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Erik Hanberg’s The Saints Go Dying Is Our New Thriller of the Week Sponsor!

Erik Hanberg’s The Saints Go Dying is here to sponsor lots of great, free Mystery and Thriller titles in the Kindle store:

by Erik Hanberg
4.5 stars – 12 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Arthur Beautyman, a computer hacker turned detective, is hunting a serial killer targeting modern day saints. Against him is an unscrupulous reality TV show and a member of his own department, who doesn’t know the hacker she’s tailing is in the office next door. It’s a deadly cat-and-mouse game set against the lights of Hollywood.

Each day’s list is sponsored by one paid title. We encourage you to support our sponsors and thank you for considering them.
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Free Contemporary Titles in the Kindle Store

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It was supposed to be an easy job, but it was only the beginning...Lucia is a retired spy, now running a security company that caters to the ultra-elite in her home country of Escondida, a beautiful Mediterranean island nation off the coast of Spain. Her latest client? The Prince of Escondida...
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Wade is only nine. He’s had a rough life. And in 1944 Mississippi, there is nowhere for him to turn.He’s been abandoned time and time again. Staying alive is his top priority. Feeding himself is a close second.After years of surviving on his own, a kind, well-dressed man offers young Wade a...
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When the daughter of a powerful crime boss goes missing, the boss orders a series of deadly interrogations. With no clear answers to what happened to his daughter, he calls upon Sarah Roberts. Either she finds his daughter, or there will be consequences involving her own child.Faced with this...
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Monsters come in all shapes and sizes . . .It’s tough being misunderstood. Humans don’t always get us. They usually label us the villains. It's hard for them to grasp what it's like to be a mischievous fairy, condemned witch, lonely sea creature, or delusional serial killer. They can't see that...
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Crack CIA analyst Trista Gold is a whiz with the computer, but not so much with people. She hides behind her job, analyzing Top Secret code and making recommendations on national security. She doesn’t need a man in her life. But she will, very soon... CIA K-9 officer Sgt. Matt Connors suspects...
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Lock 'N' Load (Federal K-9 Book 1)
By: Tee O'Fallon
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A podunk town. A demonic rabbit. An exorcist with no idea what she's doing...Kat is pissed when her prior sends her to Ipswich, a godforsaken town in the middle of nowhere, to confront a demon-ravaged rabbit. But as she begins to investigate, she discovers a pattern to this possession—one that...
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In New Orleans where jazz bands play until the first light of dawn, murder doesn’t sleep either. The legend of Voodoo Lucy begins when twenty-eight-year-old Lucinda (Lucy) Jones leaves Tupelo, Mississippi and her alcoholic, abusive, father behind to start a new life in New Orleans. Having long...
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Tupelo Gypsy (Voodoo Lucy Book 1)
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He Broke My Heart… That cold, cruel Vampire King.But then, I am just your typical, ordinary, everyday human girl who works and lives in London. Or at least, that’s what everyone thinks. I fled the supernatural world and the safety of my family who rule it, because being the only human born from...
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Am I the Avenging Hand of Korandos? F**cked if I know. What I do know is that I'm not like the rest of you. Not anymore. You're helpless before the monsters that secretly rule our world, but I'm not. You might not know it, but I'm doing all I can to keep you from being just a pawn, or a meal, to...
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There is a lifelong, internal battle about choices and their consequences. Set in picturesque Nainital, Hoodwinking Hope is the story of a group of individuals at a mental health clinic seeking to define the purpose of their lives. Some try to run away from their problems, some refuse to...
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Hoodwinking Hope
By: Aditya Shah
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A Generous, Free Excerpt From Our Thriller of the Week Sponsor: N. S. Wikarski’s The Granite Key

The Granite Key, from The Arkana Series, by N.S. Wikarski:

by N. S. Wikarski
4.1 stars – 11 Reviews

Here’s the set-up:
Forget everything you thought you knew about ancient history. The real facts have been buried… Until now! Imagine yourself a nineteen year old college student. Your life is normal in every way until a bizarre set of events drags you into a hidden world of danger. You are recruited by an underground society questing for artifacts that reconstruct the lost history of the human race. You are being pursued by a fanatical religious cult intent on acquiring a legendary relic before you do. A relic that, in the wrong hands, has the power to destroy the world.In a treasure hunt that spans twelve thousand years of human history and covers every continent, the Arkana series digs deep through the layers of fabricated history to reveal a past we never dreamed we had and a future we never dreamed we could have. A secret society. A fanatical cult. A telepathic girl.All vie to unlock the mysteries of the granite key. The quest leads halfway around the globe to the ruins of a forgotten civilization and a secret it has guarded for millennia. The fate of the world depends on who can get there first.

The Granite Key (The Arkana Series)

The author hopes you will enjoy this free excerpt:

Chapter 1 – Night Vision

 

Cassie felt herself sinking. She tried to drag herself to the surface. “Wake up stupid! It’s just a dream. This can’t be real. Wake up!”

She was standing in the shadows in her sister’s antique shop. It was late. Long past midnight. The room was dimly lit by a green banker’s lamp near the cash register. Sybil was standing in front of the glass showcase with a cell phone in her hand. There was a man standing near the door. A man wearing a Stetson hat and he was pointing a gun at her sister.

“Where’s the key, sugar?” His voice sounded lazy, casual. He had a southern drawl.

“I…I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sybil stammered. Her sister put the phone down and started inching her way along the showcase toward the rear storeroom.

The man shrugged. “Don’t make no difference to me but you don’t want me tearin’ up your neat little shop just to find it, now do you?”

“I told you I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Sybil’s reply was shrill, unconvincing.

Cassie wanted to rush forward to pull her sister away from the man with the gun. Her feet were glued to the floor. She couldn’t move. She tried to scream a warning. “Get out of here, Sybil. Run!” but all she felt was a rasp in her throat where the words should be.

The man advanced out of the shadows. He was close to six feet tall, maybe in his late twenties or early thirties. Cassie knew this had to be a dream because of his strange outfit. Aside from the cowboy hat, he wore a short denim jacket, a string tie around his neck, jeans and snakeskin cowboy boots.

