Read the Prologue of Shepherd's Watch
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Read the Prologue of Shepherd's Watch

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1

Terry Butler peers through his glasses, turning the engagement ring over in his grease-stained hands.

“I don’t know what the hell I’m looking at.”

The jewelry store clerk leans in with a lint-free cloth and scoops it out of Terry’s hands. “Diamonds are graded by many factors: their brightness and the colour of light they reflect but also their craftsmanship and size.”

“What’s that mean to me?”

She forces a smile. “That this ring is of exceptional value.” She polishes the edges where Terry handled the band with his dirty fingers and sets it back in its spot in the display case before moving down to the end of the counter.

“Perhaps this might be more fitting?” She fetches another ring and brings it back, placing it on the soft mat on top of the glass counter.

Terry stares at it but doesn’t pick it up. His eyes shift back and forth between the ring she just carried over and the one below it in the case. Maybe it’s the way the light fills the display but Terry’s sure that the new one doesn’t shine as bright.

He doesn’t know much about rings, but he knows which one his girl, Miranda, is going to like more.

He pushes a finger against the glass, leaving a dirty smudge that the clerk will need to clean later. “How much for that one?”

He probably wouldn’t have spent so much time worrying about the ring if he’d known he’d be dead by nightfall.


2

Outside the jewelry store, Terry unlocks his car and gets in. He’s got to get back to Huber Motors.

He knows he has the money—well, almost all the money. There’s some in his savings, but it’s still not enough. He might be able to set up an in-store line of credit, but that could be tricky, and payday isn’t until the end of the month. He could scrape together a private advance from the safe money he holds for his side job. Then when his butthole boss, Huber, gives him his paycheque in a few days, he could replace it and no one would know he’d borrowed anything.

He drives past Donnie’s Pizza and waits at the only intersection in town with a stoplight. It’s Friday and Estoria is buzzing with people buying food and booze for the weekend. He checks his watch—only a few minutes left on his break—so when the light turns green, he guns it across.

At the car dealership, he scans the room for Miranda. He doesn’t see her anywhere, but Huber’s at his desk, signing contracts. Huber glances up at the clock on the wall, and Terry waits for him to start something, but Huber, thank God, keeps quiet.

“Where is she?” Terry asks, blocking the doorway of his boss’s office.

“What’s it to you? She’s got her own stuff to do.”

Huber is always playing favourites with her and Terry hates it. He could be a minute late and get dragged into the office, but Miranda can go for an hour-and-a-half lunch and Huber will conveniently not be around to notice. But it’s not worth getting into and Terry starts to move away.

Huber grabs an envelope off his desk and calls him back, “Hey, Butler!”

Terry walks over and takes it. He tears it open and adjusts his glasses to see the total on the cheque. “This is lower than normal!” he glares at Huber. “What gives?”

“You kept coming in late last week.”

“I was helping my buddy Little Joe with his car.”

“Not on my time.”

“But he bought it from you!”

“Yeah, and he should have come to me to get it fixed. You don’t do service calls for all my customers, do you?”

Terry shakes his head in disgust—Huber’s such a dick— and is walking to the shop when he notices another cheque in the envelope.

He pulls it out. Six hundred dollars. Written on the memo line in red ink are the words DISCHARGED / LAID OFF.

Terry storms back into the office and slams the cheque on Huber’s desk.

“What the hell?!”

Huber leans back in his seat, hooking his hands behind his head. “Seems Christmas came early for you.”

“Cut it out! You firing me?”

“I’m downsizing.”

“But the work bays are full!”

“For the guys that show up.”

“I’ve been here since your dad ran this place!”

Huber’s not having it. “In this economy, you’re either making me money or costing me money. I got to cut back.”

Terry’s hands ball into fists. “Isn’t that your new fully loaded muscle car sitting out front?”

Huber sits up in his chair. “Yeah, because I bust my ass every day.”

But Terry’s not done. “Oh, and that’s why you’re never around and it’s Miranda who’s running all over town doing your crap?”

Huber leans forward with a shit-eating grin. “Yeah, and what’s she doing for you?”

Terry doesn’t wait for him to finish. He’s over the desk, tackling Huber to the ground. They wrestle on the floor, and Terry gets one good swing at Huber’s smug mouth before a customer and a couple of service guys from the back pull him off.

“Get the hell out of here!” Huber yells as he straightens his tie and rights the chair behind his desk. “And when you see Miranda, tell her I said hi.”


