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Authors: P. J. Alderman

Tags: #Suspense, #Mystery, #Romantic Suspense, #pacific northwest

A Killing Tide

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A Killing Tide

by

P.J. Alderman

Published by P.J. Alderman at Smashwords

Copyright ©2006 by P.J. Alderman

All rights reserved.

A Killing Tide
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you are reading this ebook and did not purchase it, or if this ebook was not purchased for your use only, please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Discover these additional titles by P.J. Alderman at www.pjalderman.com:

Port Chatham Mystery Series

Haunting Jordan

~~~

A Killing Tide

Where there's smoke...

Kaz Jorgensen is used to fear--the anxiety of negotiating treacherous currents as she captains her family's fishing trawlers, the terrifying nightmares of the day she almost lost her life on the river. But now a man is dead, an arsonist has set the
Anna Marie
ablaze, and her brother is missing.

There's fire...

Michael Chapman knows how to take the heat--as the new fire chief of Astoria, Oregon, he's dealt with more than his share. No way can he afford to get involved with the sister of a suspect. But the scorching attraction between him and Kaz burns out of control, and when someone takes a shot at her, his protective instincts kick in. Whatever happens, he can't allow another woman to die because of him.

Suspense, romance, and a setting so well drawn that you'll feel like you're there—Alderman delivers it all. An outstanding debut!—Rita Award Winning Author Marilyn Pappano

Tense and riveting, Alderman's debut delivers.—Bestselling Author Colleen Thompson

~~~

A Killing Tide

P.J. Alderman

~~~

Prologue

Astoria, Oregon, late winter, evening

Century-old clapboard buildings huddled together on the narrow triangle of land between Marine Drive and the raging waters of the Columbia River. Sixty-knot gusts of wind rattled loose windowpanes; sheets of rain flayed peeling siding. A rusty streetlight groaned, its pool of light dancing on the darkened sidewalk.

The door of the Redemption Tavern swung open, and a man staggered out. Propping himself against the brick alcove, he peered into the night, eyes slitted against the wet. A Pineapple Express, damn their luck, straight out of the South Pacific. Someone'd probably die on the river bar tonight. Someone they all knew.

Shivering, he shoved throbbing hands into his pockets. Goddamn ratfish. Their fins cut like razors. In the last week, he'd flung enough of 'em off the port bow to last a lifetime.

He closed his eyes, swaying. Someone from inside the tavern yelled at him to close the door, but he paid no attention. All he had to do was make it six miserable blocks, then he'd be home with Julie and the kids. He'd take a hot shower, eat a home-cooked meal. Get some sleep.

They wouldn't come for him at the house. Too many witnesses.

His hands fisted, the right one closing around the small snow globe he'd forgotten he'd put in his pocket. Scowling, he held it up to the dim glow of the lamp above the door. A miniature white fishing trawler floated on a pretty blue sea, glittery bits of snow falling all around it. The skipper's sister had given it to him for Bobby.

"Since Bobby's too sick to go out with you right now," Kaz had explained.

His jaw clenched. She had no clue about the kind of trouble he was in, the kind of trouble they were all in. Pretty little bobbles couldn't fix anything, and there weren't going to be any happy endings. With the snow globe still clutched in his hand, he pushed himself onto the sidewalk.

Rain iced his face and ran inside his collar, soaking the front of his wool shirt. A car passed him, splashing greasy water over his boots. He shook a fist at it, but it never even slowed, its taillights disappearing into the swirling darkness.

What a fool he'd been! But he never thought they'd find out, not really. And he'd been desperate.

At least the Skipper should've understood. After all, Gary was his friend—the two of them went way back. A bitter laugh escaped, its sound swept away by the wind. In all the years he and Gary had been together, he'd never seen Gary so angry, so…disappointed.

What have I done?

In the lull between wind gusts, he caught a sound, a faint scrape on the concrete. Spinning around, he peered into the rain-drenched night.

The street was empty, the only movement the quaking shadows of wind-whipped vegetation.

Increasing his pace, he ducked around the corner of a coffee house, and then from under its creaking sign, crossed a patch of grass to stand in the deep shadow cast by the concrete bridge abutment.

He stared into the darkness, fear chasing each breath, then shuddered.

He was so damn tired. Tired of running. Tired of trying to make things right again.

His head fell back and he looked up, letting the rain batter his face. High overhead, the steel deck of the bridge loomed, its tiny lights winking against the turbulent black sky. Steady streams of water poured off the structure, flooding the grass and soaking his boots.

Sensing movement behind him, he started to turn. Something heavy crashed down on his head, driving him to his knees. Pain exploded, radiating down his spine. Dazed, he shook his head.

Hands grabbed his coat, slamming him against the concrete. Breath soured by beer washed over his face. "Where is it?"

He immediately recognized the low, gravely voice.

Can't tell.

His shoulder rammed against the concrete, his collarbone snapping with a hot, grating pop.
"What did you do with it?"

He choked and sucked in air. "I'll give it back…just give me a chance." The hands tightened like a vise, and he clawed at his throat. "Wait!
I'm begging you.
"

The pressure on his collarbone increased, and he screamed.

"You'll never find it," he got out, but his words were swallowed by the howling wind. He struggled. "I made sure," he whispered.

The hands loosened, and he fell, facedown.

Was that the ocean roaring? Didn't make sense….He was by the river, wasn't he? He chuckled, but the sound only echoed inside his head. Funny. He'd always figured he'd die crossing the river bar, but never like this. It shouldn't have been like this.

The storm was easing. Calm settled over him as night closed in.

Julie will understand.

The fingers of his right hand loosened, and the snow globe dropped into the mud. He never even felt the last blow.