The gun flicked slightly in his hand. “I tell you what. The service in this establishment ain’t very friendly.” He flipped his hat aside and it landed on an oak sideboard. His dark brown hair was combed back in a high wave. “I guess if you don’t want to help me, I’ll have to roll up my sleeves and help myself.”  He moved forward toward the glass case.

Sybil darted past him and ran toward the front door. He was faster. He grabbed her by the arm. “Now that’s no way to treat your clientele, honey. Tryin’ to run off and shirk your responsibilities like that.” He twisted her arm behind her back.

Cassie could see Sybil wince in pain. Her sister looked around wildly for some other way out. The man tightened his grip with one hand and pointed the gun to her head with the other. Sybil struggled but he only wrenched her arm harder behind her back until she stopped struggling.

“It seems to me like you can’t hear what I’m sayin’.” The man cocked his head slightly, considering the matter. “Maybe we should go someplace private where I can get through to you better.”

He shoved her toward the door but she twisted out of his grip, running toward the back of the shop. He lunged after her, tackling her. She fell hard against the showcase, head first. Glass shattered and she lay still, face down on the floor.

Cassie could feel a cry of despair rising in her throat but no sound came out. She willed her feet to move. They seemed to twitch slightly but nothing more. All she could do was watch.

The man raised himself to a crouch position. A look of annoyance crossed his face. He reached forward to check Sybil’s pulse and frowned.

He stood back up, shaking bits of broken glass from his jacket. “Well, that ain’t no help at all,” he said in disgust.

In a flash, the scene changed and Cassie was back in her dorm room. She could feel the mattress beneath her. “Wake up, dammit!” she commanded herself. This time when she clawed her way up to the surface of consciousness, her mind obeyed her. She sat up shakily. Her skin felt clammy. She tossed off the covers and sat forward rocking, holding her head.

On impulse she grabbed her cell phone and started to call her sister. “It was just a nightmare, stupid! What are you going to do? Wake her up in the middle of the night to tell her you had a bad dream?” She snapped the phone shut and tossed it on the nightstand.

Gradually her breathing slowed and she lay back down. Curling herself into a fetal position, she drew the covers up to her chin. “It wasn’t real.  It was just a bad dream… Just a bad dream… Just a bad dream…” She chanted the words like a mantra for several minutes until she started to dose off.

Then the phone rang.

 

Chapter 2 – A Wake

At about three o’clock in the morning far outside the city, four people were staring bleakly at one other around a kitchen table. It was an old style oak table in an old style country kitchen. The kind with tin ceiling tiles and tall glass cupboards above the sink. A single yellow nightlight glowed from the wall.

At one end of the table sat an elderly woman in a terrycloth robe and slippers. Despite the late hour, she had managed to roll her white hair into a neat little bun at the nape of her neck. She sighed heavily. “I can’t believe this.”

“Believe it. Sybil’s dead.” The abrupt comment came from a blond man in his mid-twenties at the opposite end of the table. He sat slouched despondently in his chair, arms crossed, his legs sprawled out in front of him. “She called me and she sounded scared. She thought somebody was trying to break into the shop. Then the line went dead. I got there as fast as I could but the cops beat me to it.” He exhaled tiredly. “It’s my fault.”

“How do you figure?” The question came from a middle-aged woman with bushy red hair sitting to his left. There were distinct frown lines around her mouth. She took a long drag on an unfiltered cigarette.

The blond man glanced up. “If I’d just gotten there five minutes sooner maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Maybe she’d still be alive.”

“Did she give you a physical description of her attacker?” The question came from a young man in his early-twenties seated to the right. He spoke with a British accent.

“Nope,” said the blond man succinctly. “For the past week or so she told me she had the feeling somebody was following her but she never knew who it was.”

“I think we all know who was responsible.” The elderly woman rose stiffly out of her chair. She walked over to sink, filled a kettle and put it on the stove to boil.

The other three stared at one another in shock. Anger flashed in the middle-aged woman’s eyes. “Those bastards! What do they want from us now?”

“Take it easy, Maddie,” soothed the blond man. “We don’t know for sure it was them.”

The woman called Maddie snapped back at him, “Then who else?” She ground out her cigarette and immediately lit a new one. “What the hell was she working on? Didn’t she tell you anything about it, Griffin?” Her sharp eyes focused on the Brit.

“No, nothing,” the young man whispered with regret. He rubbed his forehead distractedly. “Maybe if she had I could have helped her, or better yet, persuaded her to stop.”

The elderly woman shuffled toward the cupboard over the sink. “There’s still the matter of her sister,” she observed quietly. “Poor child, as if she hasn’t lost enough already. This is too cruel.”

“Does she know anything?” The blond man at the far end of the table sat forward in his chair.

The woman at the sink turned around to glance at him mildly. “Do you think you could find that out for us, Erik?”

Erik sat up at straighter, alert now. “What exactly do you have in mind, Faye?”

The kettle rumbled to a boil. The old woman rummaged around in the cupboard for cups and saucers. “I think you should follow her at a discrete distance. Keep out of sight but let us know immediately if anything unusual occurs.”

She went over to the stove to switch off the heat. “Griffin, it might prove useful to know what Sybil’s latest recovery was.”

“Yes, of course,” he agreed readily. “Anything I can do to help.”

Faye was now spooning loose tea into a porcelain pot.  She paused to consider. “What could they possibly want of ours? What, to them, would be worth killing for?”

 

Chapter 3 – Prayer Meeting

 

In the silent hour just before dawn, Abraham Metcalf was standing in his study, scrutinizing the spine of a volume of sermons on his bookshelf. Actually, his study was more the size of a public library and his home more the size of a medieval castle. It had to be. He was the head of a very large extended family. Despite the barest glimmer of light in the east, Metcalf was expecting a visitor. Fully dressed in a black suit, he cut an impressive figure. A mane of white hair swept back from his forehead, trimmed just long enough to reach the top of his collar. A white moustache and beard shaped into a precise goatee. Despite his seventy years, he possessed a muscular build and ramrod straight posture. His eyes were a frosty shade of blue. They bore a fierce expression under bristling white eyebrows suggesting very little escaped his notice or gained his approval.

A young man sporting a crew cut tapped lightly on the door. “A visitor to see you, Father.”

“Send him in.”

A man wearing a Stetson hat advanced into the study. Metcalf turned to face him. “Hats off indoors, Mr. Hunt,” he instructed curtly.

