left the Chesapeake Bay eleven days earlier and were at the end of a difficult November passage. Our tired, sleep-deprived bodies longed for the tranquil waters of the Bahamas – the baha mar or shallow sea, as the Spanish explorers called it. What a pleasure it would be to toss out the hook into the 12-foot water of the protected Bank, hoist up the yellow quarantine flag and sleep all day and night!

Or so we thought.

The weather was cooperating, now. The sky was blue and cloudless. A warm, 10-knot breeze filled our three sails from behind and pushed us along at a respectable five knots. One-foot waves overtook us slowly, lifting our stern gently and nudging us along. Yes, off to the west that virtual river called the Gulf Stream was sweeping northward out of the Straits of Florida. But here, shielded by the Bank, we didn’t have to sail against it. In fact, an eddy current from the Gulf Stream must have been helping us along. The GPS said we were approaching the Bank somewhat faster than the knot meter said we were moving through water.

I was below deck, in the cabin. Since the Diogenes is a 36-foot sailing yacht, tradition allows me to call this space the “main salon,” but it seemed horribly cramped at the time. I was sitting at the dinette table where the charts were laid out. I looked up the companionway or cabin entrance to catch a glimpse of Rebecca. Standing in the open cockpit behind the wheel, my soul mate was looking ahead with helmsman’s concentration. Her straight black hair was pulled back into a ponytail, her usual style when engaged in serious work. Her fine-featured, narrow face was still showing evidence of our rough days in the Atlantic. But a couple of restful days would erase those strain lines from her lovely face. Her yellow foul-weather jacket reminded me of the days and nights of bone-chilling wind and relentless spray that she had endured without complaint. But the wind was warmer now. Her jacket was open and could soon be taken off. In a few minutes, the rising sun would be warming her svelte, athletic body.

Within two hours, I thought, we would be anchored in protected water, enjoying the first day of a two-month, between-jobs, Bahamas vacation.

But that was not to be.

“Cabin cruiser dead ahead.” Rebecca called the information down to me in a helmsman’s style. She has an expressive voice that makes full use of the soprano register. “Approaching at trawling speed. We’ll pass it on the starboard.”

“Well, it’s our lucky sign,” I called back with enthusiasm. “Wave to them for me.”

When Rebecca spoke again, she sounded worried. “Nobody’s waving back, Ben. And it looks real low in the water.”

I came up with binoculars and looked it over: a big cabin cruiser, probably 40 feet long, trawling slowly in the water but with no outrigger poles or fishing lines. Nobody at the high outdoor steering station, the “flying bridge.” And nobody standing in the cockpit, the open area in the back that serves as a platform for fishing. The navigation lights were on, unnecessarily now that the sun was up. And the boat was deep in the water, like it was carrying a heavy load up front. The steady stream of water shooting out the side told me the bilge pump was going full blast. And that could only mean that the boat was taking on water – lots of water.

I felt my throat tighten. “You’re right, Rebecca, it’s sinking.”

I reached through the companionway to the radio attached to the ceiling of the cabin. I grabbed the mike and switched on Channel 16. “Forty-foot cabin cruiser on the northwest end of the Little Bahama Bank, this is the thirty-six-foot, two-masted sailing vessel the Diogenes. You are low in the water and seem to be in distress. Please acknowledge! Over.”

There was no response. We had just passed it, and now I could make out its name on the transom – Second Chance. The name was close to the water and the city of registration was partially submerged. From the tops of the m’s and i’s, we could just make out that it was from Miami. The exhaust ports were submerged; the exhaust was coming up as bubbles and froth. The tub was dangerously low in the water.

“Second Chance, Second Chance, Second Chance! This is the Diogenes. You are in deep distress. We are going to board you.”

No response.

“How are we going to do it?” Rebecca asked, her voice cracking.

And that was exactly what I was asking myself. Our hard-bottomed inflatable was stowed on the deck, upside down between the bow and masthead. It would take too long to untie and launch it.

