Redemption Key (A Dani Britton Thriller)

BOOK: Redemption Key (A Dani Britton Thriller)
8.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


The Widow File



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2014 S.G. Redling
All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Thomas & Mercer, Seattle

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Thomas & Mercer are trademarks of
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781477819609
ISBN-10: 1477819606

Cover design by becker&mayer! LLC

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013919786

For Gina Milum, the best friend anyone could hope for





























Wednesday, August 21

4:38am, 74° F

Dani lay on her back listening to the night sounds of the island, sensing the changing tide by the shifting breeze. She lay on the floating kayak dock, the rough indoor-outdoor carpet scratching her bare shoulders. In the hazy moonlight she could make out the shapes of date palms and sea grape around the inlet. No lights shone from the low buildings around her. Somewhere to her left, gravel crunched once, twice, and Dani tensed, turning her head to stare into the shadows. She didn’t move. She didn’t breathe.

The breeze shifted again, blowing clouds out of the way, letting moonlight fall on a pair of tiny Key deer picking their way across the parking lot. They lifted their heads, catching her scent, deciding if she was a threat. It seemed they didn’t want to risk it and hurried along down the rutted road deeper into the island.

She knew how they felt. She knew that watchfulness.

At least now she was able to stay in one place, to keep herself from bolting into the darkness to find another place, a safer place, a place that wasn’t where she was at the moment. There was no safer
place. She was her safest place. She stretched her left hand out to the edge of the bobbing dock and felt the warm water at her fingertips.

She was her safe zone, her only safe zone, and she knew how to defend it.

Dani sighed and sat up. No more sleep was coming tonight. And if it did she knew it would bring with it visions of blue eyes and strangling hands and she’d just claw her way out of the dream again. She woke up in a knot of sheets every night when the heat and the dreams overpowered her and only lying by the warm, still waters would soothe her.

Funny, she thought, that after nearly drowning, she loved being in the water more than ever. Of course, the warm tides of the islands were a far cry from the filthy, icy water of the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. And she still had no memory of actually going into the water, just fevered ghosts of memories of hanging over the water, pain and terror suffocating her. They told her she had taken in a lungful of water, that she’d have drowned before she bled to death, that it was the iciness of the water that had saved her.

She didn’t consciously remember the water but her body remembered the cold. Her core temperature had dropped dangerously low and now it seemed her body couldn’t shake that chill. She could never be warm enough.

5:40am, 78° F

Oren would have checked his watch if he still wore one. As it was, his employee made as good a timepiece as the rising and setting sun. He peeled his tangerine, tossing the rinds into the water below the deck out back of his bar, and watched the sky brighten in the east. He squinted into the darker western horizon, toward the bridge over the open water, listening for the sound he’d come to expect. Right on time.

She’d gotten faster in the months since she’d started working for him. She ran hard and she ran fast and she never stopped for anything or anyone. She didn’t even wave, not to him or anyone else on the island. He didn’t mind. A person would have to be lacking some pretty basic survival instincts to want to intrude on the look in her eyes as she ran.

He remembered her labored breathing and stiff-legged limp those first few weeks. Back then he’d been sure she would give up the fight. You didn’t have to be a doctor to recognize that big knot of scar tissue on her thigh. You didn’t have to be a cop, either, to figure out what had caused it. The wide, ugly webbing of scars on her left shoulder was a little harder to explain, but Oren hadn’t survived as long as he had by not knowing how to keep his curiosity in check.

He spit tangerine seeds over the railing as the pounding steps went silent on the middle of the bridge. In the pre-dawn haze, he could just make out her dark form against the sun-bleached concrete, the little light she clipped to her shorts flickering like a beacon. Late spring, early summer, when the sky brightened earlier, he would watch her stop on the bridge, bending and stretching, before she would stare down into the water.

The first time he’d seen what came next, he’d nearly shit himself.

With no preamble, she launched herself over the railing, falling feet first nearly fifteen feet into the channel.

He popped another segment of fruit into his mouth as he waited for her to resurface. She swam with the current today, crossing a hundred and twenty or so yards from the bridge to the dock below him. She alternated swimming styles; sometimes she swam with a strong, fast crawl, sometimes she’d return to his dock swimming most of the way underwater. Today was an underwater day. He’d watched her get better at that too. Once, he’d even tried to hold his breath the whole time she swam, but years of smoking all sorts of things had made that impossible.

He spit some more seeds and heard her splashing around below him. This was his favorite part. He eyed the crossbeam of the deck awning overhead as it creaked when a rope she’d tied there went taut and he resisted the urge to look over the railing. Of all the things he’d watched her struggle with, this seemed the most impossible. Seemed. It had taken weeks for her to clear the water and months before she’d taken her feet out of the effort. Now she barely even breathed hard as she pulled herself hand over hand up the rope, oblivious to the sea slime that slicked the way.

Water poured off of her body, her black tank top and black nylon shorts clinging to her as one brown hand after another gripped and pulled and climbed. She crossed her feet at the ankles, her entire body bent with the effort. She scraped her shoulder as she always did when she pulled herself over the railing of the deck, ignoring Oren and the water she flung around her. He let himself admire the tight curve of her ass when she twisted on the rope, lifting herself over his head, and watched her haul herself up all the way to the awning. Hey, he was old; he wasn’t dead, and a man would have to be awfully close to the grave to not appreciate a sight like this. She pulled and twisted higher and higher until her head came level with the crossbeam.

She closed her eyes and pressed her forehead against the wooden beam, her mouth moving around words he couldn’t hear over the breeze. She wrapped her legs around the rope, looping it around her feet to hold her weight. She slapped the beam with each hand. He wondered if her plan was to figure out a way to hold the rope with just her feet and slap the beam with both hands at once. It wouldn’t surprise him, just like it wouldn’t surprise him to see her achieve it.

BOOK: Redemption Key (A Dani Britton Thriller)
8.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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