Rising Spirit: A Jesse McDermitt Novel
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Jesse McDermitt has rebuilt his island in the Content Keys far better than it was before the storm. The task was enormous, but so was his need to make things better. Unbeknownst to Jesse, an environmentally conscious woman from his past has stumbled onto a drug manufacturing cartel in Virginia while working on a pollution mitigation problem. The cartel responds by sending someone to murder people Jesse cares for. A contract killer stalks the woman all the way to Miami, leaving bodies in his wake. With the help of an old flame in the FBI, Jesse goes to the snow-covered Appalachians to get to the root of the trouble; an unscrupulous prosecutor and dirty sheriff, who are producing LSD on an unbelievable scale. Is Jesse out of his element this time? Can he protect the people he cares for most? It’s a race against time and Mother Nature to find a killer stalking the quiet neighborhoods of Coconut Grove.
Release date: November 28, 2019
Publisher: Down Island Press
Print pages: 326
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Rising Spirit: A Jesse McDermitt Novel
The early fall air was crisp and cool as a light breeze out of the northeast rustled the leaves. Muted shades of orange, yellow, red, and green covered the far-away hillsides of the Shenandoah Valley.
The breeze seemed to swirl the colors around, some becoming more or less intense as the wind moved the many differently colored leaves.
It was the time of year when the sun began to relinquish control of the sky, yielding more and more time to the moon as the days got shorter following the autumnal equinox.
The sparsely planted trees along the town’s busy two-lane streets tried to mimic those on the forested hillside. Their leaves were the same color, but they couldn’t quite match the grandeur of the mountains surrounding the valley. All the buildings, cars, and people detracted from the splendor.
The town had been laid out long before traffic jams, malls, fast food, and rush hours, and the buildings had been erected with a smaller populace in mind. They were built in such close proximity that the streets would never accommodate more than two lanes of traffic, bordered by narrow sidewalks and minimal parking on either side of the busy thoroughfares—unless the mostly historic buildings were torn down. And that wasn’t going to happen. So, the busy town endured the narrow streets.
The colonial-style building on the corner of Augusta and Johnson Streets in Staunton, Virginia had been built in 1901, when there were still hitching posts instead of parking lots. The new circuit courthouse had replaced the previous one on the same property. In fact, there’d been a courthouse of some kind or other on that corner since 1755. The current two-story, red brick building had a wide portico in front, supported by four brick columns painted a pale yellow.
Above and behind the courthouse entrance was a domed cupola, topped with a statue of Lady Justice, blind-folded and lifting her scales high to proclaim equal justice for all. At her side, she gripped the hilt of her long broadsword, a powerful representation of authority.
Kamren Steele stood on the corner across the street from the historic building, waiting for the light to change. “Imposing,” he commented to the woman standing beside him.
“Arrogant, if you ask me,” Sandra Sneed replied. “Built by slaves.”
He smiled at her. “It’s not quite that old.”
“Built at the turn of the last century,” she argued, staring venomously at the building across the street. “By freed black men who had been born into slavery and lived under Jim Crow laws for half their lives.”
A young African-American couple hurried past the courthouse, crossed Augusta Street just as the light changed, and entered the Union Bank building on the opposite corner.
“The times, they are a changin’,” Kamren responded, stepping off the curb after the crossing light signaled it was safe to walk. “Come on, let’s get this done.”
She stepped out beside him, shaking her head but smiling. “Only you would quote Dylan in a town like this.”
Kamren Steele was the leader of Earth Now, an environmental group made up of like-minded people who abhorred overdevelopment, and the unadulterated stripping of the land. He was tall and ruggedly handsome, with black hair graying slightly at the temples. His face was clean-shaven, and at fifty-five, lines had begun to appear at the corners of his eyes. Equally comfortable wearing a business suit in a board room, or boots and jeans on a hiking trail, he’d opted for the former for this preliminary hearing.
Sandra Sneed was an attractive woman from the North Carolina coast. She was not as tall as his five-eleven, but she was close, with blond hair, a slim figure, and long, shapely legs. Like him, she was dressed conservatively; a gray pencil skirt and blazer over a light blue blouse, and modest heels.
She’d been a permanent fixture at Kamren’s side for twenty years and was equally at home in the conference room or deep in the forest, though she much preferred the latter.