~~~~

Chapter 1

Kaz Jorgensen opened the cedar plank door of the Redemption and stepped into its dimly lit interior. A gust of wind caught the door, and she had to use all of her strength to drag it shut.

Hanging her dripping sou'wester on a peg in the entry, she paused long enough to roll the tension out of her shoulders. By the time she'd crossed the river bar, the seas had been running at seventeen feet. Waves two stories high had battered the trawler, making it shudder beneath her feet. It was her first rough crossing since coming home, and she'd nearly been paralyzed by the sense of déjà vu.

Rubbing icy hands on her jeans, she glanced around the smoky, cavernous room, taking a quick headcount. And breathed a quick sigh of relief. As far as she could tell, no fishing crews were MIA from the storm. Her twin brother Gary caught her gaze, frowning and glancing deliberately at his watch. Shrugging, she held out both hands, then started threading her way through the crowded tables.

"You're late," Lucy McGuire said as she approached. "That's the second time this week."

"Hi to you, too." Kaz dropped into the captain's chair across from Lucy, propping salt-encrusted, wet sneakers on the extra chair. "I would've been here an hour ago if some
idiot
hadn't run through my lines." Catching the bartender's eye, she mimicked a drinking motion.

Steve's brow arched, and he nodded.

While she waited, Kaz watched her best friend take a bite out of her Reuben, miraculously managing to avoid dribbling sauce on her designer jeans and expensive charcoal wool blazer. "How do you
do
that?"

Lucy raised a brow. "Do what?" Her detective's shield was discreetly clipped to her waistband, her Beretta semi-automatic barely distinguishable under the perfect cut of her jacket. An intricately designed antique silver clip tamed thick, curly black hair into a discreet French braid.

Kaz just shook her head. The tavern's only waitress appeared at her elbow with her usual—a frosty pint of microbrew and a tablet of ibuprofen. Kaz shot Sandra a grateful smile, then realized she'd gotten distracted from finishing her rant. "I lost a half dozen pots, dammit. Remind me to hunt down the jerk and give him a piece of my mind."

Lucy snorted. "Like you have a prayer of discovering who it was. So how many crabs did you catch?"

"You don't
count
them, Luce. You
weigh
them." When Lucy raised a brow, Kaz sighed. "Okay, the catch was light—a few dozen."

Lucy choked on a sip of beer, waving a hand in the air. "Wow. Big ones or little ones?"

"Oh, shut up." Kaz slumped more comfortably in her chair, raising her mug. "To safe passages."

"Safe passages," Lucy repeated, clinking glasses. "So tell me you didn't just come into port—that you aren't that crazy."

"I'm not that crazy," Kaz replied obediently, swallowing the ibuprofen with another gulp.

Lucy glared. "Dammit, Kaz—"

"I'm handling it."

"Yeah, right."

Time for a change of subject. "So who's the new guy?" Kaz nodded toward the booths along the back wall.

She'd noticed him right away, of course—they didn't get many tourists this far into Uniontown. The Redemption was a working-class tavern in a working-class neighborhood, a little too rough for most with its worn, scarred tables and harsh, mingled odors of fish, grease, and creosote. Then again, the guy didn't strike her as a tourist.

He sat in a booth by himself, eating a hamburger while he read
The Daily Astorian
. Obviously, no one had told him not to order the grilled food. Few locals except Lucy, who had a cop's cast iron stomach, were that foolish. For the first time, Kaz noticed the black German shepherd asleep at the guy's feet. Stretched out on the floor, the dog looked about the size of a full-grown deer.

Lucy followed the direction of her gaze. "That's the new fire chief, guy by the name of Michael Chapman. He made the rounds to introduce himself a couple of days ago—comes from back East. When Richardson decided to retire, this guy applied for the job. The Mayor took one look at his resume and snapped him up."

Kaz frowned. "That good?"

"Yeah." Lucy abandoned the rest of her sandwich and leaned forward, lowering her voice. "He's some kind of a big-time, washed-up arson investigator. The way I hear it, he and that dog of his brought down one of Boston's worst arsonists in decades, some guy who'd set dozens of fires and killed several people." Her expression turned grim. "I
hate
arsonists. They're sick little creeps."

Intrigued, Kaz sneaked a second glance. The guy definitely looked tough enough to bring down a serial arsonist. Dark hair, cut military-short, barely touched his high forehead, and hard features telegraphed a quiet grimness. He had a rangy, muscular build and shoulders wide enough to make any woman's heart skip a few beats.

Definitely good-looking. Rough-edged, like he'd lived hard. "So why do people think he's washed up?" Kaz asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.

"The torch burned down Chapman's apartment, killing his fiancée." Lucy straightened and tossed her crumpled napkin on top of the remains of her sandwich. "Rumor is that Chapman wigged."

"Sounds like he had good reason." Kaz knew all too well what that kind of loss did to a person.

Without warning, he glanced up, his gaze locking with hers.

He had light-colored eyes, maybe blue—she couldn't tell from this distance. But she had a sneaking hunch they'd chill her right down to the bone. His jaw was rock-hard, that much she
could
tell.

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