“We have to do this vessel-to-vessel,” I said. “We’ll take down the sails and motor up. We’ll do it all in one maneuver.”

In one fluid move, Rebecca leaned and reached towards the engine control panel. She pushed the button. The Diogenes’ inboard diesel cranked, then sprang to life. She threw the motor into gear. “Ready into the wind, Ben.”

I answered with a nod.

Rebecca threw over the wheel, the boat turned into the wind, and the big Genoa headsail came flapping inboard. I loosened its halyard and went into a frenzy, pulling down on the fluttering sail while making my way over the inflatable and stuffing canvas between the stainless steel tubes of the bow “pulpit.”

Clambering back to the mast, I pulled down the fluttering main sail and tucked it under the bungie cords strung on the boom. No time for the third sail fluttering behind on the mizzen mast. The stern of the Second Chance was coming up too fast.

Rebecca slowed the engine. “What are you going to do, Ben?”

“Got to find the leak and plug it,” I said, between breaths. “When you get to within ten yards of the boat, slow down, match its speed and inch up. I’ll jump from the bowsprit.”

I started for the bow.

“Ben, use your head!” Rebecca screamed. “Get a life jacket and a lifeline.”

“Okay.”

“And take the hand-held VHF.”

“Good thinking. I’ll call you on Channel Sixteen.” I scrambled down to the cabin, got the stuff and raced back to the pulpit. I tied the hand-held VHF marine radio to the life jacket, put it on, and tied a 12-foot length of shock cord to my waist. Tied the other end to the halyard that raises the Genoa.

“Ten feet and closing,” I yelled. “I’m calling out the distances from the bowsprit.”

The Diogenes’ bowsprit increases the boat’s length by three feet. Besides increasing the sail area and making the boat look more nautical, that pole serves an important function: To its tip is attached the so-called forestay cable that keeps the mast in place. Bang off the bowsprit and your mast will come crashing down.

“Eight feet,” I yelled.

The tip was eight feet away and chopping up and down with two-foot amplitude. The boats were out of sync in the waves.

“Five feet,” I yelled.

I climbed onto the pulpit and inched my way out on the bowsprit, holding the forestay for balance. I checked that my safety line wasn’t hung up somewhere. Rebecca’s face was drawn tight with concentration and concern.

“Four feet,” I yelled back to her.

Four feet ahead and between two and four feet below me, as we bobbed in the waves. The cabin cruiser’s transom was too narrow a target to land on. I’d have to jump over it and land in the open cockpit. Timing myself to the next surge, I leaned forward, curled my toes, and jumped with all my might.

As in a bad dream, I flew over the yacht’s transom and over the length of its cockpit, coming down on my side. I dropped a shoulder and pulled in my head as I rolled. The life jacket absorbed most of the shock and something else took care of the rest – a man’s body.

I pushed away from him fast enough. Something else helped me to my feet. It was the lifeline, tugging at my waist, dragging me back and lifting me as the mast of the Diogenes receded. I untied that line a second before it could drag me overboard.

I turned and took stock of the situation. The man was lying in a small pool of blood in front of the door to the main salon. Lifeless. Nothing my physician fiancée could do for him. I stepped over him, opened the door and looked down on a chaos of floating cushions and sloshing water in the main salon. I pulled the radio to my face and squeezed down on the transmitter button.

“Rebecca. Maintain station at about twenty yards. There’s a dead man aboard. The main salon has two to three feet of water. I’m going below. When you get a chance, take photos that will show how low the boat is in the water.”

“Roger,” she replied, affirming my request.

I threw the bulky life jacket to the floor of the cockpit, descended into the wash, and waded to the indoor steering station. The electric switches on the control panel were less than a foot above water and were getting sloshed periodically by the indoor waves that were running back and forth through the boat. With the voltage indicators showing 13.4, the engine’s alternators were still making electricity. The ammeter told me that the boat was using five amps.