The two had met in 1999 at the dedication of James River State Park, east of the small town of Amherst, Virginia. At the time, she’d been divorced for nearly a decade; a single mother of two girls, aged ten and fifteen. Kamren had never married, had no children, and never planned to change either. The two had quickly discovered their shared passions for endurance hiking and protecting the environment, and regularly spent days together in the wilds of the Appalachian Mountains, her kids packed off to her parents or to boarding school.
With her girls grown and now living in Florida, the couple had more time to pursue their common interests. Earth Now was a growing organization, and Kamren found himself more at the forefront these days, wearing the suit. With Sandra at his side, Earth Now’s ranks had quickly swelled to over five thousand members, mostly in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. They worked tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for endangered species and the vital importance of wetlands and woodlands. They had picked up the slogan, Think Global, Act Local, and carried it into small towns and villages all around the tri-state area.
The judge who would be hearing their preliminary motion for an injunction would listen to both sides of a dispute over water pollution in the upper creeks and streams that flowed into rivers, and eventually reached Chesapeake Bay. It was commonsense legislation and both sides of the aisle were behind it.
The matter was quite simple, as far as Kamren and Sandra were concerned. All that was needed to stem half the pollutants flowing into the bay was for livestock to be kept out of the upstream creeks and rivers.
During hot summer months, roaming livestock sought out the cool water and often worked their way along the banks, eating the abundant grasses that grew down to the shoreline. The animals defecated in the water and their waste had been proven to be one of the largest contributors to pollution in Chesapeake Bay. All that was needed to reduce this pollution was for fences to be installed to keep the cattle out of the water. Some farmers adopted the new policy as a matter of course, but others couldn’t be bothered. Those farmers were the reason Kamren and Sandra had come to Staunton.
Within five years of implementing the new policy, Earth Now’s scientists predicted there would be a noticeable change in the amount of dissolved pollutants in Chesapeake Bay, and they projected that within twenty to thirty years, fish populations would return to pre-industrial numbers.
Kamren held the door for Sandra and together they entered the courthouse, armed with words and scientific data.
* * * * *
An hour later the couple was back in their hotel room. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Sandra looked up at Kamren. “Let’s get out of here and go up to the Trail. I didn’t like the looks some of those men were giving us.”
“It was a minor victory,” Kamren said. “These people will just have to learn that the law is the law.” He nodded at Sandra. “We’re finished here.”
“The car’s packed with all our gear,” she said, excitedly. “I’d rather not sleep in a hotel again tonight.”
Kamren smiled at his common-law wife. “There’s a beautiful twenty-mile stretch of the A.T. that I don’t think either of us has hiked in years; we can be there in an hour.”
Sandra smiled, rose from the bed, and flung her arms around Kamren’s neck. “You really know how to woo a girl.”
They changed into more suitable attire for hiking, gathered their things, and were soon on I-64, heading east. Traffic was light as they crossed the valley toward the eastern ridge and began the long, uphill grade. Exiting the interstate at Rockfish Gap, they drove east on U.S. 250 for less than a mile, then made the turn to access Skyline Drive, heading north. A few minutes later, Kamren turned off at the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station—one of many entrances to the Appalachian Trail.
“God, I hated being around all those people,” Sandra said, pulling her backpack from the trunk of the car. “Could you believe some of those backwoods farmers?”
Kamren looked around as he pulled his much larger pack from the trunk. The parking area was small, with room for only a dozen or so cars. It was nearly full. “This time of year, there won’t be any shortage of people on the trail either.”
“Yes,” Sandra agreed, shrugging into her pack. “But at least they’ll be our kind of people.”
Kamren closed the trunk and took Sandra’s hand, leading her toward an opening in the underbrush. “I think the judge’s ruling might have made us a little unpopular in town,” he conceded.
Sandra laughed. “You think?”
As the attractive couple entered the woods, they turned left, heading north on the famous trail.
A moment later, an old, blue GMC pickup pulled into the parking area and the driver steered into a vacant spot just past Kamren’s rental car.
Two men got out of the truck, both of them starting to show signs of age. They wore jeans and work shirts and neither had a backpack, nor did they carry any sort of camping gear. One man had a shaved head. He looked around and, not seeing anyone, nodded toward the gap in the brush. The two men disappeared into the woods a few minutes after the couple.
Thursday, November 28, 2019, Thanksgiving Day
It’d been two years since the storm and nobody in the Florida Keys called it Hurricane Irma anymore. At some point in the future, I felt sure the name would return, as new storms filled more recent collective memories. In the Bahamas the general term now had a different meaning and a different name, after Hurricane Dorian destroyed much of the Abacos just three months ago. As had happened in the Keys, the media moved on to other stories, even though the devastation has only barely begun to be cleaned up. It would be years before those islands recovered.
