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Authors: Robbi McCoy

Spring Tide

BOOK: Spring Tide
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Spring Tide
Robbi McCoy
Bella Books (2012)

Haunted by an unspeakable tragedy, ex-cop Stef Byers is headed for the Sacramento River Delta and her newly-purchased houseboat. Her plans are to get the craft seaworthy and then sail into the snaking waterways—alone.

Life for a veterinarian in Stillwater Bay is good. Jackie Townsend is fond of the quirky inhabitants and loves the natural beauty. The newcomer working on the dilapidated boat could become much more than a random acquaintance, but it’s clear that the moody Stef harbors a grim secret and wants to get lost in her pain, not found by romance.

The waterways of the Delta tangle and weave for hundreds of miles, hiding secret coves, serene vistas and fragile depths. But they are no match for the tides of a woman’s heart.

About the Author

Robbi McCoy is a native Californian who lives in the Central Valley between the mountains and the sea. She is an avid hiker with a particular fondness for the deserts of the American Southwest. She also enjoys gardening, culinary adventures, travel and the theater. She works full-time as a software specialist and web designer for a major West Coast distribution company.

Table of Contents

 

Copyright © 2012 Robbi McCoy

 

 

Bella Books, Inc.

P.O. Box 10543

Tallahassee, FL 32302

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper

First published 2012

 

Editor: Katherine V. Forrest

Cover Designer: Judy Fellows

 

ISBN-13: 978-1-59493-292-2

 

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Other Bella Books by Robbi McCoy

 

For Me and My Gal

Not Every River

Something to Believe

Songs
Without
Words

Waltzing at Midnight

Two on the Aisle

Acknowledgments

 

I’m thankful to Jennifer Morehead, DVM, my old grammar school buddy, for her veterinary expertise. Likewise, Detective L.J. Reynolds for her advice on police department policy and procedures. Once again, muchas gracias Norma Serrato for your Spanish help. I’m happy to include a big thank you to my cousin Jeff, a master fisherman who’s authored a few fish stories of his own.

Much appreciation to Gladys for your encouragement and for your keen reader’s eye.
I continue to be challenged and motivated by my editor Katherine V. Forrest, to whom I am grateful for making every book better than it was.

To my sweetheart, Dot, thank you so much for the many fun hours exploring the Delta with me in search of inspiration, and for the excellent suggestions for revision, as always.

Dedication

 

To my dad, for teaching me everything I know about fishing and for the long, lazy afternoons we spent on the levees of the San Joaquin Delta with bottles of Squirt and an endless supply of sunflower seeds.

About the Author

 

Robbi McCoy is a native Californian who lives in the Central Valley between the mountains and the sea.  She is an avid hiker with a particular fondness for the deserts of the American Southwest. She also enjoys gardening, culinary adventures, travel and the theater. She works full-time as a software specialist and web designer for a major west coast distribution company.

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

A squat wooden building sat at the north edge of town just across the street from the marina. A hand-painted sign at the edge of the road read, simply, Bait Shop. Another sign above the door read Rudy’s Bait and Tackle. A multitude of smaller signs announced items in the store’s inventory:
Minnows, Nightcrawlers, Cold Beer, Ice, Live Crawdads, Fishing Licenses, Ghost Shrimp, Fresh Shad
and
Ida’s World-Famous Beef Jerky
. In front of the shop on one side of the door was an ice locker. On the other side was a Pepsi machine. On the far side of that was an old turquoise and beige vinyl car seat bolted to the cement porch like a park bench. A stack of plastic buckets stood upside down beside the ice locker, and a row of colorful T-shirts hung from the eaves of the building. A neon orange OPEN sign glowed in the front window.

Stef had never been in a bait shop. Unlike a dozen other sports, fishing was unknown to her. She flinched at the idea of nightcrawlers and beef jerky in the same store, assuming, but not entirely sure, that the worms were for the fish and the jerky was for the humans.

She pulled her motorcycle into a parking space in front of the store and took a better look while she removed her helmet and gloves. The place was a relic, an unpretentious, cluttered, saggy, all-purpose bait shop that had obviously been here for a long time and, she guessed, hadn’t changed much in all that time. Like the restaurant a half a mile away on Main Street, the Sunflower Café, unchanged in the last fifty years, she had been told, except for the occasional coat of vivid yellow paint. And the three-story brick Stillwater Bay Hotel, an even older business and the only hotel in this lazy river town.