I flipped a toggle switch labeled “bilge pump” and the needle on the ammeter didn’t change.

That was bad news: There was no additional bilge pump, and the one that was working already couldn’t work any faster.

Only one way to save the yacht – find the leak and plug it.

But how to find it? Grope around in the wash? Swim around the outside, looking for holes? No, I would work the problem backwards:

The murderer wanted to scuttle the yacht. The fastest way for him to do that would be to cut a hose leading to a through-the-hull connection.

I waded forward and two steps down to the “head.” The water was up to my chest. I opened the door, took a deep breath, pulled myself down, and groped around the toilet. The salt water flush line was intact, the effluent line was intact, and there was no back-flow through the toilet bowl. Came up for breath and did the same thing around the sink. Everything was intact.

I elbowed my way out of the head and waded back to the kitchenette near the companionway and did the same thing for the sink. Everything intact. Hell! Only one place left to look for a severed hose – in the engine room. The access door was halfway submerged near the companionway steps. It opened to reveal a pair of diesel engines, submerged almost to the top of their fan belts. Movement of the belts and wheels frothed the water before me and sprayed the ceiling of the squat compartment. But it was amazingly quiet. Immersion in water had decreased the engine noise – and was threatening to drown the engines, too. Every few seconds one of them slowed and shuddered. Their air intakes were just a few inches above the average water level and were getting splashed regularly. The engines were choking like a couple of caged lions in a sinking Roman galley. And by opening the door I was letting waves roll into the compartment, making things worse.

Probing carefully in the froth, I found the raw water hoses and ran my fingers along them as far back as possible, turning my head to avoid the fan belts. To trace the hoses the rest of the way, I crawled over the motors, taking care to stay away from the alternators and whirling belts. Followed the hoses all the way down to their seacocks. Everything was intact. Found one spare seacock, and it was closed.

Damn. No leak to be found in the engine room. Where was it, then?

I climbed back over the engines and back into the main salon. Closed the door and returned to the cockpit where the hand-held radio was squawking a hailing message from Rebecca. I squeezed down on the transmitter button. “Rebecca, I’m having trouble finding the leak.”

“Where have you been?” Her naturally high voice rose to a horrified screech. “You haven’t responded to page for ten minutes.” Under pressure, she was reverting to hospital jargon.

“I was in the engine compartment. The water was too high to take along the radio.”

“In the engine compartment?”

No time to tell her the whole story. “Can’t find any torn hoses or open seacocks. The bad guys must have made a hole somewhere. I’m going to inspect the hull.”

“Don’t go over the side. I forbid you!” She screamed it so loud that I heard her voice through the air.

“Okay, then I’ll have to inspect it from the inside. Over.”

“Diogenes standing by.”

I climbed back into the main salon and felt my way along every submerged section of the hull I could lay hands on, cursing the boat maker for leaving all those sharp fiberglass spines on the unfinished surfaces. One of the engines was sputtering badly. After 10 minutes of groping, my bloodied hands found the leak. It was on the port side, in a compartment under a bench near the dinette table. Water was welling up through the compartment like a Florida spring. And in the subdued light under the table, the compartment was filled with a light-blue glow. I dunked my face and saw it better: one hand-sized hole, and three finger-sized holes, all aglow in ocean blue. Viewing it from inside that black box with water streaming past my face, the ocean seemed unstoppable and infinitely deep.

The weak engine sputtered again and almost died.

I staggered to the galley, tore open a drawer, and found what I needed – a steak knife. Grabbed one of the floating cushions, ripped it open, and cut off a big piece of foam. I rolled it tight and stuffed it down the compartment, wedging it in as best I could. Held my breath and moved my hands around inside the compartment, testing for flow. My patch was working. Must have slowed the leak down to one-third.

The sick engine was getting sicker. Nothing I could do for it; opening the engine room door might let in a wave that would kill it. I thought about increasing the revs, but that might dig in the stern and drown it for sure. What was keeping the stern afloat, anyway, with those heavy engines in back?

