Home > The Wrong Victim (Quinn & Costa #3)

The Wrong Victim (Quinn & Costa #3)
Author: Allison Brennan




   A killer walked among the peaceful community of Friday Harbor and retired FBI agent Neil Devereaux couldn’t do one damn thing about it because he had no evidence.

   Most cops had at least one case that haunted them long after the day they turned in their badge and retired. For Neil, that obsession was a cold case that his former law enforcement colleagues believed was closed. Not only closed, but not a double homicide at all—simply a tragic accident.

   Neil knew they’d got it wrong; he just couldn’t prove it. He hadn’t been able to prove it thirteen years ago, and he couldn’t prove it now.

   But he was close.

   He knew that the two college boys didn’t drown “by accident”; they were murdered. He had a suspect and he’d even figured out why the boys had been targeted.

   Knowing who and why meant nothing. He needed hard evidence. Hell, he’d settle for any evidence. All his theory got him was the FBI file on the deaths sent by an old friend, and the ear of a detective on the mainland who would be willing to investigate if Neil found more.

   “I can’t open a closed death investigation without evidence, buddy.”

   He would have said the same thing if he was in the same position.

   Confronting the suspected killer would be dangerous, even for an experienced investigator like him. This wasn’t an Agatha Christie novel like his mother used to read, where he could bring the suspect and others into a room and run through the facts—only to have the killer jump up and confess.

   Neil couldn’t stand to think that anyone might get away with such a brazen murder spree, sparked by revenge and deep bitterness. It’s why he couldn’t let it go, and why he felt for the first time that he was close...close to hard evidence that would compel a new investigation.

   He was tired of being placated by the people he used to work with.

   He’d spent so long following dead ends that he’d lost valuable time—and with time, the detailed memories of those who might still remember something about that fateful weekend. It was only the last year that Neil had turned his attention to other students at the university and realized the most likely suspect was living here, on San Juan Island, right under his nose.

   All this was on his mind when he boarded the Water Lily, his favorite yacht in the West End Charter fleet. He went through his safety checklist, wondering why Cal McKinnon, the deckhand assigned to this sunset cruise, wasn’t already there.

   If he wasn’t preoccupied with murder and irritated at Cal, Neil may have noticed the small hole in the bow of the ship, right above the waterline, with fishing line coming out of it, taut in the water.


* * *


   “I’m sorry. It’s last minute, I know,” Cal said to Kyle Richards in the clubhouse of West End Charter. “But I really need to talk to Jamie right away.”

   “It’s that serious?” asked his longtime friend Kyle.

   “I cannot lose her over this. I just can’t. I love her. We’re getting married.”

   At least, he hoped they were still getting married. Two months ago Jamie finally set a wedding date for the last Saturday in September—the fifth anniversary of their first date. And now this whole thing was a mess, and if Cal didn’t fix it now, he’d never be able to fix it.

   You already blew it. You blew it five years ago. You should have told her the truth then!

   “All right, then. Go,” Kyle said. “I’ll take the cruise. I need the extra money anyway. But you owe me—it’s Friday night. I had a date.”

   Cal clapped Kyle on the back. “I definitely owe you. I’ll take your next crappy shift.”

   “Better, give me your next corporate party boat.” Corporate parties on the largest yacht in their fleet had automatic eighteen percent tips added to the bill, which was split between a typical four-man crew in addition to salary. Plus, high-end parties often paid extra. Drunk rich people could become very generous with their pocket cash.

   “You got it—it’s next Saturday night, the Fourth of July—so we good?”

   Kyle gave him a high five, then left for the dock.

   Cal clocked out and started for home. He passed a group of sign-carrying protesters and rolled his eyes.

   West End Charter: Profit Over Protection.

   Protect Fish Not Profits!

   Hey Hey Ho Ho Ted Colfax has to go!

   Jeez, when would these people just stop? West End Charter had done nearly everything they wanted over the last two years—and then some—but it was never good enough.

   Fortunately, the large crowds of protesters that started after the West End accident had dwindled over the last two years from hundreds to a half dozen. Maybe because they got bored, or maybe because West End fixed the problem with their older fleet, Cal didn’t know. But these few remaining were truly radical, and Cal hoped they didn’t cause any problems for the company over the lucrative Fourth of July holiday weekend.

   He drove around them and headed home. He had more important things to deal with than this group of misfits.

   Cal lived just outside of Friday Harbor with Jamie and their daughter. It was a small house, but all his, his savings covering the down payment after he left the Coast Guard six years ago. But it was Jamie who made the two-bedroom cottage a real home. She’d made curtains for the windows; put up cheery pictures that brightened even the grayest Washington day; and most recently, she’d framed some of Hazel’s colorful artwork for the kitchen nook he’d added on with Kyle’s help last summer.

   He’d wanted to put Jamie on the deed when she moved in with him, but she wanted to go slower than that. He wanted to marry her, but she’d had a bad breakup with her longtime boyfriend before they met and was still struggling with the mind games her ex used to play on her. If that bastard ever set foot back on the island, Cal would beat him senseless.

   But the ex was far out of the picture, living down in California, and Cal loved Jamie, so he respected her wishes not to pressure her into marriage. When she found out she was pregnant, he asked her to marry him again—she said yes but wanted to wait.

   “There’s no rush. I love you, Cal, but I don’t want to get married just because I’m pregnant.”

   He would move heaven and earth for Jamie and Hazel—why didn’t she know that?

   That’s why when she finally settled on a date, confirmed it with invitations and an announcement in the San Juan Island newspaper, that he thought it would be smooth sailing.

   And then she left.

   As soon as he got home, he packed an overnight bag while trying to reach Jamie. She didn’t answer her cell phone. More than likely, there was no reception. Service was sketchy on the west side of the island.

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