3

Terry fiddles with his bent glasses as he spins out of the dealership, smacking a garbage can hard and sending it skittering across the parking lot. In a last gesture of rebellion, he snatches a wrench from under the seat of his truck and pitches it at the front window of Huber Motors, but it falls short and only kicks up a little puff of dust that is whisked away in the wind.

A country song about Saturday nights and back-road parties plays while he drives across town to Miranda’s. He turns the volume up, overenthusiastically tapping the steering wheel as he sings along.

Huber will likely press charges and Terry hopes they won’t be too serious. Now that he thinks about it, getting the boot could be for the best—he wasn’t getting what he deserved anyway. He should’ve quit a long time ago.

Only trouble is, this sure as shit cuts his chances at getting a line of credit at the jewelry store—and he only has about two-thirds of what he needs to buy Miranda’s ring. He could likely scrounge up a little more, take the extra out of his safe money, but he’d have to pay it back without anyone noticing, and that wouldn’t be easy.

And Miranda—what’s she going to say about him getting fired? She’ll be pissed, but maybe he could take a bit of his severance and take her out for the night. Maybe, if he got a few beers into her, they could blame Huber together.

As long as he has her, everything will work out.


4

He pulls into Miranda’s driveway and walks toward the house. His hockey duffle bag is sitting on the front step, a white envelope jammed in the side pocket, but he ignores it and goes to the door. It’s locked.

“Babe!” he yells, knocking. “Where are you?”

She comes to the door wearing too tight jeans, a spaghetti-strap tank top in red, and hoop earrings. Her lips are glossy, her hair in a ponytail.

“Didn’t you hear me calling?”

“What do you want, Terry?”

“What do you mean, what do I want? Let me in. I’m taking you out. Supper, drinks—the works.”

He tries to push the door open, but she’s got her whole body wedged against it.

“Terry, stop.”

“Wait, are you in one of your ‘moods?’” He adds the air quotes for emphasis.

She looks past him at the duffle bag and the envelope. “Didn’t you read it?”

He glances at the paper sticking out of the bag, a dull worry worming its way into the base of his skull—he’s had enough envelopes for one day. “Why would I?”

“It’s for you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“We’re over.”

“Come on, enough of this,” he grumbles. “Let me in.”

“Take your stuff and get out of here.” Miranda’s face is strained. She’s ready to cry.

He slides an arm through the doorway, reaching for her, trying to hold her hand. “Come on, baby, let me in. Let’s talk about this.”

She leans back from his grasp, keeping her weight on the door. “Terry, I’m done talking.”

“Why? What happened? I thought—” He thinks about the ring and how good he had felt on the way over. “I thought we were doing good together?”

“Terry, it’s just…”

“What?”

“I need something else. I need to move on.”

His hand falls down to his side, and Miranda takes advantage of it to close the door on him.

The lock clicks shut.

Standing on the porch, forehead against the door, he cries out, “I love you!” but she’s already gone.


5

Two hours later, Terry stumbles out of the Hillside Bar, the afternoon sun sunk low in the sky. He leans back through the door, yelling goodbye to his buddy, Bartender Chad. Only Bartender Chad seems to feel sorry for Terry and the wrongs he’s suffered: Miranda’s cruel words and that jerk-ass, Huber.

As he heads for his truck, Terry shifts a fresh case of beer under one arm and digs in his pocket for his keys, but all he finds are the two cheques from Huber.

He pulls them out and raises them to the sky, sneering at them. “Huber, you lazy son of a bitch.” He stuffs them in his pocket and swings the beer over the tailgate into the back of his truck. “Couldn’t even wait ’til the end of the month to get rid of me.”

He searches again for his keys, finds them this time, and sticks the right one into the lock after three wrong tries.

“End of the month? Wait…” he mumbles to no one in particular. “If today’s Friday, then—” He tries to calculate the days in his head, then on his fingers, and nearly falls over.

But the math makes sense.

“Aww, shit!”

If he’s right—and he’s pretty certain he is—this is the week he’s supposed to do his other job. He can’t figure out how he’s messed up the days, but he’s glad he figured it out before it’s too late.

He hops into his truck with newfound energy. He’s got to hurry back to Miranda’s to pick up his safe money, then get to the lake.


6

He sits in his truck, scoping out Miranda’s place, swiveling his head left and right. No vehicles on the road or in the driveway. No sign of her at all.

“Good,” he announces, “because screw her.”