Nothing to do but pray. No, too early for that. Nothing to do but be objective.

With the knife, I slashed marks on the wall along the waterline. I started the timer function on my watch. Time and water level were two things I could measure objectively. I went topside and leaned over the port rail to check the bilge pump output. It was still fighting, putting out a steady stream of water.

The sick engine’s cough was starting to sound healthier. I waved to Rebecca, giving her thumbs up. She waved back.

I knelt down to inspect the crime scene: one tall, heavy-boned, muscular man lying facedown in a small pool of blood. This time I noticed the gunshot wound in the back of his head, obscured by his thick blond hair. I rolled him at the shoulder and found what I expected: a gunshot wound in the chest. His muscular arms were lightly tanned, like you might expect for a weekend boater with a desk job. His face and neck were red, from sunburn. He was probably handsome before, with that broad forehead and those widely spaced eyes. Now they were glazed over and bulging from their sockets.

With both engines sounding a lot better now, I turned my attention to the proximate cause of death. It wasn’t a full bleed-out, so the chest shot must have stopped his heart. During the six years that I had worked as a lab tech with the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s office, I learned a thing or two about cause of death. And after three years spent in a pharmacology Ph.D. program, I’d learned a lot of systemic physiology. And Rebecca is always teaching me something new about medicine.

Something was under the man’s stomach. Rolling him at the hips, I pulled out a pair of night vision goggles. Lifting them carefully and putting them up to my face, I saw a solid wall of eerie green. They were still on – maxed out by the daylight. I clicked off the switch and put them down.

I gave Rebecca another thumbs up and climbed the ladder to the open steering station on the roof of the cabin – the flying bridge or “flybridge,” as it is usually called. On the floor I noticed more blood. The victim had received the chest shot up there. Then he had fallen to the deck where his assailant delivered the coup de grâce.

The flybridge had a control panel just like below. The gauges said that the alternators were still making electricity. The tachometers said the revs were around 800. The readings on the oil pressure gauges were about right. The knot meter registered about two knots. The autopilot was engaged and holding the course straight.

Now for the big question: Were we still sinking?

I went back to the main salon and checked the water level against my marks. The bilge pumps had dropped the water level six inches. I checked the timer function on my watch. Only three minutes had elapsed. That was strange because it felt like so much longer. I waited another minute and checked again. Yes, the bilge pumps were dropping the water level two inches a minute. The situation was under control.

I picked up the radio on the way to the flybridge. After taking a look around, I squeezed down on the transmitter button. “Candidi to Diogenes. Switch to Channel Thirteen.”

Channel 13 is used for short-range conversations with bridge keepers. On our equipment, Channel 13 was set to transmit with only one watt of power – enough power for close-in conversations and impossible to hear several miles away.

“Diogenes to Candidi, over to Thirteen,” answered Rebecca.

She made the switch and said, “Diogenes on Thirteen. Sounds like a serious situation. Go ahead, please.” She sounded real professional.

“I can rescue the boat, but that’s all I can rescue.”

“I copy that,” Rebecca answered, affirming that she heard and understood my message. “I guessed that, too.”

“Let’s scan the horizon for other boats.”

Extending a dozen feet over the flybridge was a “tuna tower,” a framework of aluminum tubes that come together to form a platform and lookout station. The elevation of the tuna tower provides a definite advantage in locating fast-moving schools of those fish. The elevation also offers an advantage in locating boats that might be just below the horizon.

I climbed the tuna tower and did a 360-degree sweep with the naked eye. No boats in view. One hundred yards astern, Rebecca was doing the same thing, using binoculars.

Climbing down, I noticed that the yacht had a cylindrical radar antenna. The unit had a small display mounted on the flybridge control panel. The radar was on and the screen was showing two big green splotches. The one in the center was the Diogenes’ radar reflector and the one at the bottom of the display must have been the water tower that marked our destination, the town of West End. And the scope was showing a lot of little blips that couldn’t have been boats. It was showing a lot of so-called false returns. The signal amplification was turned up too high.

