Dead Calm (A Dylan Scott Mystery)

BOOK: Dead Calm (A Dylan Scott Mystery)
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Dead Calm
By Shirley Wells

Murder on the Arctic Sea

Detective Dylan Scott thinks cruising well above the Arctic Circle in November is nothing short of madness. He has zero interest in seeing the elusive aurora borealis, but agrees to the Norwegian holiday to keep his wife and mother happy. At least the biggest problem he’ll have to deal with is boredom. But that boredom quickly dissipates when the unpleasant elderly woman in the neighboring cabin is found dead.

Everyone thinks Hanna Larsen had a heart attack. Everyone except Dylan. Dylan is convinced there’s a killer aboard the
Midnight Sun
—a killer who may strike again…

34,000 words

Dear Reader,

June is a good month for us here at Carina Press. Why? Because it’s the month we first started publishing books! This June marks our two-year anniversary of publishing books, and to celebrate, we’re featuring only return Carina Press authors throughout the month. Each author with a June release is one who has published with us previously, and who we’re thrilled to have return with another book!

In addition to featuring only return authors, we’re offering two volumes of Editor’s Choice collections. Volume I contains novellas from three of our rising stars in their respective romance subgenres: Shannon Stacey with contemporary romance novella
Slow Summer Kisses,
Cindy Spencer Pape with steampunk romance
Kilts & Kraken,
and Adrienne Giordano with romantic suspense novella
Negotiating Point.

From the non-romance genres comes
Editor’s Choice Volume II,
and four fantastic novellas: paranormal mystery
Dance of Flames
by Janni Nell, science-fiction
Pyro Canyon
by Robert Appleton, humorous action-adventure
No Money Down
by Julie Moffett, and
Dead Calm,
a mystery novella from Shirley Wells.

Later in June, those collections are joined by a selection of genres designed to highlight the diversity of Carina Press books. Janis Susan May returns with another horror suspense novel,
Timeless Innocents,
following up her fantastic horror debut,
Lure of the Mummy.
Mystery author Jean Harrington offers up
The Monet Murders,
the next installment in her Murders By Design series. And the wait is over for fans of Shawn Kupfer’s debut science-fiction thriller,
47 Echo,
with the release of the sequel,
Supercritical.
Rounding out the offerings for mystery fans, W. Soliman offers up
Risky Business,
the next novel in The Hunter Files.

Romance fans need not dismay, we have plenty more to offer you as well, starting with
The Pirate’s Lady,
a captivating fantasy romance from author Julia Knight. Coleen Kwan pens a captivating steampunk romance in
Asher’s Invention,
and fans of m/m will be invested in Alex Beecroft’s emotional historical novella
His Heart’s Obsession.

If it’s a little naughty time you’re longing for, be sure to check out Lilly Cain’s
Undercover Alliance,
a sizzling science-fiction erotic romance.

We’re proud to showcase these returning authors, and the amazing books they’ve written. We hope you’ll join us as we move into our third year of publishing, and continue to bring you stories, characters and authors you can love!

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

To my mother,
who taught me to love books

Acknowledgments

My thanks are due to the hardworking team at Carina Press for their dedication and professionalism, especially my wonderful editor, Deborah Nemeth, who takes my stories and makes them shine.

To Nick, who keeps believing in me, and who knows the importance of gadgets in a girl’s life. Thank you.

Chapter One

 

It was a perfect night to die.

A huge silver moon had elbowed the clouds aside to cast its light on the water. Some would call it a fisherman’s moon, others a bomber’s moon. He supposed it depended if you planned to catch supper or blow someone to smithereens.

He wasn’t about to do either but he still appreciated the moonlight. He wondered how many other people were gazing at the same moon. Someone, somewhere, would probably see it and write a song about it. Songwriters were obsessed with the moon.

“Moonlight Becomes You.” They were the only words he could remember of that particular song.

There were hundreds more.

“Fly Me to the Moon.” What a shit song that was. Almost as shit as his singing.

“Moon River” was another. Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” was a good one. He liked that. “Harvest Moon,” “Walking on the Moon,” “Moonshadow,” “Blue Moon,” “Bad Moon Rising”—there were hundreds and most of them were rubbish.