His visitor smiled lazily and doffed his hat. “Now that’s right kindly of you to remind me, sir. My momma, God rest her, would pitch a fit if she saw me forget my manners like that.”

Metcalf sat down behind his massive oak desk. He did not invite his visitor to be seated. He studied Hunt in silence for several seconds. The younger man did not flinch under his gaze but stood grinning, his stance relaxed.

“I don’t see the key in your hands, Mr. Hunt.” Metcalf observed.

“No need to stand on proper names now, is there? How about you call me Leroy and I’ll call you Abe?”

“You may call me Father Abraham if you wish,” Metcalf offered stiffly.

“Sorry, sir, but you ain’t my daddy. Don’t rightly know who he was, come to think on it.”

Metcalf’s face remained impassive. “I don’t see the key, Mr. Hunt.”

Leroy Hunt shrugged off the implied rebuke. “Well, sir, it was like this. I encountered a bit of trouble in obtainin’ said object.”

Metcalf had picked up a letter opener and was examining it intently. “Define trouble,” he commanded.

Hunt selected one of the chairs in front of Metcalf’s desk and sat down. “That gal you set me to followin’ had herself an unfortunate accident. We got into a tussle and she fell and bumped her head and well, sir, she’s dead.”

“Dead!” Metcalf echoed in disbelief.

“That’s right, sir. Not to rise again til Judgment Day.”

“Dead,” Metcalf repeated somewhat less emphatically.

“Yup, dead,” Leroy concurred, smoothing the wave in his hair.

The older man considered the problem in silence for several moments before he spoke again. “You did manage to search the shop at least?”

“That I did, sir. I spent about a half hour diggin’ around before somebody called the cops. I had to high tail it when I heard them sirens but I was through lookin’ anyhow. That key you set such store by, well sir, it wasn’t to be found.”

Metcalf stood up and towered over Hunt. “I’m most disappointed in your report, Mr. Hunt.”

Leroy chuckled. “I guess, if I was you and I wanted that key so bad, I’d be a bit down in the mouth too, sir.”

“I hardly think this occasion calls for levity, Mr. Hunt.” Metcalf’s eyebrows bristled in disapproval.

Hunt looked up at him appraisingly. “I don’t expect there’s much in your life, sir, that you’d think would be a fit occasion for levity.” Before Metcalf could supply a retort, he continued. “Now don’t you go worryin’ yerself to pieces over this. I still ain’t done. Gal’s got a sister, don’t she? How bout I follow her around for a bit. Maybe see what’s what?”

Metcalf relaxed his scowl by a hairsbreadth. “Yes, that would seem to be the proper course of action to take at this juncture.”

Leroy stood up and gave a mock salute. “You got it, chief.” He retrieved his hat and turned toward the door.

“Before you go, Mr. Hunt…”

“Sir?”

“Let us say a prayer together.”

A flicker of anger crossed Leroy’s face. “Like I said, I ain’t one of yours.”

Metcalf was already on his knees behind his desk, hands folded. “Yes, I know. That’s why I’ve entrusted you with a matter like this.  A matter that requires divine assistance to complete. You will pray with me now.”

Wordlessly, Hunt returned to the opposite side of the desk, knelt, folded his hands, and screwed his eyes shut as if in anticipation of a bad tasting medicine.

Metcalf addressed his remarks to the chandelier overhead. “Oh Lord, guide this man’s hand that it may do your bidding. Let him smite down those who oppose your will. Let the wicked be put to shame that the Blessed Nephilim may inherit the earth. Amen!”

 

Chapter 4 -Sisters And Other Strangers

 

Cassie was sitting cross-legged on the living room rug in her sister’s apartment. There were stacks of paper piled around her. Boxes of magazines and scattered articles of clothing littered the couch. Tears were running down her cheeks. She didn’t bother to brush them away. She had been crying for days now. Maybe it had been a week. She couldn’t remember. It started right after the phone call came. The police were at Sybil’s shop. They needed her to identify a body. But she already knew who it would be. The dream had been a 3-D Technicolor preview of the real thing.

She felt as if she was still inside her nightmare when she arrived at the antique store. The green banker’s lamp was on. Her sister lay sprawled across the floor face down exactly where Cassie had seen her fall. Only now there were photographers and police swarming like flies over her sister’s remains.

Rhonda, her sister’s business partner, was there too. White-faced and shaking, she came up to hug Cassie. The two clung to each other for several moments, too much in shock to speak.

The detective who questioned her sounded like he was standing in an echo chamber. His voice was distorted, coming at her from a distance. “What was Sybil doing in the shop alone at such a late hour? Was anything of value missing from the shop? Did she have any enemies?”

Cassie gave the same answer every time. “I don’t know.”

Even now she marveled at how little she knew about anything her sister was doing or why. “What were you involved in, Sybil?” Cassie didn’t know much about antiques but she did know that a lucrative black market trade existed. Had Sybil been doing something shady? Smuggling artifacts into the country illegally? Again she didn’t know.

The only thing she did know for certain was that a man in a Stetson hat wanted a key and her sister was dead because of him and she’d dreamed the whole thing while it was happening. But she didn’t think that was the sort of information the detective was looking for. He probably wouldn’t believe her. She didn’t believe it herself. She wasn’t given to weird, paranormal experiences. In all her life she’d never been accused of having so much as a hunch about anything. She was a rational person, more or less.

Her mind skipped forward to the present. She was sorting through a box of old bills and papers. The easy stuff. She couldn’t bring herself to sort through the clothes yet. She had tried earlier that day but it had been a mistake. She’d realized that the minute she pulled open a drawer of sweaters. There was lavender sachet inside. Her sister had always smelled like lavender. It was a comforting, familiar scent. Someone once told her that people remember the way things smell long after they’ve forgotten how they look or taste or sound. That the sense of smell is primal. Like blood, like family, like death. She shoved the drawer closed and left the bedroom in tears. She doubted she would ever smell lavender again without crying. It was safer to sort through the papers. They didn’t smell like lavender. They didn’t smell like anything at all.

