Chapter 1

Amy woke to the sound of seals slapping the water. Warm August air wafted through the cottage window screen, wrapping her in drowsy contentment. She rolled over on her side to snuggle up to Ben, but he wasn’t there.

Thinking her husband must have left for his morning run, she leisurely stretched and left the bed to start a pot of coffee. After a shower, she pulled her long, auburn hair into a bun on top of her head and shrugged into a T-shirt and jean shorts. Cradling a warm mug of coffee, she walked out on the deck and stopped, taken with the scenery in front of her. I can’t get enough of this. 

The Strait of Georgia, an arm of the Pacific Ocean between Vancouver Island and the mainland coast of British Columbia, slept under a sheet of pale pink satin. Wide streaks of yellow and pink blended with the sky above, most intensely over Vancouver, which was barely visible on the horizon. The silence, the smell of the sea air, and the gentle breeze filled Amy with a feeling of joy she couldn’t explain, only breathe in. Her morning fix. A perfect way to start a Saturday morning.

Sipping on her coffee, she looked down at the four-seater inboard tied to a floating dock at the bottom of the cottage’s private ramp. She’d always enjoyed being on the water and couldn’t wait to take it out for a spin. Their red kayaks were tilted over a log on the ground nearby. They reminded her of when she and Ben had first met. Back then he was simply a tall man with longish black hair and blue eyes who’d paid extra attention to her during a kayaking trip. Two years later, here they were honeymooning on Galiano Island.

“Hey, you’re up!”

Amy turned and smiled at Ben, red-faced and sweat-soaked, approaching her with open arms.

“Good morning, babe.”

She put her hands out. “Oh no you don’t.”

He laughed and made a beeline for the washroom. Amy set the picnic table on the deck for breakfast, then sat down to finish her coffee.

After a quick shower, Ben scrambled eggs, mixed in some leftover salmon and peppers, and joined Amy at the table. “I’m starving,” he said, rubbing his hands together.

“It looks delicious.” Amy helped herself to the food. “Did you have a good run this morning?”

“Yes. I happened upon a new trail,” Ben said, filling his plate. “It ended up on a coastal bluff. The view from up there was fantastic; you’d love it. Come with me tomorrow.”

“I will, but after I’ve had my coffee, or I’d run into the first tree on my way out.”

“Fine. I’ll wake you up gently with a cup of coffee so you can get wired before we go.”

“Wired? Ben!”

“I love you.” Ben finished his eggs and leaned back in his chair. He nodded to himself, taking in the deck and the view over the water. “I’d like to own a place like this.”

Amy lifted an eyebrow. “You do? It took me months to convince you to take a week off to come here for our honeymoon. I know the Vancouver PD isn’t that demanding, but it seems with detective work, there’s always ‘one more thing.’ Would you take more time off if you had your own place?”

“With you in it, absolutely.”

At the sound of an engine, they both looked to the sky to see a small plane overhead.

“That looks like a Cessna,” Ben said. “The same kind of plane I was up in a few weeks ago. Remember?”


“My partner and I were flown to a remote spot up the coast to check out a cabin that belonged to a suspect.”

“Oh, yes. You seized the cabin, right?”

“Yeah…” Ben stared at the plane. “Hey, what the hell?”

Amy looked, then covered her mouth with a gasp. Frozen with fear, they watched the plane sway from side-to-side, then turn steeply downward. In seconds, it spiralled toward the water and crashed into the sea less than two kilometres away.

The loud impact with the water was also enough to shatter their shocked paralysis. In an instant, Amy and Ben were on the dock, yanking their life jackets from their kayaks and jumping into the powerboat. Amy, a competent boater, powered toward the crash site while Ben radioed VHF 16.

“A plane just crashed into the Strait of Georgia off Galiano Island,” he shouted over the roar of the engine. “Slightly north of Pebble Beach.”

The operator put him straight through to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria.

“It was a white Cessna 172,” Ben told them. He described the plane’s erratic movements and the crash. Amy, meanwhile, scanned the surface for debris. They spotted wreckage and reached the site two minutes later.

Ben tore off his life jacket and dove in.

