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A Star Tribune serialized novel by Jane Fredericksen

Chapter 9

The story so far: Kacie and the Pirate sneak around the island.

They could still make Outer Island, Kinney figured. Redemption was under full sail and the wind was steady. Kinney was back behind the wheel, admiring how the cruiser responded so smoothly to his slightest adjustment.

Vince has no idea what he’s got, he thought again, but this time a second picture flashed before him: that of a hazel-eyed woman in a bikini top, laughing.

He felt a sudden stab of disloyalty. That’s not why I came, he reminded himself. I came to say goodbye.

It was too late to change anything. If he just kept his eyes on the horizon, everything would be fine. He’d soon be done with this run and on to the next, back to Thunder Bay. That thought gave him comfort and clarity. Funny how he felt more secure with the ground shifting under his feet.

He remembered his passengers. For now, everyone seemed to be relaxing, sipping beverages and enjoying the scenery. Pet, at least, was not complaining, though she massaged her bandaged feet.

The brief respite on Stockton seemed to have helped Pet find her sea legs — that, along with the anti-nausea patches. And maybe the pain from her blisters distracted her as well.

“Feeling better, Mrs. Wallace?” Kinney asked. “Care to take the wheel?”

She turned a pinched face to him. “I won’t touch that thing.”

“I’ll take the helm,” Hattie volunteered. She set down her cola and stepped forward.

“Thanks,” said Kinney gratefully. “I need to …” He pointed to the cabin and headed downstairs.

He crossed to the bathroom door and gave it a tug. It wouldn’t budge.

He tried a bit harder. No luck. It appeared to be locked.

Mystified, Kinney climbed back up the ladder to the cockpit and counted crewmembers: one, two, three, four.

He glanced back downstairs, frowning.

He crossed the cockpit to the storage bin, opened it and located the tool kit. He opened that, grabbed a screwdriver and closed everything back up.

He headed back downstairs. Maybe he could jimmy the door.

He stopped abruptly.

The bathroom door was now open, swinging freely. Kinney inspected the hinges and ran his fingers along the frame. It seemed smooth.

He shrugged and entered the bathroom, shutting the door firmly.

He did not hear the sigh of relief from a pile of blankets in the vee-berth.

* * *

At Quarry Bay, a forest ranger talked calmly with Ronnie and her crew.

“Sorry, Ms. Jamieson,” he said. “We searched the whole area. No sign of her.”

“This is terrible,” Ronnie began.

No sign,” the ranger repeated. “If something had happened, we would have found evidence … you know what I mean. Maybe she left on the ferry?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Or on another boat?”

It was as if a beacon blinked over Ronnie’s head. “Kinney,” she said, half to herself. To David and Matthew, she added, “Come on. Back to True Wind.”

* * *

Kinney held the radio mic and looked toward the bathroom door. His eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Hold on, True Wind.”

He set down the mic and crossed to the vee-berth. Carefully, deliberately, he lifted the top blanket.

Kacie Aldrich blinked at him, shamefaced. “Hi,” she said.

Kinney sighed. He headed back to the radio and picked up the mic. “Package here, True Wind. Where do you want it delivered? Should we turn back? Over.”

“Negative,” answered Ronnie’s voice. “We’re under sail now. Will meet you at Outer Island. Just hold package for us. True Wind out.”

“Will do. Redemption out.” Kinney clicked off the mic.

He turned to the girl.

“Well, Kacie Aldrich, we meet again,” he said. He hung up the mic. “Maybe this time, you’ll tell me why.”

Tomorrow: Chapter 10.