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Hitting angry water from thirty feet is not a pleasant event. I wrenched a shoulder and tweaked my back; Nicole torqued her hip and sprained her neck. We hadn't known it at the time, adrenaline forcing our brains to focus on other things like survival, the pain not appearing until the next day. But all in all, we survived, so there was that.

"That's why you should be down here scretching with me," she said. "Work out those kinks."

"With you in that outfit, that might lead to something else altogether."

She rocked into a sitting position and mopped her face with a towel. "Time for a shower." She stood. "Join me and we'll see if something else altogether happens."

Even at seven thirty in the morning that sounded like a plan. My brain might be oatmeal, but the rest of me was good to go.

Never happened though. Her cell chimed. She picked it up from the kitchen counter and answered.

"Uncle Charles?" She frowned. "I can barely hear you. Hold on a sec." She crossed the living room and pushed through the French doors, stepping out on the deck.

Uncle Charles would be her uncle Charles Balfour. Big time movie producer, director, and everything else A-list. A full-house backfield of Oscars and an army of other awards.

"That's better," she said as she kicked the door dosed.

I walked to the kitchen, refilled my coffee cup, leaned against the counter, and watched her pace, phone to one ear, a finger in the other.

This house belonged to Uncle Charles. A massive stilted construction on the sand in The Point, a high-dollar enclave in Perdido Beach on Alabama's Gulf coast. I knew he was in some remote location in Europe, shooting a big-budget film. I figured that explained why she couldn't hear him well.

For the next ten minutes I watched her pace, her expression and body language bouncing between concern and shock. Had something happen to him?

When she stepped back inside, she simply said, "Let's go."


"To see Ray."

Ray would be Ray Longly. My father. Longly investigations. The P.I. firm Ray ran from his home down in Gulf Shores. Not far from Captain Rocky's and my own house.


"I have a job for us," Nicole said.

"A job? For us?"

"Well, technically for Ray. But, yeah, us."

"We don't work for Ray," I said.

"Sure, we do. I still have my ID card Pancake made for me. That makes me official."

Good grief.

"Okay, Mata Hari, what is this job?" I asked.

"Kirk Ford."

"The actor?"

"That would be the mega-buck, A-list, franchise actor to you."

"What did old Kirk do?"

"Got himself arrested for murder. It seems some local girl was
found strangled in his bed this morning."

"I really hate it when that happens."

"Don't be a smart ass—and get a move on."


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