He drives around to the back alley, parks the truck tight to the shed, banging his door against the siding as he tumbles out.

“Shh…”

His attempt at stealth fails, as does any pretense at sobriety. Still, he shuts the truck door gently and walks up to the rear entrance of the house with a casual air.

He peers through the window in the door, rapping on it. “Miranda? You home?”

Silence.

“Perfect.”

He twists the knob, then shakes it. Locked. He checks under the welcome mat but finds nothing.

She must’ve moved the key.

He looks around and sees a potted plant on the patio table. He checks underneath.

“Bingo!”

He picks up the house key, waving it at an invisible Miranda.“You dummy!” He congratulates himself with a one-sided high-five, impressed by his own cleverness.

He slides the key into the lock and goes into the house, shutting the door behind him.

Inside, he forgets to remove his heavy boots and goes straight for the kitchen. There’s a big bouquet of roses on the table that wasn’t there the day before. He searches for a card on them but doesn’t find anything; he digs in the garbage under the sink, but it’s empty.

Pushing the mystery flowers out of his mind, he opens the fridge and takes out the remains of a tuna casserole. He throws the whole plastic container in the microwave. While he waits for it to heat, he stares at the bright flowers and decides to check out the bedroom.

“More than one way to find out who they’re from.”

He finds the computer tablet she keeps by her bedside and swipes to open it up, but it wants her passcode. He tries her birthdate, but it doesn’t unlock.

“Crap.”

He tries a few more combinations, using as many of her family’s birthdates and phone numbers as he can remember, until it finally locks him out. He tosses it aside and searches through the bedside table, but there’s nothing of interest.

Beep beep. His leftovers are ready.

He grabs his food and douses the steaming casserole in hot sauce. Spoon in hand, he goes down to the basement.

The whole space is a testament to the time and energy he put into Miranda. When they first started dating two years ago, her basement was bare concrete walls and wood joists, but now there’s a small living room with ceiling tiles and a few half-framed rooms.

While he finishes the last cheesy bite of tuna, he moves to the back office and picks up the small ladder he keeps nearby. Setting the plastic container down, he climbs the rungs, reaching up to the ceiling tile behind which he hides his money. These acrobatics are too much for his inebriated brain, and he tumbles backwards into a stack of boxes of Miranda’s tax receipts, scattering them across the floor.

He finds his glasses and sets them back on his face, then uprights the files and jams them back into the boxes at random. That’s when he hears someone come through the front door.

“Terry? I’ve called the cops.”

Shit, it’s Miranda. Maybe, if he just doesn’t move—

“I know you’re in here. I saw your truck out back.”

He hears her moving around the house above him, opening and closing doors. He sets the ladder up again to try and get his money, but now she’s at the top of the stairs, yelling, “Terry, get the hell out of here!”

She’s coming down the stairs.

He can’t get the money without being seen, and she’ll definitely ask questions he doesn’t want to answer. He’ll have to leave it and hopefully come back for it later.

He folds the ladder up and sets it against the wall, taking his tackle box and the fishing rod off a shelf before turning to go.

She’s standing at the bottom of the stairs, arms folded.

“Relax,” he says. “I just came back for the stuff you forgot to pack.”

Miranda stares at him as he passes; she’s pissed, but he doesn’t care. As he goes by her on the stairs, he whispers the word “bitch” before pushing out the back door.


7

Terry drives like a maniac out of town; he’s running out of time.

Every third Friday of the month for the past two years, he’s headed across the lake with three coolers full of ice. One of the coolers holds a small, resealable, plastic bag full of cash that his buddy Little Joe gives him. On the far shore, he’d meet a woman named Cousin Rachel and exchange these coolers for identical ones that are zip-tied shut. Cousin Rachel isn’t a member of Little Joe’s family, but Terry’s sure she’s part of some family of the mob variety.

If Terry never cuts the zip ties, always keeps the coolers closed, and never asks any questions, he can keep doing the run and earn himself five hundred bucks every month. He’s cool with the arrangement—ignorance is bliss—and he likes not being tossed over a bridge chained to a block of cement.

But without the cash for the coolers, he has a big problem.

He has to come up with a plan so he doesn’t miss the meeting—there’s no time to wait around for Miranda to leave.

Steering one-handed, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the two cheques, adding the totals in his head. Should be close enough. Huber might be a jerk of a boss, but he does pay what he owes, so Terry sets them on the seat next to him, satisfied with his solution.