He checked his watch. Just under five hours to go.

Funny to think that, in less than five hours, someone would be dead. Of course, they couldn’t know that. They wouldn’t want to know that.

Four hours forty-seven minutes, to be precise.

“Death by Moonlight” would be a good song title. Perhaps he should write it.

A bank of cloud rolled in. For a few moments it was possible to see the outline of the moon but even that was quickly swallowed up. All was in complete darkness.

It was still a perfect night to die though.

Chapter Two

 

“Young man! Yes, you!”

Dylan looked over his shoulder, thinking the imperious command had to be aimed at a young deckhand, but there was no one else in sight. The elderly woman trying to gain access to the cabin next to theirs was apparently addressing him. Charming. He’d bet she was a retired schoolteacher, one who couldn’t adapt to reality after a lifetime spent bullying kids who couldn’t answer back. Dylan
could
answer back, but tempting though it was, there was little point. They had to endure each other’s company during this cruise.

It was difficult to guess her age. Seventy? Eighty? If she’d learned to smile, she would have looked younger. Neatly cut white hair surrounded a face wrinkled with paper-thin skin.

“Dylan Scott,” he introduced himself. “My wife and I have the cabin next door. Can I help?”

“Never again.” From the heavy accent, he guessed she was Norwegian. “In all my years of travelling, I have never known such terrible service. First—” She put a cavernous bag on the carpet. Several receipts spilled out, all headed with the red-and-yellow logo of the Viking Cruise Line, and Dylan bent to pick them up. Her name was Hanna Larsen.

She’d given up trying to get into her cabin. She had better things to do with her time now. Like complain.

“First, I was pushed into the wrong cabin. I booked one with a balcony and they tried to—how do you say? Fob? They tried to fob me off with a cabin with a porthole. It’s not good enough, is it?”

“That’s unfortunate.”

It was the end of October and the
Midnight Sun
would hug the Norwegian coastline as it carried them north to Kirkenes, high above the Arctic Circle. Dylan couldn’t imagine that the lack of a balcony was much of a disadvantage.

Not that he could argue, as he had such a cabin. Bev had been insistent. She’d pictured them relaxing on the balcony to watch the elusive aurora borealis. He’d tried reminding her that her idea of fun was lying on a scorching beach until she was medium rare, but it hadn’t worked. Her mind was set on this Dancing with the Northern Lights Adventure so here they were. He had no idea who’d named the cruise but he sincerely hoped no dancing was involved.

If he was right and this woman was Norwegian, she would have seen the northern lights hundreds of times.

“They take advantage of women travelling alone. When my husband was alive and making our travel arrangements, this never happened. It’s disgraceful. How dare they try to cheat me out of my rightful cabin?”

“I’m sure it was nothing more than an unfortunate mix-up.”

She gave a shake of her autocratic head. “One they’ll regret, I can assure you of that.”

Among the insults Bev like to throw his way were misogynist and chauvinist. Women like this could easily have him a paid-up member of both clubs.

Even allowing for the heavy sweater and chunky cardigan she wore, there was no weight to her. He could easily carry her into his own cabin, show her the treasured balcony and throw her to the mercy of the icy cold water.

“You have a cabin with a balcony now, I assume?”

“Of course. I refused to move until they gave me the correct accommodation. Another passenger was given this one so I had to wait while that person was ousted. I made sure I got the right cabin and I insisted they refund me for the inconvenience. I won’t tolerate it.”

“All’s well that ends well then.” He tried to coax a smile from her but she was having none of it.

“Now, they give me this cabin. Look at it. Right at the end. Why should I have to walk farther than anyone else, hmm? And they’ve given me a faulty card. Why can’t they have proper locks and keys as they used to? This won’t open my door.”

If she’d stop moaning for two seconds—

“There’s a knack to it,” he said, having struggled to open the door to his own cabin. “Here, let me try.”

He exchanged the receipts he’d been holding for her keycard, pushed it firmly into the slot and turned the handle as soon as the mechanism clicked. “There you go.”