Stillwater Bay was perched on a natural inlet of the wide, meandering Sacramento River. Stef had been in the area just over one week, but that was long enough to have seen every inch of the town. It was a short row of businesses on either side of a two-lane highway bisecting farmland—pear and cherry orchards, grazing cows, horses and sheep, fields of corn, tomatoes and melons, none of it ripe yet, but vibrant with fresh spring growth. On the country roads nearby were scattered homes, most of them sitting on a few or more acres, a metal mailbox on a wooden post sometimes the only clue somebody lived at the end of a dirt road. The area was peaceful, sparsely populated, shaded by gnarly oaks and soaring eucalyptus. It was hard to believe they were only seventy miles from the metropolitan centers of California’s Bay Area where she had lived most of her life. Her turf was Hayward and Oakland, the East Bay, solidly urban and often troubled.

This town was unpretentious. It was a town people lived in. It wasn’t like the quaint towns in the Sierra foothills that had turned themselves into weekend tourist traps. People didn’t come here to shop in art galleries or stay at bed-and-breakfasts or sip wine or dine on the latest fad foods. People didn’t seem to come here at all.

But in another few weeks, she’d learned, the town would be bursting at the seams with thousands. Every year, for one weekend in June, Stillwater Bay hosted its annual Crawdad Festival. There were banners across Main Street and posters in the windows of all the shops, including Rudy’s Bait Shop. The town’s claim to fame, it seemed, had something to do with crayfish, locally known as “crawdads.” As you drove into town, a huge red crustacean greeted you on the side of the lone hotel. The Sunflower Café had a prominent sign in the window that said,
Crawdads Served Here.

Stef knew
nothing about crawdads, but in the images she’d seen they looked like lobsters, which, she reasoned, couldn’t be all bad
.

She walked up three stairs to the cluttered wooden porch. The front door was propped open with a wedge of wood. Inside, the space was dim. The aisles between the few rows of merchandise were narrow. The amount of stuff crammed into the limited space was impressive. On one side of the shop was a checkout counter with nobody behind it. Vintage signs like Coca-Cola, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Winchester Fishing Tackle, and a myriad of old metal “Gone Fishing” signs were plastered on the wall above the counter.

The store was overwhelming at first. She stood in the doorway for a moment to take some of it in: snacks, drinks, hats, vests, fishing poles, nets, sunscreen, tackle boxes, ice chests, everything you’d need for a day out fishing. There were also mysterious things like jars of bright pink balls of different sizes called Salmon Eggs, including one called Balls O’ Fire with the slogan, Soft but Satisfying.

At the front of the store, under the window, stood a five-foot wide aquarium full of small lobster-like creatures, greenish and ruddy brown with long claws, antennae and fanned tails. Crawdads, she guessed. She took a closer look at the critters before turning her attention to the two men in the store, an old man with a bushy white beard and a middle-aged man with a squarish head and thick, steel-gray hair. The latter was shorter than
Stef,
about five six with one eye open a little wider than the other, both of them half hidden under unruly black eyebrows. In his hand was a Styrofoam carton. He was arguing with the older man, who wore a yellow short-sleeved T-shirt under dark blue coveralls, hanging loosely on his legs but stretched tightly across his rounded stomach.

Based on the conversation between them, she guessed the shorter one was the owner of the store. Her suspicion became fact when the old man called him “Rudy.” As soon as she’d seen the name on the sign out front, she’d started an automatic process of classification. Rudy, Rudolf, Rudolpho…German, Italian,
Portuguese
. It was a byproduct of her training that she attempted to pigeonhole everybody by the slightest bit of information. Rudy could have been of Italian descent with his dark eyes and swarthy complexion, but his speech was pure American.

“If you don’t want these,” he told the old man, “then go with bloodworms.
Always reliable for cats.”

“I don’t want worms,” the old man countered in a grainy voice. “Best bait I ever used was chicken livers.
Caught a lot of fish on chicken livers.
Last month I hooked a monster on a chicken liver. He was so big he snapped my fifteen pound test line clean off.”

“You sure you didn’t land an old tire?” Rudy chuckled.

“It was a channel cat,” the old man insisted. “He was churning up water like a paddle wheeler. That’s what you get with chicken livers.”

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