Moments later, he surfaced, gulping air while he tread water. “Too deep. I can’t see the plane.”

“Behind you!” Amy pointed; her hand was shaking. A man had surfaced, floating face down.

“Toss me my life jacket.” Ben started to swim over to the man.

“Be careful!” Amy couldn’t help thinking of how drowning people sometimes clung to the person trying to save them, dragging them both down. What would I do if that happened? Dive after them? Would she even get there in time? Or would Ben be lost to her, swallowed by the sea?

To Amy’s relief, the man didn’t even stir when Ben reached him. After slipping his arms into the life jacket, Ben turned the man onto his back, grasped his torso from behind, and towed him to the boat. He held the man’s arm up, telling Amy to hang on to it while he got on board.

“Oh my God.” Amy clamped both hands around the man’s arm and held on for dear life. “Is he alive?”

“Don’t know yet.”

Amy looked at the limb she held. It was an old man’s arm, saggy and soft. “I’m sorry,” she cried as she dug her nails into his skin to get a better grip. The waves and Ben’s movements caused him to lurch and bob in all directions. “He’s old, Ben. I’m afraid I’ll break his arm.”

“I’ll be right there.”

The man had started to slide through her grip when Ben heaved himself from the water and took hold of his other arm.

“Help me pull him in.”

They struggled with the effort to pull him over the transom. Their combined weight made the stern dip perilously close to the water. Amy felt her heartbeat quicken as water rose over her feet.

Ben noticed and stopped pulling. “We’ll try another way,” he said. “I’ll hang on to him. You take the boat line and tie one end around the base of the driver’s chair, then give the other end to me.”

“Okay.” Amy grabbed the line and hurried off. Seconds later, she was back, holding the loose end out to Ben.

Ben took hold of it. “Help me tie it around his torso so we can pull him in without having all of our weight at the stern.”

They set themselves more securely in the centre of the boat and hauled on the rope. Amy looked away to stop her stomach from turning at the sound of his body scraping over the sharp edge of the transom as they hurriedly pulled the man aboard.

After finding no sign of breathing and no pulse, Ben began CPR. “Come on!” he shouted when the man didn’t respond. “You weren’t in the water that long.”

Amy turned away from this nightmarish scene and stared at the debris around them. At the sight of a small suitcase bobbing in the waves, she was hit by a flashback of a suitcase digging into her side while locked in the trunk of a car, only to realize that it was, in fact, a dead body. Her stomach lurched in remembered vertigo of propelling herself from the moving vehicle.

She sank down on the boat’s driver seat, with her back to Ben, to wait for her racing heart to slow down.

Two years earlier, Amy’s ex-fiancé, Tyler, had to flee from a violent drug gang after stealing their cocaine. Thinking she might lead them to Tyler, the gang had come after Amy. Kidnapped and interrogated, Amy knew she had to escape or die. She’d succeeded but had suffered flashbacks for months. They had receded with time, and she had thought she was done with them.

The whining roar of approaching vessels snapped her back to the moment. She watched as a Coast Guard hovercraft drew near. Soon after, a Search and Rescue vessel arrived from Pender Island, and an RCMP vessel from Gabriola. Curious boaters from all directions headed their way. An RCMP officer used a megaphone to warn them off.

The rescue workers continued CPR as the victim was transferred to the hovercraft. Ben gave them a brief report of the plane’s erratic behaviour, the manner of the man’s body surfacing, and the approximate time he’d started CPR. Seconds later, the hovercraft raced off for Victoria.

Amy jumped when Ben put his hand on her shoulder.

“How’re you doing, baby?”

“A bit shaky, but … I’m okay.”

“Come here.” Ben wrapped his arms around her. “Do you want me to drive us back?”

“No, it’s okay. I need the distraction.”

Amy motored them to the cottage, trying not to think about what had happened or about the memory the event had triggered. She glanced over her shoulder at Ben, standing at the stern, watching as divers entered the water. “What are you thinking about?” she called out.

Ben came up to her, raking his hair back with his fingers. “I feel like I’ve seen that man before, but I can’t place him.” He shook his head. “I should have been able to revive him…”



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