My hand-held radio was amplifying a lot of static, too. But Rebecca killed it with her carrier signal when she squeezed down on the transmitter button. She waited a second or two before speaking. “No boats on the horizon, Ben.”

“Good. That’s just as well. Good guys can’t do anything to help, and I don’t want the bad guys to hear.” I told her what I’d seen and done. “You didn’t broadcast any distress signals, did you?”

“No. The only information that went out on Channel Sixteen was what you said about the dead man on board. Then we talked about the leak. What are we going to do, Ben?”

“Bring this smudge pot to the marina at West End, Grand Bahama Island, and call the police.”

“Maybe we could use our cellphones?”

“You can try, but I don’t think they will work. When we left Washington I didn’t request activation for the Bahamas. And the Florida coast is too far away to get reception.”

The Florida coast was about 70 miles west of us.

“I’ll try them anyway.”

“Okay. If you get the Bahamian police, be sure to tell them that we found the boat in International Waters and that we are going to file a salvage claim in Miami. That’s where this boat is home ported.”

“Hold on and I’ll try right now,” Rebecca said. I listened to static for a few minutes while she went below to get her cellphone. Then she came back on and said, “You were right, Ben. I can’t get any signal.”

“Did you take the photos?”

“Yes. They’ll show it sinking. I also did a work-up in our log.”

I love Rebecca’s physician lingo.

“Great. Could you go below and find my cordless drill, a screwdriver and a collection of screws? Self-tapping would be best. When you get them, come along side and toss the stuff over to me. If all goes well, I’ll have the boat pumped dry in another twenty minutes. But before we turn around and get underway, I want to put on a patch with solid backing.”

“Sure, I’ll get your tools. I’ll also give you a fever thermometer for a time-of-death estimate.”

“Good thinking.”

“Roger. You’ll have your tools in a few minutes. What do you want me to do after that?”

“I’d like you to take a look at the chart on the table. Figure a course around the ‘MS’ marker – the course should be about two-seven-zero – and then down along the western edge of the Little Bahama Bank.”

“You don’t want to go straight south and over the Bank?”

“It’s too complicated when each of us has a boat to steer. And too difficult to eyeball. Too many shallow ‘sand bores’ and ‘fish muds’ to watch out for. And the eastside approach to West End is a tricky channel. No, I want to take it on the outside, along the west edge of the Bank.”

“But we’ll have to fight the Gulf Stream.”

“We’ll hug the edge of the Bank where the water’s about forty feet deep and there won’t be much problem. The bottom contours are fairly regular. Use the depth sounder as your guide. I’d like us to make seven knots. Once we get level with Grand Bahama Island, we just turn ninety degrees to the left and head into West End.”

“Roger that. Are we going to keep our radio transmissions like this, all the way?”

“Roger. I’ll put out the word to West End just before we pull in there. That way it will be too late for the bad guys to do anything.”

“Okay, Ben. Stand by for your tools in about five minutes.”

I went below and made another three-minute mark on the wall. Spent some time picking floating debris out of the water so the pump would have less chance of getting fouled. There was so little debris that I wondered if the boat had been lived in. And no marijuana or cocaine floating around. No paper money, either. The lowering water revealed no more corpses and not much paraphernalia, except for an old radio direction finder dish and a hand-held radio, both waterlogged.

The front face of the main salon was dominated by a large, clear, slanted window that gave good visibility for the indoor piloting station. The sides also had large expanses of tinted glass. When I noticed the Diogenes pulling alongside, I went to the cockpit to receive the tools. Rebecca threw them over in an inflated, knotted garbage bag. She’d wrapped the things in a clean white sheet, which I could use to cover the corpse when the time came. She’d also included two sandwiches, an apple, a plastic bottle of water, paper napkins, my hat, my Polaroid sunglasses, and a tube of sunscreen lotion. That girl thinks of everything.