He snatches a pen from the glove box and scribbles on the memo line of one of the cheques, only to find the pen dry. He tosses it out the window, digs out a black marker from the centre console, checks to make sure it works, then signs the back of each cheque, the ink seeping through the paper. He gazes at them over the rim of his glasses, pleased that he’s averted a crisis, unaware that the truck has swerved over the yellow line.

By the time he realizes, he’s almost completely on the wrong side of the road and overcorrects.

The truck shoots back into the proper lane, front right tire dropping off the edge of the pavement to sink into the soft dirt of the shoulder. The wheel yanks out of his hand and the whole truck slides into the ditch. He hits the brakes, but it’s not soon enough and he rams into a tree.

The jolt hits him hard—thankfully he has his seatbelt on— but he knows his truck isn’t as lucky. He climbs out of the cab and surveys the damage. The bumper is crumpled, the radiator cracked, and coolant is pouring everywhere.

“Well, hell’s bells,” he grumbles as he jumps back in and throws the vehicle in reverse.

The metal bumper grips the splintered tree, and the whole front end squeals in protest before tearing off as he pulls away.

He aims the truck back onto the highway and guns it, not bothering to look if anyone’s coming, not caring that his truck is shooting out of the ditch like a wild animal.

The temperature gauge rises immediately, but he ignores it, hoping that he’ll get to the marina at the lake before it burns out his whole engine.

It just hasn’t been his day.


8

At the resort area, Terry drives straight for the dock, steam hissing from the hood of his truck. His bumperless front end bonks off the wood posts that string steel cable around the parking lot, and empty beer cans and food wrappers fly off his seat onto the floor in response. He no longer cares.

He grabs a convenience store bag off the floor, jams the cheques inside, and ties it tight. He climbs out and hauls the three blue coolers from the truck box. He sticks the bag with the cheques into the bottom of one and, from the passenger side, grabs the bags of ice he bought, tearing them open, and spilling them into the coolers. As a finishing touch, he tosses a few cans of beer on top of the one with the cheques before slamming the lids shut.

“There you go, Cousin Rachel. That should keep you and yours happy ’til next month.”

He can’t quite reach his fishing equipment, so he climbs into the back of the truck and grabs the tackle box, rod, and a bag of bait. On the way down, he loses his footing and catches himself, but the tackle box falls to the ground, spilling hooks, floaters, and sinkers everywhere.

He shakes his head, laughing ruefully. “Nice move, Terry.”

He gathers it all up as best he can, leaving several hooks on the ground in his haste. He’s more interested in looking like a fisherman than actually catching a fish.

He stacks everything on top of the coolers, hoicks the lot up in his arms, and winds his way over the uneven gravel to the dock to the most beautiful thing he owns, his powerboat, Jolene, Jolene. All the early wages from his side job went into a down payment on this 135-horsepower, 18-foot beauty, complete with optional fishing package, bow-mounted wireless trolling motor, and casting platform—and she was worth every penny.

He scrambles from the dock to the deck and it’s dicey for a second, but he pulls it off unscathed. He sets his gear down by the pedestal seat and the coolers at the foot of the portside bench. Looks like he’s ready to go.

It’s a five-kilometre run to the meet-up and it will likely take half an hour to get across the lake. The sun hangs over the spruce trees and he needs to get his ass in gear, but he’s sure there’s still time before everyone shows up.

He opens one of the coolers and pulls out a beer, cracking the can to raise it in a victory sip. “Hurray for me!”

Things seem to be finally turning around.

He turns the key and the engine thunders to life.


9

Terry glances at his watch. “Crap.”

It’s almost night and the sun is hiding behind the woods, painting the sky orange, red and pink, and he can’t separate the trees from the dark shadows reaching across the water toward him. He’s certain he missed the cove where he’s supposed to meet Cousin Rachel… or he hasn’t gone far enough. He isn’t positive about anything anymore and is sure-as-shit lost.

When he first started these runs, he would aim for the remains of the fire tower that stood across the lake, but the government came and knocked it down when they replaced it with computers and satellites, so now he just points Jolene, Jolene in the general direction and hopes for the best.

But this only works in the daytime when you can see where you’re going and what the hell is in front of you. It also doesn’t help that the beer has got the better of him. He grabs a handful of potato chips and jerky and stuffs them into his mouth, hoping the carbs and salt will clear the cobwebs from his muddy, drifting mind.