She blew her nose and tossed the used tissue onto the pile that was accumulating on the floor. How many boxes had she gone through? Like the number of days she’d spent crying, she’d lost count of that too. It had all become a blur. Even the funeral. That mother of all ordeals. The service had been small and quiet because they hadn’t been living in Chicago long and there was no family. Aside from Rhonda, there was nobody who could be called a friend either. Sybil had been Cassie’s only anchor to this place and now the girl felt like a boat drifting with the current. When other people lost a sister, there was always somebody else to fill the void. Cassie doubted if anybody could understand what her particular brand of loneliness felt like. The word “orphan” didn’t begin to cover it. She broke down and started to sob.

“Enough!” she commanded herself sternly. She looked up at the ceiling to blink back the tears. For a few minutes she focused on nothing but breathing. Just breathe and don’t think. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Finally she calmed down enough to focus on the matter at hand. She reached for another box of papers. It looked like a bunch of old charge card receipts. Why Sybil had kept this junk was beyond her. She dumped the box upside down on the coffee table. As the pile of papers spewed out, something hard fell on top of them.

Cassie cocked her head sideways, examining the object. Strange looking thing. It was shaped like a ruler. About a foot long and about two inches wide, only it had five sides. Solid in the middle but five-sided. What would you call a shape like that? A polygon? She looked at the surface of the ruler lengthwise. There were strange markings inscribed in the stone. Some looked like long hash marks and some looked like pictograms. Like Egyptian hieroglyphics only they weren’t Egyptian. She’d seen enough of those in museums to recognize them. Along the sharp edge that divided the ruler into five sides, were more hash marks and loops.

Cassie made no move to pick up the stone ruler. She dismissed it as something from the shop that Sybil had decided to keep. Her sister did that all the time. She’d come across another “treasure” that she just had to have for her own. The apartment was full of things she couldn’t seem to part with. African masks on the walls. A rare Chinese vase in a niche by the door. Fragments of Greek friezes. It begged the question of where the money came from for Sybil’s expensive private collection. Cassie frowned and regarded the stone ruler again for a few moments. Maybe she’d ask Rhonda about it when she saw her next.

Her eyes swept the room. The papers and the clothes and the antiques and the artwork. So much more stuff to get through. Suddenly she felt very tired and a bit overwhelmed. Nobody else to do it but her. She sighed.

Without bothering to clean up the tissues on the carpet, she got up, grabbed her purse and left the apartment. She wanted to head back to her dorm room for a long, long nap. She could come back tomorrow. Everything would still be waiting for her. More memories to pop out of a drawer or jump off a shelf to remind her that she was alone in the world. It would keep. She’d cried enough for this day.

 

Chapter 5 – Corvette And Model-T

 

A dozen hours after Cassie fell into a restless doze, dawn broke over a suburb on the far outskirts of the metro area. It was a hamlet that had once been rural and still retained a few of its American gothic homesteads. Daylight crept toward the oldest of these original structures–a two-story farmhouse standing on an acre of green land. It was surrounded by one hundred and twenty acres of tract housing but had so far managed to resist being engulfed by the neighborhood. A high wooden fence surrounded the backyard which encompassed both a flower and a vegetable garden. The front lawn was wide and deep enough to accommodate massive shade trees that had been old long before the first cornfield was plowed.

Light advanced across the lawn to the house itself which was concrete stucco painted a shade of cornflower blue. A cupola in the middle of the roof had attracted a flock of burbling pigeons who hoped to warm themselves in the early sun’s rays. When an elderly woman emerged onto the Victorian gingerbread porch, the pigeons flapped off. Broom in hand, she immediately set about sweeping the front steps. An apple tree growing close to her porch was shedding its blossoms. It appeared as if her stairs were covered in bits of pinkish white confetti. She swept briskly, if absentmindedly. It was clear that she was lost in thought. She didn’t register that someone was coming up her front walk until he stood directly in front of her.

“Faye?” the young man asked tentatively.

“Oh, Erik, you gave me a start.” Her hand flew involuntarily to her heart. Then she smiled and motioned him towards the house. “Please do come in.”

He preceded her through the door.

“Why don’t we sit in here.” She directed him to the front parlor. In anyone else’s house it would have been called the living room but Faye was different. She radiated a sense of having skipped back in time. She was wearing a cotton housedress — the kind that was spattered with giant flowers in garish colors. It was topped with a green cardigan whose front pocket sagged from the weight of an oversized handkerchief. Her white hair was molded into a smooth bun at the back of her head. She might have been in her eighties or she might have been one hundred and ten. It was hard to tell. Faye had always been ancient. But her eyes were very bright, cornflower blue like her house, and they missed nothing.

The young man who visited her couldn’t have provided a starker contrast. If people were automobiles, he would have been a Corvette to Faye’s Model-T. He had a lean, muscular frame. Not extremely tall but not short either. His dark blonde hair was shaggy and perpetually in need of a barber. Maybe it was an image that Erik wanted to project. He was so good-looking that he didn’t have to worry about how his hair was cut. In his mid-twenties with elvish green eyes and a cleft in his chin, he was the stuff of which movie idols are made. Whether he was consciously vain was open to question. He liked to pretend he didn’t notice how women reacted to him. He believed he had a mission in life.

Erik removed his suede jacket and tossed it on the couch. His car keys landed on top of the coat.

Faye gestured for him to sit down. “Can I get you a cup of tea, dear?”

She was about to shuffle off to the kitchen but her guest stopped her. “No thanks, Faye, I’m fine.”

The elderly woman settled herself into a plum armchair opposite him. It had a doily perched on the headrest. The kind that was once known as an antimacassar. The chair itself might have dated from the time when men still used Macassar oil to dress their hair and the doily kept them from soiling the furniture. Faye probably expected that patent leather hair would come back into vogue someday and was prepared for it.

“Well then, what can you tell me?”

Erik shrugged. “Not much. She lives in a dorm at school. Keeps to herself a lot. I’ve been following her around ever since…” He trailed off.

Faye sighed. “Yes, we all miss Sybil, dear. It was a terrible shock. A terrible loss.”

Erik continued. “Anyway, ever since it happened, I’ve been following her. Went to the funeral but I kept out of sight. I didn’t see anybody odd. She went to Sybil’s apartment yesterday. I guess she was sorting through stuff. I stayed out in the hall for awhile listening.” He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I heard a lot of crying.”

“Poor child,” Faye said quietly. She smoothed the folds of her housedress. “Poor lost child.”