It took the pump 22 minutes to clear out all the water. After it did, it shut off and was able to stay off most of the time. By opening an access hatch in the floor, I was able to verify that it was a single pump, operated by a float switch.

My jammed-in rubber foam plug was doing a good job at two knots, but a more robust one would be needed for travel at seven knots. I selected another cushion and cut up a new piece of foam for the sturdier design I had in mind. Went to the head and removed the toilet seat cover to use as a solid backing. Before starting, I laid out all the tools on the bench. Got a face full of water while pulling out the old plug and inserting the new one. But the foam rubber made an excellent fit and the four screws held the plastic backing tightly to the hull. They were easy to screw in, once I drilled the tap holes.

With that done, I opened the door to the engine compartment to find the two lions roaring loudly. I removed the oil caps and made a quick inspection of the innards of those diesel, overhead-valve engines. Flowing over the rockers and tappets was a stream of hot, clean-smelling, yellow oil. No milky emulsion of oil and seawater like I’d been worrying about. Good. The Second Chance would return to port under its own power. The alternators were looking healthy, but I didn’t want them crudding up with salt as they dried out. I went to the sink in the galley, got a pan of fresh water, and splashed them down.

Taking the victim’s temperature required loosening his pants for anal insertion of the fever thermometer. While waiting for it to come to equilibrium, I noticed a light pattern of finely divided blood spatter on the cabin door. Studying it for a couple of minutes, I saw that it fit perfectly with an executioner’s shot to the head.

I called in the temperature to Rebecca.

“Good, Ben. I’m writing it down. Check his jaw and appendages for stiffness.”

“Jaw is not movable. Arm is very hard to move.”

“Good. My preliminary estimate is that the death was about eight hours ago. But please check the temperature every half hour. That will improve our estimate. You can check for stiffness again, in another hour – on another limb.”

“Roger that. You can change course whenever you are ready. Put on seven knots as soon as I fall in behind.”

I went to the flybridge and made careful note of several things. Most important was the yacht’s course on autopilot. It was 35° (northeast by north). Next was the RPM on the engines (unchanged) and our speed in the water, which was now 2.9 knots. Riding higher in the water, the yacht was now moving 0.9 knots faster than before. I punched out the autopilot, then changed the course and speeded up to fall in behind Rebecca. The patch held well at seven knots.

Leaning back in the captain’s seat, I congratulated myself for rescuing a valuable yacht and performing a crime scene investigation to professional standards. As I sat there, steering the boat’s wheel at one spoke using a paper napkin as a glove, my body slowly came down from an adrenaline high. But my brain didn’t relax. How lucky that the boat was 13 miles out when we discovered it. That put it in International Waters, one mile outside the Twelve Mile Limit. My brain was running all over the place, trying to remember facts about salvage law, estimating the value of the yacht, and calculating how big a salvage fee I could claim.

Luckily my free hand didn’t fumble around much during that brainstorm. When my eyes settled on the seat next to me, they made a shocking discovery: Lying in the crack of that seat was a long-barreled revolver – cocked and pointed at me.

 

 

Chapter 2 – A Good Citizen’s Duty

 

I punched in the autopilot and used the paper napkin to pick up the gun and let back its hammer. It didn’t smell like it had been fired, and all the visible chambers were loaded. Maybe the victim was an unlucky hunter who was killed before he could get off his first shot. I put the revolver in a drink holder under the console and went back to the routine: steering, thinking, and taking rectal temperatures on schedule.

