Authors: Linda J. White
by Linda J. White
Table of Contents
here for a short
FBI Special Agent
Cassie McKenna retreats to her sailboat on the beautiful Chesapeake Bay after
the death of her agent-husband. But when her former partner, Jake Tucker, is
assaulted and her marina is set ablaze, Cassie realizes these crimes are no
coincidence. She sets out to solve the mystery unfolding in the Bay area as if
her life depended on it—as, indeed, it does.
About 95,000 words,
313 pages in paperback
Linda White’s first
novel is a powerful combination of page-turning plot and real-life characters
who struggle with the “Why, God?” questions we all sometimes ask. The answers
they find make for memorable reading.
author and Director, Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference and
Colorado Christian Writers Conference.
A thriller saturated
with realism and seasoned with faith issues. Characters to care about caught in
an intriguing plot.
kept me reading from the first page.
spectacular! Gripping, yet inspirational,
reader with non-stop suspense, a twist of mystery, and refreshing Biblical
truths. Kudos to the author for creating a quality mystery/suspense novel that
proclaims God boldly!
After enjoying White’s newer
Seeds of Evidence
, I went back and found this book. Once again I
found myself unable to turn pages fast enough to see what would happen next! I
felt like I knew the characters personally and was a tag-along agent venturing
around the Baltimore, Maryland area.
In Order of Appearance
jumped to here from the story, use the “Back” button to return to it.)
early 30s, FBI Agent. Her agent-husband, Mike, was killed in a car accident.
, mid 30s,
just divorced, FBI Agent, Cassie’s former partner in the FBI, close friend to
both Cassie and Mike.
30s, Jake’s ex-wife.
, 32, Myron
Tunney, marina handyman, somewhat simple-minded.
early 30s, high-school friend of Cassie’s, now a boat captain.
waitress at the Blue Goose Restaurant.
agent, worked with Mike.
, 50s, FBI
agent, also called “Deacon.”
FBI agent, on the search team.
Detective, daughter has important information.
FBI agent, assault investigation leader.
, new FBI
supervisor, has a reputation for being a stickler for the rules.
Charles A. Caldwell
40s, FBI Human Resources Specialist
, 60, Cassie’s
father, widower, former biology professor.
, 50s, editor
of the local newspaper,
The Bay Area Beacon.
20s, newspaper’s photographer.
50s; banker, owns the boathouse apartment that Cassie rents.
thug, killed by Cassie’s husband, Mike.
girlfriend of Frederick Schneider.
wife of Frederick.
20s, a festival director.
Trudy’s Springer spaniel.
, Jake’s young
, Jake’s young
from Oxford, Maryland.
..... a novel
By Linda J. White
© 2005 and 2013 by Linda J.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written
permission, except for brief quotations in books and critical reviews
This story is a work of fiction. All characters and events are the product of
the author's imagination. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the
New International Version
. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by
International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
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Before You Start
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SHADOW fell over the
wet, gleaming wood. Cassidy McKenna stopped her varnish brush just shy of the
port side winch and looked up, squinting into the bright Maryland sky. The
sailboat rocked and the sun blinded her, but she still recognized a familiar
She jumped to her feet. “What are you doing here? I can’t
believe this!” Conflicting emotions swirled in her head. How long had it been?
Two months? Three? A soft breeze blowing in off the Chesapeake Bay ruffled her
honey blonde hair.
“You look great, Cass.”
She shaded her eyes with her hand. “How did you find me?”
“He told you where I was?”
“I pressed him. Gently.”
“I’m sure.” FBI Special Agent Jake Tucker was not known for
his subtlety, a fact she knew well. When they were partners up in Baltimore,
she’d spent a lot of time smoothing the ruffled feathers he frequently stirred
up. He looked out of place here at the Goose Creek Marina, dressed in his dark
gray suit, white shirt, and expensive Italian leather shoes. She suppressed a smile.
“Why are you here?”
But Jake’s eyes had shifted beyond her, across the docks and
down the creek, to a place where dark gray smoke was beginning to rise from an
anchored sailboat. “Is that boat supposed to be doing that?” he asked,
Cassie stepped out on the dock to see what he was talking
about. “Oh, my gosh!” She jumped back onto her boat, dashed below decks and
reemerged with a fire extinguisher and her cell phone. She punched in 9-1-1.
“We’ve got a sloop on fire, anchored in Goose Creek, just off the marina. No, I
don’t know if anyone’s on board. Yes, I will.”
“Come on!” she said to Jake, grabbing two life jackets and
tossing one to him.
“I need you!” Cassie threw on a life jacket and dropped into
a rubber dinghy sitting in the water, untying it as she held onto the dock.
Jake gingerly climbed into the wobbly boat. The outboard
motor started with a roar, and Cassie steered for the craft on fire. Jake hung
on, grim faced, as they bounced over the waves, trying to keep his 200-pound
frame from pitching overboard. “I hate boats!” he yelled over the roar of the
“I know!” She slowed the motor as they neared the sloop.
Already flames were licking out of the ports.
