Monday, November 12, 2012

Countdown to DANGEROUS WATERS--Exclusive excerpt from Chapter 1


Just over a week away until the release of my next book and I thought I'd post a scene from the first chapter. This is where we first meet our intrepid hero, Finn Carver, along with his boss, Thomas Edgefield. Hope you enjoy!


***Warning--contains some bad language***

DANGEROUS WATERS




C H A P T E R 1
Present Day

Finn set out the dive flags and made sure the lights were on.
Anchors secure. “Ready?”
   His boss nodded and did a final equipment check.
   Finn handed him a dive light. “Don’t turn it on yet.” He
glanced around the rocky cliffs that surrounded the sheltered
cove. The outcrops were topped with craggy pines and Douglas
fir. Crow Point—it was remote and sparsely populated, no chance
of rescue should things go pear-shaped.
   It was creeping toward dusk and would be full dark when they
came back up. He was in charge of dive safety and dive training at
the local marine lab, and it went against every principle not to have
a surface crew on a dive this dangerous.
   Conditions were perfect.
   On the low edge of a neap tide cycle. Flat calm and nothing in
the forecast to cause any concern. But there was a reason this part
of Vancouver Island was called the Graveyard of the Pacific, and
relying on forecasts was for fools and novices. Barkley Sound was
notorious for violent squalls and surging swells that came out of
nowhere and sucked you down into the pitiless black depths and
never let go. “You sure you want to do this?” he asked.
   Professor Thomas Edgefield, director of Bamfield Marine
Science Center, nodded and stood awkwardly with his three air
tanks secured to his back—two cylinders and a pony backup.
   If ever there was a need for margin of error and built-in redundancy,
this was it. He shuffled over to the dive platform at the stern
of the boat. Finn checked that his buddy’s hoses were secure and
not liable to get caught on the wreckage as Thom pulled on his
fins. Thom returned the favor, patting Finn on the shoulder when
they were good to go. Thom put his regulator in his mouth, held
his mask, and stepped off into the sea. Finn took a last look at the
brooding cliffs and dropped in behind him.
   The first thing that always hit was the flash of cold as the
Pacific struck exposed flesh.
   He signaled, and Thom returned the thumbs-down gesture.
They began descending the gerry line to the anchor line, swimming
toward the area where ten days ago they’d discovered the
wreckage of an unknown, previously undocumented ship.
   The second thing that always hit was the ominous quiet. The
muffled, deadened version of sound that amplified awareness of
body, breath, heartbeat. A deceptive quiet that lulled the mind
and softened the very real danger of a nighttime wreck dive without
proper surface support.
   But Thom had been insistent and he was the boss. Worse, he
was liable to do it alone if Finn refused to help. Classic case of
damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.
   He flicked on his flashlight and shone it along the anchor line,
checked his gauges, turned to watch his buddy do the same, and
they both gave the OK signal.
   They headed straight down, air bubbles streaming out of their
mouths. Ten meters. Twenty. Clearing ears as depth increased.
Thirty meters, and they were almost there. Pressure pinched the
neoprene tight to his skin. At the bottom, he tied in the anchor,
making sure it was secure. He attached flashing strobe lights and
clipped off a line reel so they could more easily find their way
back. He might not have told anyone what they were doing but he
sure as hell wasn’t playing fast and loose with their safety.
   The hull was a dark, menacing shadow, riddled with cracks,
but inaccessible. Potentially treacherous. Unwilling to give up its
secrets. The research he’d done suggested the ship was a relic of
the nineteenth century. He’d learned little else. Why had no one
ever heard of it? Why hadn’t some of the crew escaped?
   Finn didn’t like mysteries. He liked things straightforward.
Direct. No bullshit. But it wasn’t the first shipwreck in this part of
the world to be found with no record of survivors or crew.
   Most wrecks on the west of the island were pummeled by wave
action and pounded into tiny pieces or flattened in the sand. But
in this sheltered cove, the waves were buffered, and at this depth,
in this remote, protected part of the Pacific Rim National Park
