About This Book
CrossCurrent was originally published in hardcover in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., in 2004. The mass market paperback edition was published by Ballantine in 2005, and Random House produced the first ebook in 2007. This digital edition was published by Tell-Tale Press in April, 2012.
This file is licensed for private individual entertainment only. The book contained herein constitutes a copyrighted work and may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into an information retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means for any reason (excepting the uses permitted to the licensee by copyright law under terms of fair use) without the specific written consent of the author. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions. Your support of authors’ rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2004, 2012 by Christine Kling
All Rights Reserved
Cover design by Robin Ludwig Design, Inc.
Visit Christine Kling at http://www.christinekling.com
To the memory
of Red Koch,
captain of Hero
“Se bon ki ra."
Good is rare.
I would like to thank the following people:
Mark Tavani, Tracy Brown, Judith Weber, the Community Policing Division, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te La Daginen, Fred Rea, Ed Magno, Michael Black, Barbara Lichter, Kathleen Ginestra, Ross Prim, captain of Island Girl, Marcia Spillers, Caren Neile, Neil Plakcy, Ginny Wells, Sean Holland, my readers, family, friends, and most important of all, my son, Tim Kling.
Looking down at the old wooden Bahamian cruiser Miss Agnes, resting on her side on the white sand bottom, it was hard to imagine that people had died here. Every detail, from the peeling, eggshell-colored paint to the frayed wire at the base of the radio antenna, was so sharp, it was as if I were peering through a camera lens in crisp focus. It didn’t look as if it were underwater. The cruiser and the water above were so still and clear that as I leaned over the bow of my boat, I felt like I was floating in air.
“I just can’t picture a vessel that size carrying over fifty panicked people.” I turned and saw B.J. standing outside the tugboat’s wheelhouse door, dripping seawater, his wet suit unzipped to the waist, his long black hair slicked straight back. He joined me at the rail and stared down into the crystal water. “You know, Seychelle, it was like three generations— old people, young, even kids—all jammed in there like cocktail wienies in the can. Hell of a way to go.”
“Cocktail wienies, B.J.?” I turned around and squinted at him, my elbows propped on the aluminum bulwark behind me. We both had to shout to be heard over the rumble of the generator on the barge. “I didn’t think a guy like you even knew such things existed.”
B.J. was my sometime deckhand and mechanic, a sort of New Age natural foods surfer; the only one I’d ever known who didn’t make all that seem kind of fake and wacky. He certainly was not your typical blond surfer dude, since he had at least two college degrees compared to my zero—and an ancestry that was mostly Samoan but included a dash of every other ethnic group that had passed through the Pacific in the last hundred years. Though he’d never been to his islands, you could see in his smooth brown skin and almond- shaped eyes that he carried part of his homeland in him. “Natural” was not a fad to B.J., it was how he lived his life.
“You’re right, I’d never eat such a thing, but I do like to observe the habits of the people around me. Take those guys, for example.” He jerked his thumb in the direction of the men working the crane on the barge to which Gorda, my forty-foot tugboat, was moored. We were anchored a couple of thousand yards off the Hillsboro Inlet lighthouse. “Between them, they have three completely different ideas as to where I should put the straps under the hull so that when we lift this wreck to the surface, we won’t break the back of the old derelict. Not a one of them is willing to compromise.”
I looked at the characters he was referring to, and I suspected that not a one of them was hangover-free or had used a razor within the last three days. They looked like a labor pool collected from the Downtowner Saloon at closing. “I gather we’re going to be here awhile?”
B.J. nodded, then moved into the shade, sitting on the deck box at the front of the wheelhouse. He began to scratch Abaco’s ears. She was the black Lab I’d inherited along with Gorda and the Sullivan Towing and Salvage Company when my father, Red Sullivan, died not quite three years ago.
“I got tired of swimming around while they try to make up their minds,” B.J. said, “so I came out here to bug you.” He peeled the wet suit off his broad, brown shoulders. “It’s too early to be this hot.”
I turned away from the view of his chest. Today I had to concentrate on business. After working with B.J. for years, and swearing to myself I would never allow the relationship to change into something different, something romantic, it had changed. The how and why were a long story, but shortly after finding his toothbrush and coconut soap in my bathroom, I’d asked for a hiatus. I wasn’t sure yet I was willing to give up my precious solitude.
The business at hand was a much-needed insurance job. Working for the corporate world beat working for the little guy—you gave them the bill and they paid it. They didn’t cry and complain and try to wheedle you out of every nickel. Gorda and I were here to take the Bahamian cruiser under tow once these guys from Gilman Marine brought her to the surface and got her pumped out. Gilman’s tugs were all huge monsters designed for moving ships, so while they had the barge crane to get the Miss Agnes off the bottom, they had subbed this towing job out to me. My father had designed Gorda and had her built specifically for the small boat and yacht trade back in the early seventies.
I had deck loaded two big thirty-gallon-per-minute gasoline pumps, and as long as she wasn’t holed, we should be able to keep Miss Agnes pumped out and get her down the coast, into Port Everglades, and up to a boatyard. Old planked wooden boats like her would usually leak through their caulked seams, but my pumps should be able to stay ahead of the flow.
I leaned out over the water again to examine the wreck resting on the bottom. The sand beneath her looked as though it had been raked into neat furrows, the product of the swift current that flowed through the inlet. The illusion of flying was harder to maintain now as I spotted a school of smallmouth grunts darting in and out of the open pilothouse windows and a foot-long barracuda hanging motionless over the wreck. “Are you sure they said fifty people, B.J.?”
Neither of us said anything for a while. That was one thing about B.J.—he never felt the need to fill the silences with unnecessary talk. When he spoke, finally, his voice was quiet, and I had to lean in closer to hear him. “See the jetty back there, off the north side of the inlet?”
I looked to where he pointed. The Hillsboro Inlet lighthouse stood back from the broad beach tucked in among the scraggly pines and low sea grape trees. The nearly one- hundred-year-old skeletal frame had been painted recently, white on the bottom half, black up top. A small rock jetty jutted out into the Atlantic along the sandy point at the base of the lighthouse.
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