#1 Technothriller on Kindle – 3 LIES - # 67 in Kindle – Top 100 BestSeller
DARK POOL – Between Bay Area commuter traffic and the frequent need to recycle her coffee, Maggie pulled into their driveway after dusk. Travis jumped out before the car came to a complete stop. He rushed toward the front door.
Maggie watched him disappear behind the overgrown juniper bushes that lined the walkway. Fifteen and the kid still couldn’t wait to see his father. She loved their father, too, but his recent behavior was starting to quantify her patience.
She slumped out of the car and stretched. A long run on the beach would loosen her tight muscles, and enough sunlight remained. Maybe tomorrow. Today she wanted only a hot bath, a quiet bed, and empty dreams.
Travis blasted from the house. “Where is he?”
Disquiet ebbed her fatigue. “Isn’t he watching TV?”
“The place is empty.”
She left Travis standing on the pavement and ran to the Baker’s house a couple of doors down. Only the screen door kept the world at bay. “Ginger?” She banged on the doorframe. “You home?”
A sturdy figure ambled from the shadow. “Maggie?” Ginger’s eyes creased in the dim light.
“I’m looking for Daddy. Have you seen him?”
The Samoan woman was small by island standards. “Not since I gave him his dinner. Did you check the garage?”
“Travis said the place was empty.”
A smile lifted her smooth, brown face. “How is he? How’s he look?”
Maggie shook her head. “Stupid. And even more handsome if you can believe it. Just like his mom.” She backed away from the door. “I’ve got to find Dad”
Travis was gone by the time she returned to the car. She sped around to the beachside of the house and nearly broadsided a bicyclist in the narrow street. Maggie climbed down the berm to the sand.
“Daddy.” The sound of the surf competed with her cry. Dark slipped overhead like a closing lid.
She ran north, up the beach. She could have gone south, it didn’t matter. There was nothing either direction to damper her hammering chest.
A man dropped down from the roadside.
Her lungs wheezed. “Travis! Damn it! Don’t do that!”
“C’mon. I think he’s this way.”
Travis was likely right. He often was in these types of situations. Logic and intuition converged in this kid to form uncannily accurate assessments. He got that from their father.
It was Dad’s only obvious contribution to the kid’s genetic makeup because he could pass for his mother’s male twin. While Maggie seemed to inherit everything from her mother: cornflower blue eyes, strawberry blonde hair, and a rancid mistrust of the world.
Maggie shoved him forward. “Let’s go.”
While he took the lead, she was fast enough to stay within his draft. The tide had receded over the past hour, leaving a sturdier running surface. They sprinted down the beach as fast as the damp sand allowed.
Maggie heard the screech of a lone shearwater looking to settle somewhere for the night. Then another cry that cooled her blood.
She slammed into Travis’ back and fell to his side. He grabbed her around the waist and helped her regain her footing. He prodded her shoulder. “C’mon.”
They ran another hundred yards down the empty beach and climbed the embankment. The constant on-shore breeze shaped everything here. The coastline, the trees, the waves, and according to Ginger, even the people. Loose dirt and sand fell away beneath their feet. Scrub brush lined the winding path to a beach parking lot.
“Wait.” Travis put his arm out to block her path.
“What is it?” She brushed past her brother to find a man face down on the ground. She rushed to his side and pushed her fingers into his throat.
Blood punched her temples. “It’s not Daddy, Trav. I don’t know who he is, but he’s dead.” She dropped onto her haunches. “We need to call the police.”
Her gaze fell on something pooled near the man’s head that reflected in the waning light. A shiver snaked along her spine.
Travis came up from behind her and pulled her to her feet. “Let’s get out of here, Mag.” They jogged back to the path and down the beach.
“Has Dad ever wandered away like this?” Travis asked in a tone that scared her.
“We live on the beach. Everybody wanders.” But they both knew it was a symptom. “No, not after dark.”
They heard a siren wailing up Highway 1. It turned toward them as they reached the beachside of their house. When they rounded the corner, the blue, red, and yellow lights flickered off trees, cars, and the worried faces of their neighbors.
Ginger met them at the driveway. “It’s your father. He’s hiding in the bushes, and he won’t come out.” She pointed to the mix of ferns and hydrangeas at the dark end of their home. “Carl Pinkerton called the police. He said your father was making threats.”
Travis broke in. “Dad?”
“I tried to get him out of the bush, but he won’t budge.”
Maggie saw Pinkerton resting on the handlebars of his custom racing bike. His three hundred dollar spandex in a righteous twist. Again. Weren’t all those endorphins supposed to make him mellow?
She picked her way to the bushes. “Daddy?”
Maggie’s heartbeat stuttered. Trisha was the name of her dead stepmother. “It’s not Trisha, Daddy. It’s me, Maggie.” She got no reply. “Travis came home today. He’d sure like to see you. Why don’t you come out?”
“Travis and I went fishing this morning.”
“He only got back today. You haven’t seen him yet.” Conversations with her father never stayed linear anymore. Maggie glanced back and saw Ginger talking to the police. She didn’t see Travis. Proximity to police couldn’t bring him any comfort.
“He shouldn’t have said it.” Her father stayed in the bush. “It’s not his anymore.”
Maggie was confused. “Who? Travis?”
“It’s mine. I told him that.”
Her head dropped. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand. Please come out of the bush. Talk to me out here.”
The police officers flanked her from behind. She heard murmuring from her neighbors. First, Travis. Now, her father hiding in a bush. Could this day get any worse?
“Please come out.”
The leaves rustled. The police trained a flashlight on the foliage. Martin Fender unfolded into a tall man—over six-foot four. Her handsome father with soft blue eyes clutched a Bowie knife in his left hand, and the front of his shirt was soaked with blood.
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3 LIES – The water bead on her chest slalomed south to join the others on the black-diamond run to her groin. Beth Sutton wrapped the thick towel around her dripping hair. Both hung to her hip. As she stepped onto the bath mat, the arterial catheter bounced off her inner thigh muscle. She wiped down the rest of her body and draped the towel on the rack.
Clint left her house at eleven the night before with a promise to return for breakfast before their fishing trip. Another evening absorbed in unguarded conversation. Their two months together passed with an easy contentment.
She should have dialyzed last night, but she’d fallen asleep too soon, cocooned in fading dreams, down, and enchantment. The evening proved too satisfying to interrupt for blood filtering. He’d offered to help. Again.
Maybe he could really handle it. Maybe not. Maybe she wasn’t ready to test him.
A knock came from her door as she dressed.
Six-fifteen. He was early.
Once-over in the mirror-pink sweats and a thermal shirt sufficed for cooking breakfast.
Omelets. Everybody liked omelets.
She hustled to the door. The deadbolt resisted. “Give me one second.” The lock popped. She threw the door open with a flourishing smile. “Good morn-”
Her chest inflated with fear. A stocky man wearing a blue ski mask shoved her inside. He covered her mouth before a scream loosened. A piece of paper dropped from his hand. Footsteps fell behind her. She struggled, but she couldn’t escape his grip. A sharp jab pierced her bottom.
Her pulse staggered. A needle. Oh dear, God.
Dreaminess surged. Her focus failed.
Clint was coming. He’d stop them.
Maybe Clint would prefer waffles.
Last night was lovely.