It took an hour for the “MS” marker to come into view and another hour to round it and start heading south along the western edge of the Little Bahama Bank. Off to the right, the Gulf Stream water was as blue as the sky above us. And 20 to 40 feet below me, the bottom glided by – a patch of grass here, a patch of sand there, punctuated by chimney-shaped sponges and brain corals ranging in size from a picnic table to a VW bug. Occasionally I could make out a snapper, a yellowtail or a brightly colored reef fish. My Polaroid sunglasses did such a good job of blocking surface reflection that the water seemed to have no surface at all. It felt like flying over a landscape of green, beige, red, brown and blue hills and valleys, which rose gently to our left to meet a silvery horizon.

The bottom contours were so regular that Rebecca needed few adjustments to our average course of 165°. Here on the edge of the Bank, the Gulf Stream wasn’t fighting us more than one knot.

With little to do but follow Rebecca, I spent the time thinking about the crime we’d discovered. Why does a man go trawling at 2.9 knots at night without fishing line but with night vision goggles and a cocked revolver? Was it a drug deal gone bad? Was he the buyer or the seller? Was the revolver his only armament? Why hadn’t he taken a rapid-fire weapon? Was he doing the deal alone? Did he have a partner or sidekick? If the sidekick was the one who did it, how had he gotten off the boat? The stern didn’t have any davits for hanging a dinghy or inflatable boat behind. My inspection of the front deck didn’t reveal any shackles, straps or tie-downs for an inflatable, either. And why would the murderous sidekick take the chance of lining up the shot for the front of the chest when it is so much safer to shoot a guy from behind?

Well, when the police identified the victim and his boat and started interviewing people, they should be able to test the murderous sidekick theory for us. Correction: They would check it for themselves because Rebecca and I weren’t going to get involved.

The alternate theory would be that the victim was out alone and was attacked by a boat full of bad guys. They pulled up to him, knocked him down with a chest shot and sent one man aboard to deliver the executioner’s shot. The fact that they’d chosen to sink the boat with a tight pattern of shots at the waterline said many things about them. Either they were stupid, or they didn’t know much about boats, or they were in a big hurry.

Hell, if I’d wanted to scuttle this yacht and make it look like an accident, I would have laid a wrench on the bilge pump float switch so it couldn’t turn on, and I’d loosen the aviation clamp on one of the raw water hoses and pull off the hose. That would take the boat down in 15 minutes. Barracuda and shark would scatter the body parts and nobody would know that a crime was committed.

I went back to speculating about the victim’s intentions until Rebecca asked for another temperature reading for the time of death calculation. That got me wondering whether it would be possible to deduce the time of the attack from how long it took for the yacht to flood to the level we found. The principles were simple – a race between the leak and the pump. The pump has only two speeds: off and full speed. If the leak were slower than the pump there would have been no problem. The pump would click on when the water rose an inch or two, and would click off when it had pumped it back down. And the water would never rise above the bilge.

If the leak is faster than the pump, the boat will sink. If the leak is a lot faster, the boat will sink in a short time. If the leak is only a little bit faster, the boat will take a long time to sink.

I spent some time thinking about how I could use calculus to compute how long the race had been going on. Then I thought up a simple experiment that I could do, once we got the Second Chance to safety.

While eating the lunch that Rebecca made for me, my thoughts returned to the other calculation I had made:

We were going to earn $100,000!

The calculation was easy. This smudge pot had to be worth around $200,000. A salvager who saves a boat from going down can claim 50 percent of its value. Now $100,000 would be a nice chunk of change – enough to keep this biomedical scientist and his physician fiancée going for a couple of years. Between jobs, as we were, we could use the money. I had given up my job at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Rebecca had given up her fellowship in world health at George Washington University.

Actually, I’d given up the Patent Office job a couple of months earlier and had accepted a research assistant professorship at Bryan Medical School in Miami. After I’d worked hard there to start a career in laboratory research, the effort sort of exploded in my face. But that’s another story. After the dust settled, we sailed out of Chesapeake Bay, planning to take a two-month vacation cruising the Bahamas before looking for work in Miami. My long-range goal was to build up a pharmaceutical consulting practice. Rebecca’s plan was to find a job in an emergency room or to do family medicine in a small group practice. Her true passion, third world medicine, she would pursue in her spare time.