Erik hunched forward on the couch. “Do you think she knows anything about Sybil’s recovery? About us?”

Faye shook her head. “No, Sybil was most emphatic. She told me that she didn’t want her sister involved. She wanted to keep her safe. She believed the less Cassie knew, the better.”

Erik looked skeptical. “I don’t see how keeping somebody in the dark is going to keep them safe. They’re more likely to do something stupid when they don’t know what they’re up against.”

The young man stood up and began to pace. “It just seems wrong. Somebody ought to tell her.”

Faye fixed her gaze on her visitor. Her expression was mild, almost curious. “Exactly how could we explain ourselves in a way that she would understand?”

Erik ran his fingers through his hair. “I don’t know. We probably can’t. But this whole thing is making me edgy. I don’t like it. Just hanging around and listening to a girl cry.” He threw himself back down on the couch, exasperated. “Can I quit yet?”

“I’d like you to keep watching her for awhile longer.”

Erik picked up his car keys and jingled them distractedly between his fingers. “What exactly do you expect will happen?”

“I expect that sooner or later the person who killed Sybil will reveal himself.”

“He probably found what he wanted in the shop. He’s probably long gone by now.”

Faye stood and walked over to the picture window. She watched the morning breeze shake loose another batch of blossoms. “And if he didn’t obtain what he was looking for, how long do you think it will take him to find Cassie?”

Erik stopped jingling the keys. He looked down at his hands. “I guess I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.”

“Nor would I, dear.” Faye turned toward Erik. “Let’s watch her a little while longer just to be sure.”

 

Chapter 6 – Compound Interest

 

Despite her best intentions, it was after sunset the following evening before Cassie found her way back to Sybil’s apartment. Time to put all this in the past, she told herself decisively as she got out of her car and crossed the street toward the Gold Coast high-rise. Yeah right. She was so eager to put things behind her that she’d procrastinated until nightfall to avoid confronting the residue of her sister’s life again. And she didn’t even have the excuse of going to classes anymore. School was on hold indefinitely. There was still the tricky matter of deciding where to live. She would probably move out of the dorm and into Sybil’s place. Right now that thought made her shudder. Not quite ready to deal with that idea yet.

She got off the elevator on the fourth floor and headed toward Sybil’s flat at the end of the hall. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the bottom of the door. There was light coming from inside. Had she forgotten to switch off the power the day before? Who knew? She shrugged and sorted through the keys on her ring. When she turned the lock, she thought she heard a click coming from inside. Cassie swung the door open wide. She stood on the threshold listening for a moment. The place was dark, completely still.

She walked across the room toward an end table to turn on the lamp. Something or someone slammed into her, shoving her sideways. She hit the wall, the breath knocked out of her lungs. Scrambling to her feet, she caught a glimpse of a man fleeing through the open door. Cassie gasped. He was wearing a Stetson hat and in his hand was an object she remembered seeing the day before.

He was down the hall, through the fire exit door and halfway to the ground floor before she could move.

“Hey, hey you! Stop!” She started to run toward the lighted hallway when she collided with another man. He shoved her back into the apartment. She didn’t think she recognized this one but the place was still dark so she couldn’t be sure.

“What happened?” he demanded.

“Who are you?” she countered. “Where did you come from? What are you doing here?”

“No time for that now!” His voice was urgent. “What happened?”

“A..a man. He must have broken in. He…he was wearing a cowboy hat,” she stammered.

The stranger grabbed her by the arms and shook her to get her attention. “Now listen! This is important! Did he take anything?”

Cassie was having a hard time thinking clearly. She could hear the blood pounding in her ears. “Yeah, I think…”

“What?” the man shook her again. “What was it?”

“It was a stone ruler. Five-sided. About a foot long with weird markings all over it.” She twisted away from his grasp. “That’s all I could see. Now who… ” Before she could get the rest of the question out, the man vanished.

She heard him shout back at her from down the hallway, “Call the police!” Then she heard the fire exit door slam and heard feet clattering down the emergency stairs.

Cassie was shaking. Delayed shock. She collapsed on the couch and switched on the table lamp. She looked around at the contents of the room. Trying to get her eyes to focus. To get her brain back to the present. Everything was just as she’d left it the day before. Except for one thing. The stone ruler was gone. Stolen by the man from her nightmare.

She got up weakly and crossed the room to a bombé chest that held a telephone. When she picked up the receiver to dial 911, she noticed an envelope underneath the base of the phone. It had been hand-addressed. All she could see was the initial letter “C”. Putting the receiver down, she slid the packet out from its hiding place. In Sybil’s script, the letters “C-A-S-S-I-E” were scrawled across the front. Her hands were trembling as she ripped the envelope open.

***

Erik could hear footsteps ahead of him at the bottom of the stairwell. He waited until the man had gotten to the ground floor before he moved forward. He didn’t want Cowboy to know he was being followed.

Once the exit door slammed shut, he raced forward. Outside he saw Cowboy climbing into a red pickup parked across the street from the highrise. It tore away from the curb, heading north. Erik noted the license plate number. Shouldn’t be too hard to follow. He jumped into his car and tailed the thief, careful to keep several vehicles between them. With all the early evening traffic on the roads he didn’t think he’d been spotted. Cowboy got on the northbound expressway. He drove past the looming shadows of downtown highrises, past the suburban bedroom communities, past the overcrowded shopping malls, past the point where any expressway lights remained to illuminate the road. It was almost an hour before the pickup took a westbound exit that led to nothing but farm land. Erik knew it would be harder to keep from being noticed out in the middle of nowhere. He got behind a semi-trailer that was going in the same direction. Cowboy drove on for another half hour through pitch black countryside then turned right onto a side road marked with a yellow Dead End sign. Erik couldn’t follow him in there. It would be too obvious.

He pulled his car off to the shoulder and got out, hoping he wouldn’t find one of those “Do Not Park Here” stickers plastered on his windshield when he got back. He started walking. Fortunately, lights appeared in the distance almost immediately. The road turned out to be a very, very long driveway. The building at the end of it couldn’t be more than a quarter mile away. Erik kept to the shoulder, in the shadows.