He looks back, searching for the marina, but there are no lights on the horizon behind him and the night sky creeps toward him with long fingers of deep indigo. He considers pulling back to the centre of the lake, working his way back toward where he thinks the truck is, and hoping something will click, but that would only take more time.

He throttles the boat to half and rides parallel to the shore, eyes darting back and forth along the shoreline, trying to find some discernible detail, trying to recognize something—anything—that will guide him. He’s never missed an exchange, has no idea what will happen if he does—the only thing he’s confident of is that it probably won’t be good.

Then he sees it—he’s sure he sees it—a brief flicker of light in the mass of darkness.

He yanks the wheel beachward, ripping a large wake behind him, and powers the engine up, not wanting to keep Cousin Rachel waiting any longer, her or the guys with guns who always accompany her. But he regrets it immediately.

Whump.

Terry bounces forward as the boat catches on the lake bottom. His tackle box flies off the seat, smashing everywhere. Water and mud kicks out behind the boat and the engine’s temperature warning buzzes. He kills the throttle and pops the engine into neutral, but he knows it’s not going to be good.

He shines a light starboard. Silt clouds the water—he can’t see anything.

He lifts the propeller out of the water and it’s worse than he imagined. One prop blade is bent and he’s sure he’s messed up the shaft, the strut, and possibly the rudder. After flushing the engine, changing the impeller, and fixing the rest, this trip is going to cost him more than it’s worth.

His gaze swivels back to the trees, hoping to finally spot his people but can’t see anything anymore. No flickering light at all. At the bow, a thick, fallen tree presses low against the keel. He sighs, rubbing his head.

“Well, dammit, Terry.” He cracks open a fresh can of brew, taking a long chug, and considers his options.

“Well, quitters is for shitters,” he tells himself. “I’ve got this.”

He jumps over the gunwale into the cold, dark water and is instantly sober. He moves along the hull, grabs hold of the bowline, and kicks his foot hard to move the boat out of the shallows and away from the tree. He tugs it around the rotting, gnarled roots and navigates it back to deeper waters.

Terry moves by touch and feel, placing one foot ahead of the other, tripping over slippery rocks, his legs entangled in seaweed.

The ground slips away beneath him and he sinks quickly downward, barely keeping his breath as he goes under. His clothes pull him down and he kicks wildly with inefficient strokes, grasping the bowline to pull himself back up to the surface. When he breaks the surface, he gasps for breath then splashes toward shore, dragging the boat with him until the hull catches loosely on the sand.

Giving it one last, hard tug until it’s solid, Terry catches his breath before struggling back to lift out one of the coolers and haul it up the beach. He heads back one last time to Jolene, Jolene, shivering, hands numb, to get the final container, and drags it and his sorry ass back to the beach.

He dumps it beside the other and plops down in a heap. He’s freezing, exhausted, and his body aches. He really wants this night to be done.

Someone comes out of the trees.

“You won’t believe the day I’ve had.”

He turns—

Crack.

One lens of his glasses shatters and white light pops along Terry’s optic nerve as he careens backward, tumbling down the beach’s sandy incline. His head splashes into the water, flinging the glasses from his face.

A woman towers blurrily above him in the dark, a thick branch hanging from her hand. She moves down the shore toward him.

He touches his forehead and feels gushing blood and the tight pinch of torn, swollen skin. He’ll have a hell of a goose egg tomorrow. He tries to stand, but his legs won’t stay solid beneath him.

“Can you help me?” he asks, reaching out an arm, hoping she’ll grab hold. “I’ve got a couple of beers left in the boat I can share.”

She moves past him, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt as she goes, and pulls him farther out into the water.

“Wait. Help—”

The woman doesn’t listen.

He’s floating and can’t quite get a grip.

She stops and Terry drifts past her and he’s sure it’s Cousin Rachel. He wants to ask her what she’s doing, but she takes the stick and lays it across his chest and pushes him down beneath the lapping waves.

He tries to fight, but the cold and the beer and the crack on the head all stop his brain and body from working together.

He can see her now, up through the water, watching him, and he tries to kick himself away, to grab her arms, but his hands are tight and numb, and she pushes down too hard for him to do anything.

He yells, but all he can manage are muffled bubbles beneath the water. His vision blurs more and he can’t see the woman very well at all now, but her long hair hangs above him, spreading out like feathers across the surface.

He struggles to turn, to push away, to slip from beneath her, but nothing works. He needs to inhale and tries to fight it, but the feeling is coming from deep down and he knows he can’t prevent it any longer.