But for now, here in the Keys, if someone mentioned “the storm,” you knew which one they were talking about.
Though there were still signs of Irma’s destruction everywhere, most of the folks who lived in the Middle Keys had returned to a somewhat normal pace. The outpouring of compassion in the first weeks and months after the storm had nearly evaporated, even though the need was still there. Some folks would simply never recover.
I’d done my part. I’d helped those who were hurt or displaced, I’d put people to work, injecting much needed cash into the community when most were out of work. Businesses closed and some never reopened. But the employees; the locals who’d lived here all their lives, or like me, who’d visited and decided to stay and put down roots, needed an income. They needed help. Anyone who could walk helped those who couldn’t. Anyone with food or shelter shared it with those who had suddenly been left with nothing. I’d joined in, working for days before I even thought about starting on my own home.
That was when people came to help me. I could have handled it on my own. I’d built everything on my island once before and had planned to do so again. But they came by the dozens and offered help. I’d gladly paid them, though they were the kind of people who would have helped for free. And I didn’t take “no thanks” for an answer. It had been a really simple matter: I had the money and others needed it. So, I hired anyone and everyone and paid them according to their need. None would accept a handout, but all were willing to work.
With the help of friends like Deuce Livingston, Rusty Thurman, John Wilson, and Jack Armstrong, along with dozens of others, we’d removed everything from my island that the storm had wrecked and begun the work of rebuilding.
Ambrosia, the primary research vessel for Armstrong Research, had remained anchored in the mouth of Harbor Channel for two months, just past Mac Travis’s island. She served as the mother ship, with enough building material on board to get the job done, plus housing for the workers. At 199 feet, she dwarfed the biggest boat I’d ever seen in this part of the Gulf of Mexico.
The damage to my island hadn’t been as bad as it had been just a few miles down island. The eye of the storm had passed just five miles to the west of my island, but it had crossed US-1 on Cudjoe Key, blasting it, Summerland Key, and Ramrod Key with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour.
My home, as well as the other three structures on my island, had been solidly built. Flood waters had damaged the other three houses, and all four had their roofs blown off. One bunkhouse had been swept from its foundation. But the walls, floors, and the heavy pilings the other three houses had been built on were mostly undamaged.
Sitting on the deck with Finn, I gazed out across my island. My daughter and son-in-law, Kim and Marty, had lived in one of the converted bunkhouses on the north side of the island. It had been ruined, and the other bunkhouse completely destroyed except for the floor and pier points.
The new houses we’d built on the existing pilings were higher and sturdier, built ten feet off the ground and to modern hurricane standards. Mine was four feet higher than the others, to allow room to dock my boats beneath it. The only structural damage to my house had been the loss of the roof, the big doors to the dock area caved in, and some siding ripped away around the lower half.
Jimmy’s house was rebuilt in the same way as the bunkhouses. He’d been my first mate for years aboard my charter fishing and diving vessel, Gaspar’s Revenge. He and his girlfriend, Naomi, now split their time between my island and her place in Marathon. But Jimmy still came out to my island every day, while Naomi worked as the daytime bartender at the Rusty Anchor.
Kim and Marty had been transferred to a Fish and Wildlife office in Miami last year. They mostly lived on the mainland, in a small bungalow they rented in Coconut Grove, not far from their office. But they spent as much of their free time as they could down here. The western bunkhouse was now their home, a little two-bedroom house with a porch off the bedrooms that had a great view across the mangroves toward the setting sun.
The eastern bunkhouse was still just that, a bunkhouse for fishermen. It was a stipulation in the sale of the island that it be maintained as a fish camp for twenty years. The end of that term was fast approaching. It was purely a utilitarian structure, furnished with just the six sets of bunkbeds, an empty desk, and a bathroom.
Sara came out of my house and handed me a beer, taking a seat beside me on the bench. “What time do you want to head down there?”
We were going to the Rusty Anchor for a grand reopening celebration and Thanksgiving dinner all rolled into one.
“We don’t have to leave right away,” I said, as Sara leaned against my shoulder. “I don’t like being the first to arrive.”
My friend, Rusty Thurman, had only closed the doors of the Anchor for two days; just before and immediately after the storm. Not even that long, really. He’d housed quite a few displaced people in his home and his bar all during the storm.