The road ended in front of a pair of iron gates about ten feet high. Each of the gates was decorated with a capital letter P with an X through the middle of it. Erik didn’t know anyone with that monogram. He noticed the guard shack with security cameras mounted on either side of the gates and quickly ducked farther into the shadows. A ten foot chain link fence topped with razor wire surrounded the property. Company was clearly not welcome in this place.

He couldn’t be sure how long the fence was but he could guess it stretched around several acres. Beyond the gate at the far end of the gravel drive, Erik could see Cowboy’s car. Somebody had been expecting his visit.

Erik headed for the trees that bordered the fence to the east where more of the layout was visible. He focused his attention on the house, if you could call it that. The building was as big as a castle, or maybe “fortress” would be a better word. It looked as if it could withstand a siege. The design was squat and square with a flat roof, like a massive cinderblock. Towers flanked the building on either end. Erik guessed there might be two on the back end as well. The building was studded with tall narrow windows recessed deep into the walls. Light glowed through drawn curtains making it impossible to tell how many people were inside. Floodlights bleached the limestone façade to a blinding whiteness.

Aside from the main building, Erik counted at least eight other structures around the perimeter–smaller replicas of the main house. Then he noticed an odd assortment of sheds, garages and trailers that must have been used for storage. A compound. He smiled to himself. It had to be them. Nobody else would live like this. Now he knew for certain who had hired Cowboy to steal Sybil’s find. The only thing he still couldn’t figure out was why.


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Enjoy This Free Excerpt From Our Thriller of the Week Sponsor, Noel Hynd’s The Sandler Inquiry: A Spy In New York

Noel Hynd’s The Sandler Inquiry: A Spy In New York –
by Noel Hynd
5.0 stars – 2 Reviews
Here’s the set-up:
A deadly and elusive man. A young woman seeking justice and retribution. A thirty-year-old secret from World War Two. A latter day showdown among British, American, and Soviet intelligence services.  Who was Karl Sandler? Wartime patriot? Or a ruthless and amoral monster who put his vast financial machine behind the highest bidder? Leslie McAdam calls him by another name: her father.  Based on a shocking and shameful episode in history that threatened to alter the course of the world’s economic future, The Sandler Inquiry tells a gripping and unforgettable story of espionage and intrigue, loyalty and love, set in the sprawling ragged violence-prone New York City of the 1970’s.  Determined to claim her rightful inheritance — and to uncover the shrouded past of the man she knew as her father — Leslie has come to Thomas Daniels, a New York attorney haunted by his own bloodstained family history. Yet not even Daniels can imagine what lies beneath decades-old secrets when he launches an inquiry into his client’s murky past. As he moves through the twisting labyrinth of the world’s intelligence community, he uncovers a monstrous link between the man who called himself Karl Sandler and a conspiracy reaching to the highest levels of government…in three countries. From America to Europe to Soviet Russia, he pursues a cold trail that is suddenly red-hot, as the violence of the past lives again and Daniels is stalked by a deadly adversary who must keep the truth buried at all costs.  Now available in a brand-new Amazon Kindle edition, it is a classic novel of World War II and its chilling aftermath from Noel Hynd, the author of FLOWERS FROM BERLIN.
The author hopes you will enjoy this free excerpt:

Chapter 1Of all the enemies that his late father had made in the past, there remained one elaborate mystery: who still cared enough to want to burn him out? Destroy his records? His office? His livelihood? Maybe even kill him?

Thomas Daniels considered the hundreds of enemies his father must have made. He wondered whom he knew who liked to play with fire. Aside from the fire, which had been pretty hot, it was a cold winter evening in New York in 1977. Mid December. The ‘Son of Sam’ killer had been arrested that summer and the Yankees had just won their first World Series in fifteen years. But aside from that, Manhattan and all four other boroughs were gloriously coming apart at the seams, a little stitch almost every day, even when the city was all decked out for Christmas.

 

“Arson?” Thomas Daniels asked.

 

“You bet! This was a good professional torching,” said Matthew Corrigan, a lieuten­ant from the New York City Fire Department, examining one such ugly stitch. “High-intensity, quick-spreading fire. Would have taken the whole building if the custodian here hadn’t found it.” Corrigan pointed to the filing room. The air was gray with the vestiges of smoke, and the law offices were permeated with the sweet smell of ashes and water. Thomas Daniels’ eyes smarted. He was looking at the charred remnants of the old wooden files that he had inherited professionally from his father.

 

“No one was here when it started,” Corrigan continued. “That’s the usual. A good arsonist uses a fuse.”

 

“An electricity fuse?” asked Jacobus, the janitor, in heavily ac­cented English.

 

Corrigan shook his head to indicate, no. “A timing fuse. A candle, a wire, a clock, even a cigarette sometimes. Anything that will burn down slowly and not ignite whatever chemical, papers, or rags are being used until the torch man is gone.” He glanced around. It was a few minutes past four A.M. “If the fire had done the whole building we’d never have known where the flash point was. Here we know where the blaze started. So we’ll go through the debris in the filing room, inch by inch. We’ll find a fuse mechanism in there. Bank on it. Now I’ll show you something else.”

 

Corrigan led Jacobus and Daniels through the two adjoining rooms. He pointed to places and showed them how the flames ap­peared to have traveled in a path from the flash point.

 

“See?” he said. “Tracks. Tracks made by trailers that our firebug left. If we hadn’t broke in on the fire early, we wouldn’t have these, neither!”

 

The trailers, Corrigan explained, had been some highly flamma­ble substance -chemically treated rags, paper, or plastic – which had been left by the arsonist to be triggered by the fuse. When the fuse had burned down, the trailers had been sparked. And a rap­idly spreading blaze had shot in every direction. The intense flames consuming the trailers had left the tracks.

 

Thomas Daniels, though working up a dislike for Lieutenant Corrigan, knew he was listening to an expert. But the questions which kept recurring to Daniels were ones Corrigan could not answer. Who? And why? A premeditated fire made no sense.

 

“A pyroma­niac?” Thomas asked.

 

The lieutenant seemed amused. “No. Too neat a trick for a pyro. Pyros are sloppy. They leave so much evidence you’d think they was trying to get caught.” Corrigan shook his head. “Nope. This was set by somebody who wanted all the tracks covered but wanted the whole area destroyed. Usually that points to one thing.”

 

“What’s that?” asked Thomas Daniels.

