A taut and compelling classic murder mystery with a national security underlying theme. Relationships, greed, dry humor. Unrequited Love. Uplifting.
Lavender Raines gets the ‘doorbell ring’ no wife ever wants to get. Her husband has been brutally murdered, and the FBI is more secretive than helpful. The problem is, his body was found in Caracas when she thought his business trip had taken him to New Orleans.
Mackenzie just opened a second beach resort-town restaurant in Ribault Beach, Florida…but now the clandestine national security organization that from-time-to-time sends him on covert missions wants him to find Lavender’s husband’s killers.
Forces from within the “Deep State” have shaped circumstances that will alter the course of both their lives. Then a local man is murdered. Lavender and Mackey are polar opposites. He is emotionally shut down about his life, but protective of others. She is a pillar of strength in her family, but distrusting of Mackey and guarded around him. Can they find common ground amidst this treachery and turmoil?
Excerpt From Chapter Eight
Ribalt Bech, Florida; Mac “Mackey” Mackenzie
The water sluicing over my body was bracing, but in an abbreviated wetsuit, not frigid. I kept swimming out to sea. The waves were with me. I caught a big one and rode it farther out. The return would be the trial.
My dive watch told me I’d gone far enough, so I stopped and treaded water.
Through a pair of military grade goggles, I fixed my eyes on the shore and began the strenuous swim back. My thigh muscles strained as my legs sliced through the waves, which were now against me. I hadn’t worn flippers intentionally, to make the swim more difficult. When I reached the shore, I was winded.
Sunrise Boulevard ran north and south along the beach. It had a bike path and sidewalks on either side but no parking along the road. Three large public lots intruded onto the beach, having hard-packed sand due to constant vehicle usage. They were spaced evenly apart along the beach front. I walked to my graphite colored Jeep Wrangler, parked in the lot at Sunrise and Beaumont.
I shed my wet suit, slipped a pair of jeans over my swimming trunks, and fastened a clip-on holster to my belt. Then, I stowed my wetsuit in the four-by-four’s cargo space.
A seagull swooped low over the vehicle as I opened the driver’s side backdoor. I removed the floor mat, punched a code into a tiny panel, and lifted the cover of a custom-built secret compartment beneath the floor. I pulled out my Berretta, and secured it in my holster. After I threw on a black untucked, long sleeved shirt, I was good to go.
That’s when I noticed Lavender Raines walking on the sidewalk next to the bike path. The early morning sun, rising over the ocean, played with an occasional red strand of hair in the bun that looked as if it was about to fall apart. Her hair was lush and dark, but not quite as dark as I had thought.
“Mrs. Raines.” I waved. No time like the present to do as The Old Man requested. Check up on her.
She stopped and placed the flat of her palm over her eyebrows, to ward off the morning sun, as she tried to figure out who I was. Then she smiled.
I trotted to her. “It’s good to see you. How are you doing?”
She clasped her hands together. “I’m fine. Thank you for asking. Mackenzie, is it?”
“Yes, ma’am. It’s so good to see you again.” I’d never been accused of having a way with words.
“So kind of you.” She backed up a step.
A kid on a skateboard propelled himself forward by repeatedly striking his foot on the sidewalk. He lost his balance and the skateboard left the pavement, flying six inches off the ground, directly at her.
She let out a small, frightened cry.
I grabbed her and turned her away from the wooden missile. We both staggered backward.
The skateboard grazed my calf. I winced.
“Ouch, my ankle,” she cried.
The kid ran after his board, and we never saw him again.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I tried to get you out of the way.”
She held onto my arm. “Don’t apologize. I’m grateful to you. Are you hurt?”
“Nothing much at all.” I’d have a bruise and would feel it for a while.
She took a halting step but found it difficult, painful. “I think I twisted it.”
Her leg buckled. As she collapsed to one side, she tried to break her fall by grasping my waist. Her head jerked and her eyes opened wide. She withdrew her hand from my weapon as if a snake had bitten her. If she hadn’t known I carry concealed, she did now.
I lifted her, holding on to her until she was able to stand up more-or-less straight. “Keep your weight off your foot.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“If I brace you on one side, can you hobble to my Jeep?”
We took a faltering step, then another. A three-legged dog could’ve done much better. When she whimpered, I scooped her up in my arms and carried her to the Jeep.
Once I got her comfortably settled, I ignored her protests as I untied her running shoe, slipped off the sock, and examined her foot. “There’s nothing major broken. Still, you could have a hair-line fracture. Would you like to go to the emergency room?”
“No. No, thank you. I was on my way to my friend Emmi’s house. It’s on Beaumont off of Catalina– not far from here. If you could drop me there.”
I shimmied the sock back onto her foot over pale-pink painted toes that matched her fingernails. Then, I slid the shoe back on. After I tied the laces, I gently patted the shoe. “All done.”
When I got behind the wheel, she looked directly at me. “A lot of men in Florida carry concealed, but you’re more than you appear to be. From what George told me, Mr. Agard, he’s pretty important in the government.”
I looked straight ahead. “I don’t know that much about what Mr. Agard does.” True, very true.
“At the funeral, you said you knew my husband. Do you know what happened to him? He said he was going to New Orleans and they found his tortured body in Caracas?”
“I can tell you with absolute certainty, it had nothing whatsoever to do with another woman.”
“I already know that,” she snapped. She closed her eyes and took a breath. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”
“No apology necessary. Your world has been turned upside-down. I’ll take you to your friend’s house.” I fired up the engine, determined now more than ever to learn what had happened to George Raines. The man should be home with his wife.