The Anchor was the hub for local business and gossip and had become the rallying point for the cleanup effort after the storm. It had sustained little damage, but Rusty and I agreed it needed some attention. His wife, Sidney, was all in favor of a complete makeover. But Rusty and I decided we wanted to maintain that old-time Conch vibe. Being part owner, I kicked in half the cost for a full renovation of the property. It’d taken two years, working on just one section at a time, so as to keep the place open during remodeling, but it was finally finished. The work on the bar itself, and the little open-air kitchen attached to the back, was performed at night, then cleaned and ready for business by morning.
“You just don’t like being around a bunch of people,” Sara said.
“Not true,” I replied defensively. “I have friends I like to hang around with.”
Sara Patrick and I had been together for a couple of years now. She was a widow when we met, and neither of us was looking for a relationship at the time. We’d become close friends and co-workers, enjoyed each other’s company, and had eventually started a monogamous physical relationship that was satisfying to both of us. There were times when one of us would be called away for weeks, or sometimes months, and neither of us wanted the stress of an emotional relationship.
She playfully punched my ribs. “Deuce, Jimmy, Rusty, and my dad. Everyone else you simply tolerate.”
“Also, not true,” I said with a grin. “There are a lot of people I don’t tolerate at all. But I guess we should go on down there.”
Finn rose from the deck and stretched, then shook his big head. I thought he’d been napping, but as usual, he was just waiting on the go word. Finn was mostly Labrador Retriever, but he had a little Short-haired Pointer mixed in, as well. At ten years old, he wasn’t as fast as he once was, but he still got around well. His favorite word was go; go fishing, go for a boat ride, go diving for clams, go to the Rusty Anchor.
“We’re staying aboard in the marina tonight?” Sara asked, as we both rose.
Finn danced his way toward the door to the house, his claws clicking on the teak deck.
“Yeah. I don’t want to come back out here in the dark after drinking.”
“Good,” Sara said, with a come-on look. “I like that big bed on Salty Dog.”
When we re-entered the house, I locked the door behind us. Originally, there had been an exterior access door to the docking area under the house. But after an intruder got inside just before the storm, I decided to forego that luxury when rebuilding.
The exterior walls around the boathouse were concrete now, all the way down to the bedrock, and the only access to the lower level and my boats was from inside the house, and the big double doors at water level. In a pinch, I could swim under the outer boat doors, but they reached to within a couple of feet of the bottom. I’d had to do just that a few times already, having left my keys in the house.
I’d rebuilt my house to nearly the same proportions and design as it had originally been. My Pap often told me, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and the simplicity of my old house was what worked for me. It had one big open room in front, and a bedroom and bathroom in back, which together made up the total one thousand square feet, the same dimensions as the other three houses. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The front room was a combination living room, dining room, kitchen, and work area. It was slightly smaller than the original, due to the new stairs going down to the boathouse. They ran the length of the front room’s back wall. The stairs were narrow, but Finn had no trouble with them. He couldn’t climb the metal ladder the stairs had replaced, though.
Moments later, the three of us idled out from under the house. I clicked the button on the key fob and the big doors slowly closed as we motored into Harbor Channel. I turned northeast and brought the little Grady-White center-console up onto the step, navigating the narrow cut that ran out of the channel with ease. Then I turned south and increased speed.
Finn stood in front of the console with his front paws up on the casting deck, his ears flapping in the wind. He was a boat dog, and never tired of going for a ride.
It only took twenty minutes to reach the Seven Mile Bridge and another ten to swing around Sister Rock and turn into the canal to the Rusty Anchor Marina.
Part of the redevelopment of the property had been to dredge the canal back to its original depth and width and lengthen the seawalls on both sides. To do that, the wrecked boat ramp had to be moved further to the east. Rusty now had room for a lot more boats, and as we entered the canal, I could see that nearly every slip was taken.
My Formosa ketch, Salty Dog, was tied up at the near end, closest to the sea, with my amphibian airplane, Island Hopper, tied down on shore right next to her. The two had a combined age of 103 years, but both were in like-new condition and carried modern electronics.
I idled up to the dock, which extended a few feet beyond the Dog’s bow and allowed Finn and Sara to step up onto the planks. She quickly snugged the line around the last dock cleat and waited for me to line the much smaller Grady up between the Dog’s bowsprit and the dock. I shifted to reverse and turned the wheel to the right to swing the stern around toward shore. With no cleat to tie to, I just tied a line off to the cranse iron at the end of the bowsprit, while Sara secured the bow line. It was close, but there was at least a foot between the Grady’s gunwale and the Dog’s dolphin striker. I shut down the engine and used the bobstay to climb up onto the bowsprit, where I went aft to turn on the breakers so the air conditioning would cool the boat’s interior.