“Get me close! I’ll climb onboard,” Jake yelled.
“No! Too dangerous! It could explode.” Cassie circled
cautiously around the boat. “Hello? Anybody onboard? Hello!”
“Put me over there!”
But she had swung close enough for Jake to grab the swim
ladder, and he pulled himself out of the dinghy and onto the sloop.
“Jake, for crying out loud—” but he was already up on the
deck. With smoke now billowing out of the starboard side, he climbed into the
cockpit and disappeared down the steps of the companionway. Thirty seconds
later he reappeared, a little white Maltese terrier in his hands. As he handed
the dog down to Cassie, she noticed his thumb was bleeding.
“Nobody on board,” Jake said, climbing back into the dinghy.
“Just the dog. Let’s get out of here!”
Sirens were screaming from the shore as Cassie hit the
throttle. She maneuvered the dinghy away. Waves stirred by a fresh breeze
rocked the rubber craft and Jake braced himself, one hand on the dinghy, the
other holding the dog. Fire engines, their lights flashing, and an ambulance
edged down the tiny lane that ran next to Goose Creek. There was not much they
could do. Within seconds, a tremendous explosion shattered the sailboat,
sending fragments of fiberglass and wood skyward. Cassie and Jake watched in
stunned silence as the boat burned to the waterline.
The Blue Goose Restaurant faced northeast, overlooking the
marina, Goose Creek, and further in the distance, the Chesapeake Bay. They were
sitting next to the window at a weathered table made of dark wood. “Aren’t they
beautiful?” Cassie said, gesturing toward the rows of sailboats and powerboats
bobbing in their slips. Puffy white clouds dotted the bright blue sky, and off
in the distance, a huge cargo ship churned its way toward the vast port of
“What’s beautiful? Those boats or the one that’s burned out?”
Jake answered with a grin. He took a swallow of water and chomped down on some
ice. His thumb bore a thick white bandage where “the little rat,” as he called
the Maltese, had bitten him. Cassie had made him promise to see his doctor, a
promise she figured he had every intention of ignoring. The dog was up to date
on his shots, the owners assured Jake when they’d finally shown up. They’d been
off exploring the town of Goose Creek Landing when the boat burned and were
ever so grateful to have little Max rescued.
Cassie turned her attention to her former partner. His short
dark hair made him look like a Marine, and he had a perpetual tan that only
deepened in the summer. He was barrel-chested, strong, and the only man she
knew who could intelligently discuss U.S. foreign policy while bench-pressing
300 pounds. But why was he here? “You still haven’t answered my question,” she
He looked at her quizzically.
“Why are you here?” she repeated.
“Is it so wrong to look up an old friend?”
“Don’t give me that. Something’s up.”
He stretched back in his chair and studied her. She felt her
throat involuntarily tighten.
“How are you?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” she said, too quickly.
“Really. Just fine.” She jutted out her chin.
“Well, that’s good, Skeet.”
She flinched. There were only two people who ever called her
that. She had earned the nickname the day she out shot both her husband and her
partner at a local firing range.
Jake’s dark brown eyes told her he’d noticed the flinch.
Cassie cleared her throat. “And how are you, Jake? How’s Tamara? And the kids?”
“The kids are fine. Growing.” He took a roll from the basket,
tore it in half, and took a bite. “Tamara … well, she went through with it.
We’re officially divorced.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” She glanced at his left hand. The wedding
band was gone, a white line testifying to its recent departure.
“Yeah. I get the kids every other weekend, and once during
the week. Provided I’m not working late.”
A wave of sadness swept over Cassie. There were all kinds of
pain out there. All kinds. So many nights when they were preparing for court or
working cases together, Jake would leave so he could go home and have dinner
with the kids and put them to bed. Then he’d come back and work until two or
three in the morning. Whatever it took to get the job done. She’d always
admired his dedication to his family. Imagining him living without them was
“I got an apartment, a two-bedroom,” he continued, “about ten
minutes away from the house.” He crunched some more ice, pulverizing it, and
stared out across the marina. “I hate it … being away from the kids.”
Cassie wondered how things could change so quickly. She had
lost her husband, Mike, in an accident. Jake had lost his family … to what?
Busyness? Dedication to his job? Male inconsideration amplified over the years?
Female independence and pride? Cassie unconsciously fingered the gold cross
that was suspended on a chain around her neck. It had been a gift from Mike on
their wedding day. She never took it off.
A middle-aged waitress took their order, crab bisque soup and
Cobb salad for Cassie, soup and a complete steak dinner for Jake, who hadn’t
eaten since early in the morning. “I’ll be right back with the soup,” she said,
collecting the menus.
“So, Jake …”
Cassie’s question was interrupted by the approach of a man in
a dark blue uniform. “Special Agent Tucker?”
“Sit down, sit down,” Jake responded. “Loughlin, right?”
“Paul.” The fire marshal dropped into a chair.
“This is Cassidy McKenna, a friend of mine,” Jake said. “So,
what’d you find out?”