 

“Something else was involved. Another crime. Sometimes you dig in the rubble of a fire like this and come up with a grilled cadaver. Get it? No stiff here, though. That means something else. Burglary, maybe. Anything of value kept in the office?”

 

Thomas shook his head.

 

“No art? Jewels? TVs, typewriters? Nothin’ like that?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

Corrigan shrugged and used a thick forearm to wipe grime and sweat from his forehead. “Then there’s something else that the detectives are going to suggest.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“Insurance. A failed business somebody wanted torched to cash in on a policy.”

 

Thomas bristled.

 

Corrigan pursed his lips. “Not necessarily you. Maybe the guy upstairs. Or downstairs. The fire spreads and you all go up in the same puff, making it that much harder to figure who lit the fuse.”

Corrigan turned to the janitor. “By the way how’d you find the fire so fast? Doing your nighttime rounds?”

 

Jacobus considered it, thinking back over the events of the early morning. “I vas mopping,” he finally declared, trying to sound as American as possible, “and I smelled smoke.”

 

***

 

A few blocks away, NYPD detectives Patrick Hearn and Aram Shassad stepped from their unmarked car  and held their shields aloft to Officer Renfrow and a second uniformed patrolman. Renfrow recognized them anyway. The flash of red lights from the blue-and-white New York City police cars was reflected off the wet sidewalk and windows.

 

“Looks like he resisted,” Renfrow suggested.

 

The homicide detectives looked down. The body was covered by a police blanket.

 

“That’s a heavy finance charge for not coughing up a wallet,” Shassad said. He looked at the trail of blood on the sidewalk, lead­ing from the body and running along several yards of pavement to the doorway of number 246. The blood on East Seventy-third Street was already partially diluted by the rain.

 

“Want a look?” Renfrow asked.

 

“Why the hell not?”

 

Shassad reached down himself and pulled back the blanket. It was heavy and soggy from the rain. He gagged, though he’d seen hundreds of equally repulsive scenes.

 

The dead man’s face was chalk white. Below the neck, on the right side, was an obscene gaping wound, a huge bloody hole carved into the flesh just below the jawbone. A blade, perhaps of butcher-knife dimensions, had slashed upward into the victim’s throat, tearing and ripping everything in its path and cutting into the mouth. The front of the man’s suit, coat, and shirt was scarlet of varying shades.

 

Shassad mumbled, “Can’t a guy even step out of the house after dark?”

 

“No identification,” said Renfrow. “Just some change and keys.”

Hearn looked up as Shassad put the blanket back in place, af­fording the dead some privacy. “No wallet?” he asked.

 

“All gone,” said Renfrow. “The city’s a jungle after dark.”

 

They looked to the end of the block where an ambulance was turning the corner and approaching silently, its white headlights and red top lights glaring. The only sounds other than subdued voices were occasional raspy bursts from police radios.

 

Renfrow’s partner waited for it to pass and then crossed the street, coming toward them.

 

“You from Homicide?” he asked Shassad and Hearn collectively.

 

“Good guess, genius. We’re not from the garbagemen’s softball team.”

 

“It’s your lucky night.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

The young patrolman turned and pointed across the street to a small frightened woman standing in a doorway, wrapped in an old overcoat and clutching one hand in the other. “You got a witness,” he said.

 

“Hell,” muttered Shassad, “I was going to slip the Medical Examiner a few bucks and have him mark it ‘natural causes.'”

 

 

******

 

Author’s note to BookLending.com members:

 

 

The Sandler Inquiry was my second novel, originally published by The Dial Press in 1977. Thanks to the emergence of the Kindle and other electronic readers, I’ve re-edited the book, fixed some of the messier things I somehow got away with many years ago, added one character, streamlined the plot and polished it up for contemporary audiences.

 

Now here’s some back-story, how the book arrived in the first place.

 

I was living in Manhattan at the time and used to go out to run in Central Park every day from where I lived on 68th and Third. On Park and 71st I think it was, there stood an old mansion where a reclusive old heiress had lived for years. The old lady had passed away but the house was still standing, at the mercy of lawyers and distant relatives. Thinking about this as I ran past the building every day, I began to concoct a story around the house. Since I was writing international spy thrillers at the time, I needed Russians and Nazis. Easy enough. I invented a few, then used places I’d been in England and Switzerland to flesh out the story.

 

To also fill out the story, there was New York, which was a pretty ragged place at the time. As I re-read the book recently, I realized that Kojack-era New York had become a character in the book, and I hadn’t even realized it at the time.

 

I titled my novel, The Inheritor. But The Dial Press published Robert Ludlum at the time. We had the same editor, in fact. So I needed a title that was, well, Ludlumesque, to compete in the world of big time thrillers. The name I had given the family in my story was Sandler, no relation to Adam, a kid at the time.

 

Hence, Ludlumizing the title, the work became The Sandler Inquiry.

 

The book did nicely. Fine reviews, three hardcover printings, and a healthy mass market paperback run of a few hundred thousand copies via Dell Publishing, plus foreign sales in seven major markets. Hey, I was in my mid-twenties, in all the paperback racks and on top of the world.

 

I even got to see my name on a Best Seller List for the first time.

 

Sandler jumped onto the list of Newsday, the Long Island daily, for three weeks in March of 1978. The book rose to number two for one week, edging past Sidney Sheldon but unable to dislodge Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room for the ‘number uno’ spot along the Miracle Mile.

 

Oh, well.

 

It’s been fascinating to re-visit the book after so many years, recall the era in which I wrote it, which seems like a pretty nice time in my life. Equally, it’s nice to bring it back to new audiences. I hope it entertains you.

 

You can reach me at NH1212f@yahoo.com or on Facebook. I always like to hear from readers.

Really, I do.

 

 

Noel Hynd

Los Angeles

October 28, 2011


The Sandler Inquiry: A Spy In New York by Noel Hynd Is Our New Thriller of the Week Sponsor!

