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Authors: Rob Sangster

Ground Truth

BOOK: Ground Truth
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Ground Truth


Rob Sangster

ImaJinn Books


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.

ImaJinn Books
PO BOX 300921
Memphis, TN 38130
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61026-088-6
Print ISBN: 978-1-61026-096-1

ImaJinn Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 by Robert Powell Sangster

Printed and bound in the United States of America.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

ImaJinn Books was founded by Linda Kichline.

We at ImaJinn Books enjoy hearing from readers. Visit our websites

*10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

Cover design: Debra Dixon
Interior design: Hank Smith
Photo/Art credits:
Mexican street (manipulated) © Rfoxphoto |



My warmest thanks to Lisa C. Turner, best-selling author and my loving inspiration. She made
Ground Truth

Chapter 1

May 30

5:30 p.m.

A SQUALL SWEPT across San Francisco Bay, pummeling a dozen sailboats racing for the Commodore’s Cup in the chaotic water.

Jack Strider, stuck in second place, wrestled the tiller, keeping Simba on the fastest heading she could handle without capsizing. Already heeled hard over to port, a strong gust could drive her sails into a wave and rip her rigging apart. Several skippers had dropped their mainsails all the way down. He could do that too—and lose the race. No way he’d play it safe. Feet braced to keep from being washed overboard, he kept a wary eye on a stretch of nearly submerged rocks to his left. His course was dangerous, but still the best way to pass Mistral, the red-hulled sloop just ahead.

Mistral’s captain glanced back and edged his boat to the left in front of Simba. He waved for Jack to fall back.

Jack quickly calculated distance and wind speed. He still had room to squeeze between the red-hulled boat and the rocks, but only if Mistral didn’t continue to crowd in front of him. Knuckling a blast of salt spray out of his eyes, Jack pointed to the closing gap, signaling his intention to sail through.

Judge H. Peckford Strider, Jack’s father, gave Jack a scornful smile as he eased Mistral’s tiller more, cutting off Jack’s route and moving so far left he was close to driving both boats into the rocks.

Damn him. Trying to win a trophy had never made Peck act like this before. Had he gone nuts?

At the last second, Jack steered sharply to starboard,
bow passing inches behind
stern. The instant he was clear, he cut back to port, passing close to
right side.
big sails blocked the wind and left
sails flapping uselessly.

As he shot past
toward the finish line Jack couldn’t hear Peck over the wind, but saw him shouting angrily

He’d gambled that Peck was so intent on winning that he’d misread Jack’s strategy until it was too late. And he had. The bang from the starter’s gun signaled Jack that he had crossed the finish line and won the Commodore’s Cup.

Fifteen minutes later, Jack had secured
lines to cleats on the pier and climbed back aboard to make her shipshape for foul weather. While he was fastening the sail cover,
pulled slowly into her space at the far end of the pier. After making her lines fast, his father sat hunched over in the cockpit with his cell phone to his ear, ignoring Jack.

Jack was locking the cabin hatch when Peck strode past
cap pulled low, still not looking his way.
No congratulations, not even “kiss my ass.”
The silent treatment was out of character, but it was for the best, because right now he was primed to tell his father exactly what he thought of his race tactics.

As Jack walked toward the clubhouse, he stopped and turned to admire his boat, a 29-foot Dragon racing sloop with mahogany planks and teak decking. She was a thoroughbred. Together they’d won the Commodore’s Cup and beaten his father.
Damned good job

IN THE CLUBHOUSE, he changed into dry clothes and walked into the Schooner Room where skippers and crews gathered after races. Aromas of fried onions and sizzling burgers filled the room. It was a comfortable place with a long redwood bar, cedar paneling, and barrel armchairs around the tables. Photographs hung on the walls of mustachioed schooner captains, all long dead, and tall ships in exotic ports. There were a few blue-blazer types in the crowd, but some of the other men could have stepped out of the old photos.

He was greeted by cheers and applause.

From the far end of the bar, Ronnie Patterson called, “You’ve got guts, Jack. Nasty trick Peck pulled, trying to drive you into the rocks. What got into him today?”

He raised his glass to Patterson. “No big deal.”
Maybe not, but his triumph felt tarnished by Peck’s behavior.

He’d known many of the guys in the room since he’d been a kid in Learn-to-Sail classes. Later, he’d given summer sailing lessons to pay for his own sailing gear, a rebellion against his father’s attempts to use money to control him.

As he built his skills, some of the old salts had invited him to crew for them, teaching him how to read the wind, trim sails, and win on race days. A few of them had become like surrogate fathers, accepting him for who he was.
Which was more than his own father had ever done.
No matter how little they might have in common outside these walls, here they were family.

“Hey, Jack,” the bartender said, “where’s your old man? Pissed off because you stuck it to him?”

“He took off up the pier while I was still aboard
. Now, how about Dark ‘n’ Stormys all around—on me.” It was a tradition for the winner to buy a round, and a little rum would change the subject.

As usual, the guys debated race tactics—which ones worked and which failed miserably. Tonight they were topping one another with stories of how badly the squall had knocked them around and what they’d done to survive. And every time the talk circled back to Peck and the rocks, Jack got more slaps on the shoulder. The ones that meant the most came from the old salts who had been his mentors. Drinks were disappearing faster than normal.

When his cell phone rang, he pulled it out and checked caller ID. It was Peck’s latest lady friend, a relentless shark in pursuit of his father. Provocative in uninspired ways, she was determined to seduce Peck into marrying her and made it clear she didn’t intend to let Jack interfere. At this moment she was possibly the last person on earth he wanted to talk with but, since she almost never called him, instinct told him to answer.

“Yes, Anita?” Terse but not rude.

“I’m at your father’s house. He got home a little while ago, headed straight for his study and slammed the door. Something’s terribly wrong. You have to help me.”

Wheedling and high drama were Anita’s favorite modes of speech. This time she’d chosen the latter, the one Jack found most jarring.

“Forget it, Anita. He’s just angry that I beat him for the Commodore’s Cup.”

“That’s not it. I know he flares up then gets over it, so I knocked on the door and said, ‘What’s the matter, sweetie?’ He jerked it open, gave me a nasty look, and said, ‘The biggest shit of all time is about to hit the fan. Get your ass out of my house and don’t come back.’ Then he locked the door. He’s never talked to me like that before.”

Jack knew all about his father’s flare-ups. He’d been on the receiving end too often.

“Look, I’m tied up at the club. I’ll stop by in a couple of hours.”

“No, come
. I knocked on his door two more times, but there was no answer.” Her voice rose almost to a shriek. “He could have had a heart attack or something.”

Damn it.
Maybe something really was wrong. “Okay, I’m on my way.” He clicked off and called out to the room, “Have to take care of something, guys. Shouldn’t be long.”

“Get back in time to pick up your trophy,” Patterson said.

Yeah, right.
He’d wanted to win the race, but he didn’t give a damn about the two-foot tall silver cup donated by a former Commodore whose name was inscribed on it three times: H. Peckford Strider.

In the parking lot, he stuffed his long legs into his black BMW convertible. Halyards still clattered against masts, but the fierce wind had slacked off. As he sped down Beach Road toward his father’s house the sky ahead looked menacing.

Jack had been in the mood to get a little buzzed and talk about sailing. If this was just about losing the race, his father deserved a swift kick in the ass.

He dug out his phone, hit speed dial, and called the private number that rang only in Peck’s office. One ring. Three. Five. Seven. Was Peck playing him again, smirking as he listened to the phone ring? Or was he lying on his back, red faced and gasping for breath?

BOOK: Ground Truth
11.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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