Reserve, the hull had remained intact, the wreck undiscovered for
all these years. Until he and Thom had checked out an unusual sea
otter sighting in the bay and done some impromptu diving, just
for the hell of it.
   Serendipity? Thom sure as hell thought so.
   Finn looked up through the water column and saw nothing
but obsidian blackness at these chilling depths. He shone his beam
over the metal hull, picked out starfish and anemones that shimmered
in gemstone colors. But they weren’t what had made Thom
nearly choke on his regulator last time they were down here. Finn
moved cautiously over the deck to one of the doorways and tied
off his reel. Inside the wreck the line was more hazard than help.
The pitch-black opening consumed him with a tight swallow. He
felt Thom move close behind.
   A shiver of dread picked its way over his vertebrae. He shook
off the feeling and moved farther into the ship. They had to move
with extreme caution. Otherwise, sediment would completely
destroy visibility and they’d have to rely on touch to get out of the
deadly maze. A good way to die on an unfamiliar wreck in the
middle of the night with no surface crew to miss them.
   His heart thumped impassively in his ear. Years of military
training had taught him how to control his stress levels. He’d
taken plenty of risks diving military targets in enemy-rich environments,
but this situation didn’t feel any less deadly. And Thom
might be an experienced diver, but he was too old and…frail…to
do this alone.
   Thom drew level with him and stopped, shining his dive light
under his chin and pulling a comic horror face. Suddenly he looked
happier than Finn had seen him in years, and the worry lightened.
Maybe it was worth it. This discovery would make Thom famous
rather than infamous, and it was about goddamn time.
   He signaled his buddy to take the lead in the hunt for the treasure.
The water started to get cloudy so he slowed, gliding with precision
so as not to disturb the insidious layer of silt that shrouded
every surface. The flashlight beams penetrated the gloom by only
a few meters, slashes of brightness in the heavy, claustrophobic
darkness. Finn checked his wristwatch and air gauge, every movement
controlled and cautious.
   Shadows swarmed through the water, schools of fish darting
in and out of the beams like flashes of sunlight off the edge of a
blade.
   They headed along a stairwell and into the bowels of the ship.
Into the engine room, Finn scanning for sharp edges that could
cut through rubber hoses or neoprene. At nighttime, the ship was
a dense absence of light, and he felt like Jonah in the belly of the
whale. Except he had a knife and he knew how to use it.
   Thom started taking photographs, the flash startlingly bright
in the void of the silent tomb. This was the most hazardous time.
Thom’s attention was rapt on his prize, oblivious to everything
else. Finn had to think for both of them.
   He let the man work, stayed perfectly still in the background as
Thom wrote in his underwater notebook, took water temperature
readings, more photos, before carefully collecting his treasure.
Cold started to seep into his muscles, and he flexed his fingers.
He didn’t wear gloves—didn’t like how they reduced his dexterity.
Five minutes later, he rechecked their gauges. Saw Thom was
guzzling air in his excitement. He tapped him on the shoulder
and gave him the thumbs-up, the signal that meant it was time
to surface. Thom scowled and shook his head. Finn tapped him
again—with his fist. Gave him the thumbs-up signal once more.
It wasn’t a question. Thom might be his boss, but Finn was dive
master. Down here he was God.
   Thom nodded with a glare and slipped his prize into a bag at
his side. He started swimming for the exit. Finn caught a flash of
something in a shaft of his flashlight and paused. He shone his
beam over the same spot and picked out the object. Frowning, he
went down for a closer inspection.
   It was a weight belt, worn by divers to reduce buoyancy. He
swore and swam swiftly to Thom. He didn’t want his buddy popping
to the surface like a cork when he got out of the wreck. He
didn’t want to spend the night in a decompression chamber or
have to explain what they’d been doing down here. He grabbed
his mentor and friend and physically turned him—but Thom’s
weight belt was securely in place. Thom frowned in confusion,
and Finn swam back to the bottom, picked up the belt, stirring
up silt and swearing silently with each noisy inhalation. He glided