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 The Sandler Inquiry: A Spy in New York
by Noel Hynd
5.0 stars – 2 Reviews
Kindle Price: $3.49

Here’s the set-up:
A deadly and elusive man. A young woman seeking justice and retribution. A thirty-year-old secret from World War Two. A latter day showdown among British, American, and Soviet intelligence services.  Who was Karl Sandler? Wartime patriot? Or a ruthless and amoral monster who put his vast financial machine behind the highest bidder? Leslie McAdam calls him by another name: her father.  Based on a shocking and shameful episode in history that threatened to alter the course of the world’s economic future, The Sandler Inquiry tells a gripping and unforgettable story of espionage and intrigue, loyalty and love, set in the sprawling ragged violence-prone New York City of the 1970’s.  Determined to claim her rightful inheritance — and to uncover the shrouded past of the man she knew as her father — Leslie has come to Thomas Daniels, a New York attorney haunted by his own bloodstained family history. Yet not even Daniels can imagine what lies beneath decades-old secrets when he launches an inquiry into his client’s murky past. As he moves through the twisting labyrinth of the world’s intelligence community, he uncovers a monstrous link between the man who called himself Karl Sandler and a conspiracy reaching to the highest levels of government…in three countries. From America to Europe to Soviet Russia, he pursues a cold trail that is suddenly red-hot, as the violence of the past lives again and Daniels is stalked by a deadly adversary who must keep the truth buried at all costs.  Now available in a brand-new Amazon Kindle edition, it is a classic novel of World War II and its chilling aftermath from Noel Hynd, the author of FLOWERS FROM BERLIN.

Each day’s list is sponsored by one paid title. We encourage you to support our sponsors and thank you for considering them.
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It was supposed to be an easy job, but it was only the beginning...Lucia is a retired spy, now running a security company that caters to the ultra-elite in her home country of Escondida, a beautiful Mediterranean island nation off the coast of Spain. Her latest client? The Prince of Escondida...
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Wade is only nine. He’s had a rough life. And in 1944 Mississippi, there is nowhere for him to turn.He’s been abandoned time and time again. Staying alive is his top priority. Feeding himself is a close second.After years of surviving on his own, a kind, well-dressed man offers young Wade a...
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When the daughter of a powerful crime boss goes missing, the boss orders a series of deadly interrogations. With no clear answers to what happened to his daughter, he calls upon Sarah Roberts. Either she finds his daughter, or there will be consequences involving her own child.Faced with this...
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Monsters come in all shapes and sizes . . .It’s tough being misunderstood. Humans don’t always get us. They usually label us the villains. It's hard for them to grasp what it's like to be a mischievous fairy, condemned witch, lonely sea creature, or delusional serial killer. They can't see that...
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Crack CIA analyst Trista Gold is a whiz with the computer, but not so much with people. She hides behind her job, analyzing Top Secret code and making recommendations on national security. She doesn’t need a man in her life. But she will, very soon... CIA K-9 officer Sgt. Matt Connors suspects...
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In New Orleans where jazz bands play until the first light of dawn, murder doesn’t sleep either. The legend of Voodoo Lucy begins when twenty-eight-year-old Lucinda (Lucy) Jones leaves Tupelo, Mississippi and her alcoholic, abusive, father behind to start a new life in New Orleans. Having long...
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He Broke My Heart… That cold, cruel Vampire King.But then, I am just your typical, ordinary, everyday human girl who works and lives in London. Or at least, that’s what everyone thinks. I fled the supernatural world and the safety of my family who rule it, because being the only human born from...
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Am I the Avenging Hand of Korandos? F**cked if I know. What I do know is that I'm not like the rest of you. Not anymore. You're helpless before the monsters that secretly rule our world, but I'm not. You might not know it, but I'm doing all I can to keep you from being just a pawn, or a meal, to...
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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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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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It was supposed to be an easy job, but it was only the beginning...Lucia is a retired spy, now running a security company that caters to the ultra-elite in her home country of Escondida, a beautiful Mediterranean island nation off the coast of Spain. Her latest client? The Prince of Escondida...
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Wade is only nine. He’s had a rough life. And in 1944 Mississippi, there is nowhere for him to turn.He’s been abandoned time and time again. Staying alive is his top priority. Feeding himself is a close second.After years of surviving on his own, a kind, well-dressed man offers young Wade a...
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When the daughter of a powerful crime boss goes missing, the boss orders a series of deadly interrogations. With no clear answers to what happened to his daughter, he calls upon Sarah Roberts. Either she finds his daughter, or there will be consequences involving her own child.Faced with this...
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Monsters come in all shapes and sizes . . .It’s tough being misunderstood. Humans don’t always get us. They usually label us the villains. It's hard for them to grasp what it's like to be a mischievous fairy, condemned witch, lonely sea creature, or delusional serial killer. They can't see that...
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Crack CIA analyst Trista Gold is a whiz with the computer, but not so much with people. She hides behind her job, analyzing Top Secret code and making recommendations on national security. She doesn’t need a man in her life. But she will, very soon... CIA K-9 officer Sgt. Matt Connors suspects...
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Lock 'N' Load (Federal K-9 Book 1)
By: Tee O'Fallon
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A podunk town. A demonic rabbit. An exorcist with no idea what she's doing...Kat is pissed when her prior sends her to Ipswich, a godforsaken town in the middle of nowhere, to confront a demon-ravaged rabbit. But as she begins to investigate, she discovers a pattern to this possession—one that...
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In New Orleans where jazz bands play until the first light of dawn, murder doesn’t sleep either. The legend of Voodoo Lucy begins when twenty-eight-year-old Lucinda (Lucy) Jones leaves Tupelo, Mississippi and her alcoholic, abusive, father behind to start a new life in New Orleans. Having long...
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Tupelo Gypsy (Voodoo Lucy Book 1)
By: Vito Zuppardo
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He Broke My Heart… That cold, cruel Vampire King.But then, I am just your typical, ordinary, everyday human girl who works and lives in London. Or at least, that’s what everyone thinks. I fled the supernatural world and the safety of my family who rule it, because being the only human born from...
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Am I the Avenging Hand of Korandos? F**cked if I know. What I do know is that I'm not like the rest of you. Not anymore. You're helpless before the monsters that secretly rule our world, but I'm not. You might not know it, but I'm doing all I can to keep you from being just a pawn, or a meal, to...
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There is a lifelong, internal battle about choices and their consequences. Set in picturesque Nainital, Hoodwinking Hope is the story of a group of individuals at a mental health clinic seeking to define the purpose of their lives. Some try to run away from their problems, some refuse to...
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Hoodwinking Hope
By: Aditya Shah
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