After I joined Sara on the dock, we walked toward the newly renovated bar at the far end of the canal. Finn ran off toward the backyard, looking for someone to play with.
Rusty had expanded the outside deck, wrapping it around the side nearest the docks, and extending it farther out into the backyard. The new stage on the southwest corner of the deck was elevated two feet and covered with a big blue triangle of heavy sailcloth. When someone was performing, they didn’t have to stare into the setting sun.
The side deck was also covered in sailcloth, arranged in alternating triangles of red and blue, while the back deck still had tables with individual white umbrellas, though they were newer. Rufus’s partially enclosed kitchen was also enlarged, and Rufus had brought his niece from Jamaica over to work and train as his assistant.
Rufus was a wiry little Jamaican man, with a shaved head and gap-toothed smile. He’d been Rusty’s chef since he’d retired from a five-star restaurant in Negril about twenty years ago. He’d seemed old and wizened then, but nobody knew just how old he was. I figure he had to be pushing the eighty-year mark.
The Rusty Anchor Restaurant could now serve about a hundred people outside, and another fifty inside, though the inside was primarily the Rusty Anchor Bar.
There was evidence of Sidney and Naomi’s input here and there—Naomi was Sid’s niece. Though still a locals sort of place, Sidney had convinced Rusty that “local” didn’t have to mean just Marathon. With the number of people the two of them knew up and down the hundred-mile-long archipelago, they could draw in a much bigger crowd. Sidney booked entertainment and advertised the length of the Keys and soon, the Rusty Anchor had become a lot busier and more profitable than it’d ever been. But it still held firmly to that old Conch spirit. Rusty ran the bar, Sid ran the restaurant, and they both ran the marina.
As we strolled along the dock, we said hello to a few people we met and stopped to talk to Deuce and his wife, Julie, aboard their Whitby ketch, the James Caird. Julie was Rusty’s only child, and she and Deuce now had a pair of tow-headed boys, who were nowhere in sight.
“Where’s Trey and Jim?” I asked, accepting the offered beer from the cockpit.
The couple had honored both their fathers in naming the boys. Deuce’s full name was Russel Livingston, Junior and that name was passed on to the oldest boy, who logically became Trey. Had Russ, Senior still been around, I think he would have liked being the Ace in the threesome. The younger boy was given Rusty’s first name, James.
“They took off with buckets a couple of hours ago,” Julie replied.
“Said they were going to find treasure,” Deuce added. Then he turned to Sara. “How’s your dad?”
Sara’s father, John Wilson, had suffered a heart attack during the summer and had to spend nearly a week in the hospital. He’d stayed with me and Jimmy on the island during the rebuild, while most of our other friends and hired contractors went back to Marathon each night or stayed aboard Ambrosia. At seventy-four, he’d worked right along with us, setting a grueling pace for some of the younger workers who were half or a third his age. The heart attack was mild and it had happened quite unexpectedly the week after we’d declared the island fully habitable and he’d returned home.
“He’s a pain in his doctor’s butt,” Sara replied. “Stubborn as a mule and twice as thick-headed. But he’s doing a lot better, thanks.”
Deuce and I owned a security consulting business in Key Largo. His dad and I had served together in the Marines and Deuce was once a Navy SEAL officer. He and I had worked together for Homeland Security for a time. Both of us, along with the people we employed, also did contract work for an oceanographic research company on occasion, as did Julie, Sara, and John. But what we did for Armstrong Research seldom had anything to do with science.
Spotting Rusty on the back deck, I yelled and waved him over. He turned and shouted something through the open back door. Sidney came out, and together they made their way toward the James Caird, followed by Kim and Marty.
To say that Rusty and Sid were an unusual pair would be an understatement. Rusty was five-six and, though he’d lost a good bit of weight recently, he still tipped the scales at nearly three hundred pounds. His head had always been bald, and his bushy red beard was about half gray now. Sid was five or six inches taller, and a good hundred pounds lighter. She’d been a Playboy bunny in her early years, and still had the looks, with piles of auburn hair and a ready, gleaming smile.
“When’s this party supposed to get started?” I asked, shaking my old friend’s hand and pulling him in for a man hug.
“Jimmy’s gonna open the gate in about an hour,” Rusty replied. “But a lot of people are already here.”