His body quits listening to his rational brain and inhales. Water pours down his throat and into his lungs and his whole body seizes. In a mighty effort to save itself, his body forces the water out but in its desperate attempt to breathe, it sucks in another lungful of lake water, sand, sediment, algae, and fish excrement.

Only then does Terry realize he’s not going to survive this.


10

Cousin Rachel shines her flashlight down at Terry’s waterlogged corpse, hung up in the tangled roots of a log beached by wind and waves.

This hasn’t exactly gone as planned.

She glances back at her crew, four hired muscles loaded with enough concealed pistols and knives to kill a bear, and knows they won’t be pleased with what comes next. She doesn’t care if they don’t want to do it—this is the drug business, not summer camp.

She waves two of them over while the other two head for the van to get shovels.

“Get down there and pull him out.”

She watches the two men—Amos and Daniel—go down to the shoreline and pull off their boots and socks. Amos, the heavier of the two, rolls up his loose-fitting jeans as high as he can, while Daniel strips down to his underwear.

Cousin Rachel takes a seat on a large rock, turns halfway and peers through the night toward the path. She’s worked with these guys for two years now, but she never keeps her back to any of them for too long. It’s hard to trust anyone in this line of work—someone somewhere is always scheming for a better position—and this cautious attitude has kept her around longer than most.

She fell into this career while working part-time at a clothing store, one of those chain outlets in a mall, with a husband who’d been recently laid-off, an adorable nine-year-old son, and ever-increasing debt. She’d kept asking for more hours but there were never enough to go around and eventually her manager, a young woman who’d work all day and party all night, pulled her aside and told her she knew ways to make extra money—as either an escort or a dealer in the clubs. Cousin Rachel was desperate but not interested; that is, until she told her husband and they found themselves considering the possibility of drug trafficking. She’d gone back the next day and agreed, and very quickly thereafter discovered she had a real knack for the business.

As she was promoted and the business got messier, she told her husband less and less. The first body she saw was an od, and then a cleanup after a hit. Eventually, she herself had to use violence as a management tool and found that killing another human being didn’t bother her as much as she thought it would. She treated each death with clinical detachment, a way to make things happen or to remove a difficulty. Now that she was in management, her bosses didn’t expect her to kill anyone, but she liked to be hands-on, to leverage people’s fears and remind them what she was capable of.

Gil comes over the rise, Jacob following behind, and Cousin Rachel gestures with her flashlight away from the beach. “Go about ten yards that way. Find someplace far from these spruce roots—they’ll only cause you hell—and start digging a hole.”

“Like six feet?”

“Nah, two or three at the most. Just enough to keep the scavengers from digging him up.”

Gil shines his light into the dark trees, uncertain.

She points her light at him. “Go on, you big baby. Not like a bear is going to jump out and eat you.”

This was the essence of her job—managing the team. It was a business. She had to solve problems, run the day-to-day operations, and keep the lines of communication and product flowing to the northern part of the province.

She looks back to Amos and Daniel as they splosh back to shore, dragging the body behind them. None of their names are real—she doesn’t even know the identity of the floater in the water—and she preferred it that way. She couldn’t remember who had picked her moniker, only that someone had introduced her as their cousin in the early days and the nickname had stuck.

She kneels down beside the bloated body, examining him, feeling his pockets and shirt for a cell phone or wallet. She never knew the guy except for the monthly exchanges, but she knows he must’ve crossed somebody because he sure got what was coming to him. Sleeping on this job, making mistakes—you’d only end up getting yourself killed. Everyone has a role to play and if you fail, this is the penalty.

“No trace of the money?” Amos asks.

“Nah.” She studies his face. “And he’s missing his glasses.”

“He wore glasses?”

Daniel pipes up, “You worked on this line for a year, you don’t remember?”

“Did you?”

“Enough!” Rachel shouts, cutting Daniel short. These two can get into the stupidest fights. “Take him to Gil and Jacob and help them finish up. And no more arguments.” Sometimes these guys behave worse than her kid.

The men lift the body up like they’re moving a dresser and haul him into the trees, Rachel lighting the way. Once over the rise, she swings her light back over the water, sweeping the beam over the choppy, uneven surface, searching for the man’s boat. The wind must’ve got ahold of it and pulled it out into the lake, or the currents carried it away even farther.

She sighs, pulling out her phone.

Yup, this business is all about solving problems—and she’s got a hell of a big one to deal with now.


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