My black-haired, green-eyed soul mate called me on Channel 13 for another temperature reading. After giving it to her, I praised her piloting and her corned-beef sandwiches. She reminded me to put sunscreen lotion on my face and neck. I thanked her for thinking of me and keeping me on track.

I meant it sincerely. That slender, Manhattan-bred lady was the best thing that ever happened to this mid-sized, oversexed New Jersey Italian. Several years ago, she had rescued me from a downward spiral toward the life of a boat bum. She had shown me how to get useful work out of my high-voltage brainstorms. And, in appreciation, I had shown her a kind of love that she’d never experienced before. And now, with Rebecca in her late twenties and with me in my early thirties, we were lifetime partners.

Once we completed this salvage, our partnership was going to be $100,000 richer.

Of course big chunks of cheese invariably attract nibblers. It would be a shame to have to spend any of that money on a Bahamian lawyer. But I might need one if Bahamian bureaucracy asserted authority over the yacht. The best way to avoid pests is to leave nothing that will attract them in the first place. I spent some time formulating oral statements that I would make to the Bahamian police and customs officials. I worked them up as a half dozen sound bites that would reveal me as an expert on maritime law who would stoutly defend his rights:

“Were it not for the dead man on board and the need to bring the crime to the immediate attention of the nearest police authority, we would have taken the salvaged yacht directly to its home port of Miami.”

I practiced laying in a respectful pause and viewing the official with a diffuse gaze.

“It is, of course, unnecessary to say that the Bahamian Government has no jurisdiction over my salvage claim.”

I practiced waiting him out until he backed down. And I practiced a response if he turned argumentative.

“Of course I would be glad to render a written statement to that effect, if I were furnished with the name, title and address of the responsible official on the Bahamian side.”

I practiced those sound bites until they rolled off my lips with ease. Eventually I stopped pacing. I sat down and went back to thinking.

Maybe I didn’t really have to deal with Bahamian authority. Palm Beach was only 60 miles to the west. The rubber foam on my patch was fluttering, but it was holding well. The bilge pump was clicking on only once every 10 minutes. The engines were doing fine and the gauges said we had plenty of fuel. We could make the Port of Palm Beach in about 11 hours. We could hand the murder investigation over to the Palm Beach Sheriffs Department. They would investigate the murder professionally.

Or would Palm Beach complain that my actions had caused an intolerable delay? Would they accuse me of obstructing justice? West End was only four hours away. Maybe International Law actually required us to go to the nearest port with police authority, even if the crime was committed in International Waters.

Our New Thriller Of The Week Sponsor Is Dirk Wyle’s Bahamas West End Is Murder

Here to sponsor our terrific list of free mystery and thriller titles this week, it’s Dirk Wyle’s Bahamas West End Is Murder, a Ben Candidi Mystery:

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<div style=
by Dirk Wyle
5.0 stars – 1 Reviews
Lending: Enabled

Here’s the set-up:
As vacationing Ben Candidi and Rebecca Levis sail through International Waters toward Grand Bahama Island, they receive a strange welcome—a sinking cabin
cruiser with a dead man at the helm. Ben knows how to patch bullet holes below the waterline and Rebecca knows how to estimate time of death. And they agree
that the West End marina is the right place to bring the body. To avoid trouble, they play it dumb and treat the cocaine-smuggling marina tenants as the divers
and sport fishermen they are pretending to be. Unfortunately, the mailbox corporation in Miami that owns the yacht ignores Ben’s $100,000 salvage
claim—and the Bahamian police won’t let him move the yacht to Florida. The harder Ben and Rebecca press their claim, the more sinister West End becomes.
Should they cut their losses and run? Or is it too late already?

Each day’s list is sponsored by one paid title. We encourage you to support our sponsors and thank you for considering them.
Authors and Publishers: Interested in learning more about sponsorship? Just click on this link for more information.

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