carefully back to where Thom floated beside the door.
   Thom ran his own light over the belt and his brow wrinkled.
Then he looked up, past Finn’s shoulder, and his expression
morphed into horror. He screamed, panicking as he lost his regulator,
banging against the doorframe in a frantic effort to get out.
Finn shot a quick glance over his shoulder before sediment obliterated
the view like an ink cloud.
   Shit.
   He didn’t have time to deal with it. Thom was in deep trouble.
He’d banged against something sharp, and a confusing swathe of
bubbles now engulfed him, stirring up grit and muck all around
them. Finn’s training took over, and he grabbed Thom’s pony tank,
turned it on, and shoved that regulator into his mouth, gripping
him by the chest so he didn’t disappear. Something had pierced
Thom’s manifold and emptied both air tanks. Finn shook him
hard to get his attention. Kept them orientated with the hatch so
they didn’t lose their way in the velvety, encompassing blackness.
Panic would kill them as surely as lack of oxygen, and he wasn’t
dying like this. Thom sucked air like an asthmatic, eyes bulging
from the awful choking experience Finn knew all too well.
   In zero viz, he hauled his buddy through the hatch. The
twisted wreckage pressed tight around them, making it hard to
move, suffocating and sinister.
   This was the danger of wreck dives. You had to expect the
unexpected. They bumped up the narrow stairwell. Every frantic
movement stirring up more sediment and silt that crowded
them, obliterating every particle of light, every hint of shape and
form.
   His heart beat louder in his ears, still steady, but reinforced
by the oh fuck factor. Flashlights were useless. Finn used touch
and had to trust his innate sense of direction. With an iron grip
on Thom, he made it out of the stairwell, through the wheelhouse,
and free of the shipwreck. Sediment cleared as they hit open water.
Darkness still surrounded them, but it was different. Less oppressive.
Less claustrophobic. He pulled Thom swiftly to the strobe
lights that marked the anchor line. They didn’t have much time
on the pony tank, but if that ran out, Finn had plenty of air in his
backup. Just so long as Thom didn’t freak.
   He had to hold on tight when the man would have shot
straight to the surface. Dammit. He dragged him back down. His
dive computer said they needed to decompress for a few minutes
or they’d face the very real possibility of getting bent. He held
Thom determinedly in place, stared into his eyes, and willed the
man back from the ledge of crazy.
   Thom’s skin was so waxy that, up close, his face shone like a
full moon. Finn had never seen him so distraught—well, not in
decades.
   They’d known each other a long time.
   They’d trusted each other a long time.
   He willed Thom to trust him now. To get him safely to the
surface and out of this mess alive. Slowly, Thom’s juddering breath
settled and his eyes calmed. Finn checked his watch, his gauges.
He flashed him the OK signal, silently asking the question.
   Thom nodded, gripping Finn’s arms and closing his eyes,
drawing in a huge lungful of air. Finally he returned the signal,
thumb pressed to index finger, other fingers upright. OK.
   Everything was going to be all right.
   Finn gave the signal to surface, taking it slow, forcing air
out in deep breaths to stop his lungs from exploding as the air
expanded. He had to remind Thom to do the same, which told
him the guy—an experienced diver—was in bad shape.
   Breaking the skin of the inky surface, they followed the gerry
line back to the boat that bobbed gently on the incoming tide.
Neither said a word. They threw their fins up on deck, climbed
aboard, and shucked off their heavy equipment. Sat breathing
heavily, looking at one another for a long, drawn-out moment.
Ghosts lingered in Thom’s eyes.
   “I have to report this to the police,” said Finn. The image of
the diver hanging lifeless in the water burned through his brain.
   Thom swallowed thickly. Nodded. He pulled out a small sample
jar and looked at his prize floating gently in the water. Then he
rested his head in the palm of his hands and started to cry.



***

Available on kindle, and print from all good bookstores...
Pre-order from Amazon USA or UK. Also, Canada, France, and Germany.
Also from Barnes & Noble (US) and McNally Robinson (Canada).
Audio from Brilliance Audio.
  • ISBN-10: 1612186076
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612186078

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