“Do you want something to eat?” Cassie interrupted.
“No, I’m fine. My wife will have dinner waiting for me.
Apparently the Sinclairs were cruising the Chesapeake on a three-week vacation.
They’d just bought this boat through an agency in Annapolis.”
“From?” Jake asked.
“We’re working on that. Anyway, today was just the second day
they’d been out on it. Mr. Sinclair decided to make a cup of coffee before they
left on their shopping trip. He tried to light the alcohol stove, and thought
he’d failed. We’re thinking now that perhaps he didn’t, that the flame had
ignited and caught a dishtowel or something like that on fire. The flame on an
alcohol stove can be nearly invisible. And unfortunately, fires like that
aren’t too uncommon.” The fire marshal pushed his chair back. “Thank you both
for jumping in and helping. The Sinclairs were very grateful that you saved
“It was Jake. Jake saved the dog.” Cassie looked at her
partner, who was curiously silent.
“Well,” Loughlin said, rising, “I’ve got to go.”
“Paul,” Jake pulled a business card out of his pocket, “when
you find out who previously owned that boat, give me a call, would you? Or if
anything unusual crops up?”
“Sure,” said the fire marshal, reading the card. “I’ll be
Cassie just stared at Jake, with more than one question in
As Loughlin left the restaurant, their waitress returned to
the table with two bowls of steaming soup. Cassie inhaled the soft scent of crab,
punctuated with just a hint of Old Bay seasoning. It was a smell she never got
tired of, one that took her back to some of the happiest days of her life.
“So, you live on your boat?” Jake asked, breaking apart
“How safe is that?”
“What’s that supposed to mean? I’m fine. The boat’s safe.”
Jake doggedly worked at his soup.
“Good, isn’t it?” she asked.
“We’ve got the best seafood in the world.”
Jake wiped his mouth. “Tell me about it. Your boat, I mean.”
He offered her the bread, and then took some more for himself.
“Well, it’s an Alberg 30 … 30-feet long, a great boat for the
Bay. It belonged to a man who brought it up from Florida. Somebody down there
installed a seacock, an underwater valve, that wasn’t rated for freezing
weather. One cold night last winter it burst. The dockhand, Scrub …”
“Yeah, Scrub. His real name is Myron Tunney but everybody
calls him Scrub. Anyway, Scrub showed up for work and found the Alberg sunk at
the dock, just the mast and the top of the main hatch sticking up out of the
Cassie nodded. “The water’s about six feet deep at the slip,
so it was down and resting on its keel. Scrub called my dad—Dad befriended
Scrub a couple of years ago—and the two of them spent three days raising the
The waitress retrieved their soup bowls. “Your steak is
almost ready, sir.”
“Could I have some more water? And bread? More bread?”
“Gosh, I wish I could eat like you!” Cassie said.
“So, how’d they get the boat up?” Jake asked.
“They covered the hatches and ports with plastic bags, stuck
the hose of a sump pump down one hatch, and started pumping. Three days later,
it was up. It was a mess, full of mud and oil, but it was up.”
The waitress put another basket of bread on the table and two
glasses of water.
“The owner was furious. The insurance company declared it a
total loss. But Dad figured the boat was still basically sound. At his
suggestion, I bought it from the salvage company, as is, for practically
nothing. A lot of people thought I was crazy, but after two months of hard
work, I think it’s looking pretty good.”
“What’s with this guy, Scrub?”
“As I said, Scrub is his nickname from his childhood. I guess
he was just a little guy. His dad was over six foot, so the boy must have
looked like a scrub to him.” Cassie laughed softly. “One thing’s for sure, Scrub’s
a character. Doesn’t read well. Can’t do math. But the man knows boats. Inside
and out. Without his help, I wouldn’t have the boat anywhere close to where it
is today.” Cassie fingered the edge of her napkin.
The waitress arrived with their order. Outside the cool April
evening was drawing to a close. The sky was deep blue and the lights in the
marina had come on. A flashing red marker was visible in the channel, and one
lonely trawler was creeping back to its slip.
Cassie picked absently at her Cobb salad, normally one of her
favorite dishes, while Jake devoured the steak. She was teetering on a
tightrope of comfort and confusion, happy to see him, yet somehow resistant to
his presence. She noted his eyes cataloging each person as he or she was seated
at nearby tables. He never seemed relaxed. That was typical for an agent.
When he was finished eating, Jake carefully wiped his mouth
and his hands. The waitress brought the check in a leather folder, which he
took before Cassie could protest. He filled out the credit card slip and placed
it on the edge.
“Now what?” Cassie asked, leaning forward. “Now will you tell
me why you’ve gone to all this trouble to find me? Why you’ve driven all the
way to Goose Creek, Maryland? Why you’re buying dinner for me?”
Jake cocked his head and his eyes searched her face. His brow
furrowed and Cassie could tell by the set of his jaw he was weighing his words
carefully. “When are you coming back?”
“Who says I am?” Her heart was thudding.
“I thought you were on a leave of absence. That you’d be
coming back sometime soon.”