“I can see that,” I said, nodding toward the end of the canal, where a segment was reserved for smaller boats. It was crammed full of all manner of small craft, from dinghies to sleek flats skiffs.
Kim leaned over the rail and gave me a big hug, and then embraced Sara, as I shook my son-in-law’s hand with a shoulder bump. After pleasantries were exchanged and we’d caught up, Kim nodded toward the end of the dock; her way of telling me she had something to share that others might not need to know. I followed her down to where the Grady was docked at Salty Dog’s stern.
“Where’s Eve?” I asked, worried because they apparently hadn’t come down from Miami together.
“She’s not coming, Dad. Something came up.”
Kim’s older sister and I didn’t see eye to eye on a few things, but it wasn’t like we were estranged. The first weekend of every month, Eve and her husband, Nick, would bring my grandson down, and Nick and I would take Fred fishing. Later, when Anna was born, it was just Nick and Fred who came down from Miami. I got to know my son-in-law a lot better when Eve wasn’t around. He was more guarded when she was. Now that Anna was a toddler, Eve also made the trip and took her to see things or to the playground.
“Something came up?”
“Mom’s in town.”
I’d talked to my ex-wife only three times since we divorced; about once a decade. Kim had come to the Keys to find me ten years ago, and Eve had done the same not long after that. They quickly learned I wasn’t the kind of man their mother had told them I was.
“Not here, here,” Kim said. “She’s been staying with Eve for the last couple of weeks.”
“Why? Is something wrong?”
“Kamren—the guy she’s been living with since we were kids—well… he was murdered two months ago. According to Mom, she barely got away and has been receiving threats ever since.”
“Kamren?” I’d known of him, but he’d always been called “the boyfriend” or something; never a name, and I’d never asked. “How? Where?”
“Up in Virginia,” Kim said. “They were hiking, and she’d left the trail to look at something. Two guys came along and started roughing Kamren up, asking where Mom was. She’d hidden in the bushes and watched them knock Kamren to the ground and shoot him in the back of the head.”
She said it without emotion. I’d never pried into Sandy’s life with either of my girls. Was there something there, or was Kim in cop mode and simply digested the information weeks earlier?
“Have the police caught the guys?”
Kim shook her head. “No. Mom even recorded it with her phone. But the cops said the video doesn’t show their faces. Dad, she got a threatening email to her private account, saying that she can’t hide in Florida, either.”
She went on to tell me that Sandy and her boyfriend had gone to Staunton, Virginia about an environmental problem concerning livestock waste polluting the headwaters of Chesapeake Bay.
I felt torn. Sandy and I had split up right after Kim was born. She’d left me on Christmas day after my unit had deployed to Panama unannounced. I’d hated her for years but understood why she’d left. Being married to a Marine infantryman wasn’t an easy life.
I’d only had a few short conversations with Sandy since then—none recently. As a person, she no longer meant much of anything to me—just a stranger I once knew. But she was also the mother of two of my daughters, so anything that hurt their relationship would naturally appear on my radar. And if whoever was threatening my ex found her at Eve and Nick’s house, that put them all in danger. Including my grandkids, Fred and Anna.
I looked out over the water to collect my thoughts. “What steps has Nick taken?”
Nick and his father, Alfredo, were a father-and-son law firm. We’d once been adversaries, but now we got along okay. The father was cordial, but I always sensed a respect born of fear. I’d long ago accepted their apologies and Nick had gotten past what had happened on Elbow Cay—men they’d hired to steal a treasure tried to kill me and my friends. Several people died as a result, and the original Gaspar’s Revenge had been blown out of the water.
“He’s filed a protection order,” Kim replied. “Since the email sender wasn’t known, that opened the door for a subpoena to the internet provider. The email address turned out to be bogus, and all the provider would say was that it originated from the Virginia area.”
I didn’t know a lot about such things, but I did know that emails could be tracked to a more precise location than just a state. And I also knew who could find that information.
“I’ll make a call,” I said. “See if we can’t find out anything more.”
“She’s your mom, Kim. Anything that bothers her affects you and Eve.”
“And anything that bothers us, you kick the snot out of?”
I shrugged. “Something like that.”
“I’m a cop, Dad.”
I gave her a crooked grin. “Fish and Wildlife.”
She knew I was kidding and that I was very proud of the path she’d taken. Kim was an excellent cop, in or out of the water. She and Marty were responsible for a couple of pretty big drug takedowns.
“You’re still a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, Dad.”
I pulled her to my side, my arm around her shoulders. “Sometimes the world needs a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal.”
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