He wasn’t expecting a thank-you so he wasn’t disappointed.

“I’ll talk to them about this in the morning,” she said. “If they think I’m going to spend all my time trying to get into my cabin, they’re wrong. After all the problems tonight, I’m exhausted, but at first light, I’ll make sure they give me a lock that works properly.”

The ship’s crew was going to love this particular passenger.

“The lock’s fine,” he said. “You simply need to turn the handle as soon as you hear it click. Really, it’s fine. Very secure.”

Sharp blue eyes pierced him. “It’s not fine, as you say, if I can’t open my door, is it? I won’t stand for shoddy service. People do, these days, and that’s part of the problem. If we all put up with things, nothing will improve, will it?”

“Perhaps you’re right. Well, good night.”

If he hadn’t been expecting a thank-you, he’d thought a good-night might be forthcoming, but she picked up her bag, walked into her cabin and let the door swing closed behind her.

Fervently hoping their paths wouldn’t cross again, and that she’d spend the entire cruise on the other side of that locked door, Dylan walked into his own cabin where the dim light above the door showed him that his wife and daughter were sleeping soundly. He wasn’t surprised. From the moment they’d walked out of their London home to the moment they’d stepped aboard this ship in Bergen, they’d suffered nothing but irritating delays and problems. They’d all been sick to death of travelling.

Not that his mother or his son had shown signs of tiring. They were last seen on their way to the cabin they were sharing to enjoy a late-night poker game.

Dylan used the bathroom and climbed into his narrow bed without waking anyone.

Cantankerous neighbours aside, this holiday probably wouldn’t be as bad as he’d feared. Thankfully, he only had to put up with it for ten days. Boredom might be a problem, with nothing to do but admire the scenery, but it would make a change from the tedious jobs he’d had of late. People thought private investigators had an exciting time of it. They were wrong. All he’d done for months was check up on straying spouses and investigate insurance claims.

He punched his pillow and tried to get comfortable. It was noisy but that wasn’t keeping him awake. He was overtired perhaps, and he never settled in a strange bed.

He eventually dozed only to come to with a start. Footsteps receded. A strange noise, one he couldn’t identify, died away, and half of him thought he might have been dreaming.

He fumbled around in the near darkness for his phone. According to that, it was three-twenty. The footsteps he’d heard could have belonged to his neighbour. Maybe Hanna Larsen had thought of something else that was wrong. No, they hadn’t been her footsteps. Whoever was prowling the corridor had moved more quickly than his neighbour would. It was someone with a much heavier tread too. They’d definitely been coming from his neighbour’s cabin though. As she’d been quick to point out, hers was at the end. There was nowhere else to go.

There had been another noise but he was damned if he could think what it was. A deep rough sound. It had sounded similar to a dog’s bark, but there were no dogs on board. Besides, it had been too mechanical for a dog.

It was no use, he was well and truly awake now. Mind-numbingly tired and wide-awake.

At six o’clock, he gave up on sleep. He dressed quietly so as not to disturb his still-sleeping wife and daughter, and crept out of the cabin.

He’d expected to have the ship to himself at such an hour but his fellow passengers were early risers.

The best thing about this holiday, he decided as he watched people poring over maps or drinking coffee, was the relaxed, informal atmosphere. There was to be none of the dressing for dinner or competing for a place at the captain’s table that put him off more conventional cruises.

Two coffees later, he was feeling slightly more human. The ship would soon be docking at Ålesund and they had sightseeing to enjoy.

He left the café and headed for his cabin. Except his way was barred. Several security guards milled around the end of the corridor, near his cabin, and he spotted a couple of men in the distinctive uniform of the Norwegian police force.

A feeling of foreboding gripped him, and he found a member of the ship’s crew. “What’s going on?”

“There’s been an incident—”

“What sort of incident?”

“I’m afraid passengers won’t be able to disembark for—” he glanced at his watch, “—about half an hour. We apologise for any inconvenience and—”

“Never mind that shit. My wife and daughter are in that cabin. What the fuck is going on?”

BOOK: Dead Calm (A Dylan Scott Mystery)
5.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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