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Authors: Rebecca Hale

Adrift on St. John

BOOK: Adrift on St. John
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Praise for the Cats and
Curios Mysteries

“Written with verve and panache…Will delight mystery readers and elicit a purr from those who obey cats.”

—Carolyn Hart, author of
Dead by Midnight

“Quirky characters, an enjoyable mystery with plenty of twists, and cats, too! A fun read.”

—Linda O. Johnston, author of the
Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries

“[A] wild, refreshing, over-the-top-of-Nob-Hill thriller.”


The Best Reviews

“An adorable new mystery.”


Fresh Fiction

“[A] merry escapade! It was an interesting trip where nothing was as it seemed…If you enjoy mysteries that are a little off the beaten path, ones that challenge you to think outside of the box, this one is for you.”


The Romance Readers Connection

Titles by Rebecca M. Hale

Cats and Curios Mysteries

HOW TO WASH A CAT

NINE LIVES LAST FOREVER

HOW TO MOON A CAT

Mysteries in the Islands

ADRIFT ON ST. JOHN

Adrift on
St. John

Rebecca M. Hale

BERKLEY PRIME CRIME, NEW YORK

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

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(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand

(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,

South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

ADRIFT ON ST. JOHN

A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / March 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Rebecca Hale.

Cover design by George Long.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-1-101-56062-4

BERKLEY
®
PRIME CRIME

Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

BERKLEY
®
PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

10   9   8   7   6   5   4   3   2   1

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

For Jana, Felix, and Will—
who first brought me to St. John

Her name was

Phuong…which means Phoenix,

but nothing nowadays is fabulous

and nothing rises from its ashes.

—Graham Greene, The Quiet
American
(1955)

Table of Contents

Prologue

1 The Dumpster Table

2 The Amina Slave Princess

3 A Dark History

4 A Disturbing Introduction

5 The Amina Record

6 The Miami Encounter

7 Government House

8 The Empty Folder

9 Fred

10 Maho Bay

11 The Surfing Iguana

12 A Ticklish Situation

13 The Dearly Departed

14 On the Danish Slave Ship

15 Something in the Air

16 Town

17 The Vultures

18 The Invitation

19 The Trunk Bay Parking Lot

20 The Teepee Tent

21 Mary’s Point

22 A Heated Debate

23 Gussying Up

24 Caneel Bay

25 Miss Hoffstra

26 Turtle Point

27 Hank Sheridan

28 The Uncle

29 Bannanquits

30 A Wet Morning

31 The Proposal

32 Cinnamon Bay Ruins

33 The Bug Mon

34 The Signal

35 The Haircut

36 Lost

37 The Computer Programmer

38 Beneath the Sea

39 The Jeep

40 Keep to the Left

41 The Brown Bay Ruins

42 The Blue Nylon Satchel

43 Coral Bay

44 Centerline Road

45 The Convention

46 The Windmill

47 The Cannon

48 The Signal Is Heard

49 The Missing Jeep

50 A Leet-tle Chaos

51 The Condo

52 Clean Towels

53 A Darkening Drive

54 The Salt Pond

55 Ram Head

56 The Impersonator

57 The Leap

58 The Eco-resort

59 The Pen

60 The Client

61 The Paper Bag

62 A Boat of His Own

63 The Water Taxi

64 The Sinking

65 The Beach

Epilogue

How to Moon a Cat

Prologue

Deep within the murky, unlit darkness of the Caribbean waters skirting the northern tip of the Lesser Antilles, the stocky shadow of a catamaran powerboat rocked against a wooden pier off the tiny island of St. John.

The short length of the boat was built up over its center, providing an elevated captain’s tower and, beneath, a small rounded cargo hold fitted with benches for passenger seating. A line of red letters in bold block print ran across the vessel’s white-painted side. The text spelled out WATER TAXI.

The captain glanced impatiently at the empty dock and the path leading up to the sprawling resort laid out across the hillside above. He had a schedule to keep, and he was anxious to depart. But his last passenger was still en route, somewhere within the mass of palm trees and dense vegetation surrounding the cove. She had reportedly run back to fetch a forgotten item.

The captain skimmed the tip of his tongue over the plump surface of his upper lip as he surveyed the two passengers already on board. They were seated several feet apart on a bench that lined the boat’s open back landing.

On the far right side of the bench sat a fleshy, pear-shaped man in a sweaty golf shirt and wrinkled chinos. He was a computer programmer, according to the resort manager who had scheduled the pickup. The resort’s parent company had brought the man in to set up their Wi-Fi Internet system. With his work now complete, the programmer was on his way to the St. Thomas airport, where a series of red-eye flights would carry him to the next vacation destination in line for his specialized services. Following the prescribed protocol, the programmer had been waiting dutifully by the dock when the water taxi arrived.

The captain’s eyes passed critically over the programmer’s bulging form. This porky, pigeon-eyed man would look out of place, the captain thought, anywhere other than in front of a computer terminal. The shape of his body appeared to have evolved over many years of desk work, melding into a lumpy hump of colorless, amoeba-like flesh that could instantly surround and engulf a computer’s console.

Even in the cool nighttime breeze, the programmer’s pouchy skin glistened with a shiny layer of sweat. The captain watched as the man folded the puffy, swollen mitts of his hands and rested them on the uppermost roll of his stomach, sedate and seemingly unbothered by the delay. The round lenses of his wire-rim glasses stared, unseeing, into the blue blackness of the liquid night.

The programmer let out a tired yawn. He’d been bouncing around the Caribbean for several weeks now, and the endless stream of exotic island locations had begun to blur together. To his travel-glazed eyes, one hotel complex nestled beneath a cluster of planted palm trees looked pretty much the same as the next.

The programmer wiped the back of his hand across his damp forehead. He’d put on clean clothes not more than an hour ago, but already the cotton fabric of his collared shirt had begun to cling to his chest. He wasn’t cut out for all this heat and humidity, he thought wearily.

A drop of perspiration slid across the bridge of the programmer’s nose as he glanced down at his watch. They were running late, but not unusually so.

Everything in the Caribbean, it seemed, ran on a laid-back, unrushed, “island time” schedule. There was no use trying to fight the delay—he knew from long experience.

After the events of the last couple days, he was more than ready to get off this island, but the boat, he reasoned, would leave soon enough. He shifted his weight, trying to ease his back into a more comfortable position against the rounded curve of the bench, and closed his eyelids with an air of resigned acceptance.

The captain grunted testily and turned his gaze to the boat’s second passenger. The elderly cleaning lady had been a last-minute addition to his roster. What was her name again? Beulah. That was it. Beulah. The captain angled his brawny arms out in front of his chest as he studied the feeble crimp of her body.

The old woman was but one of the hundreds of day laborers who supported the island’s booming tourism and hospitality industry. The majority of this workforce lived on the neighboring island of St. Thomas, where low-income housing, however meager, was at least available, and the cost of goods and services, while still island-inflated, was somewhat more manageable.

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