DEATH BY SUNKEN TREASURE

DEATH BY SUNKEN TREASURE

by Kait Carson

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Overview

"Carson takes us on a whirlwind deep sea adventure filled with enough twists and turns to give the reader a serious case of the bends! She's created a fascinating world complete with a beautiful setting, compelling characters, deceit, a shipwreck, and even gold doubloons. Dive in with Hayden Kent, the water is wickedly fun!" - Annette Dashofy, USA Today Bestselling Author of the Zoe Chambers Mysteries



"Kait Carson's Florida is dead on in this action-packed mystery! The enviable setting, compelling characters, and the author's expertise on diving make for a fresh plot and an intriguing story masterfully woven into a satisfying conclusion." - Krista Davis, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Domestic Diva Mysteries (on Death by Blue Water)



When Hayden Kent's mentor and friend discovers her son Mike's dead body, dressed in full scuba attire, washed up on Pigeon Key, she needs Hayden. Her paralegal and dive skills may help unravel the tragedy of Mike's last days. He'd recently discovered a sunken Spanish galleon and rumors that he hit the mother lode ran through the Keys like wildfire.

Hayden's dive on the treasure site uncovers gold, and clues that Mike's death was something far more sinister than an accident. When two different wills, both signed the day Mike died, are delivered to the courthouse, the suspect list grows, as do the threats against her. The danger escalates as she tries to save herself, discover the motive, and find the killer.

Related subjects include: cozy mysteries, women sleuths, murder mystery series, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), book club recommendations.

Books in the Hayden Kent Mystery Series:

• DEATH BY BLUE WATER (#1)
• DEATH BY SUNKEN TREASURE (#2)

Part of the Henery Press Mystery Series Collection, if you like one, you'll probably like them all...

Author Bio: Kait Carson spent a lifetime living and working in the tropical paradise of South Florida. She opted for a day job as a paralegal practicing in the world of high-end estates and probate litigation. Legal pads give way to a keyboard in the evening and Kait spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the steamy Florida heat. Like her protagonist, Hayden Kent, Kait is an accomplished SCUBA diver. She lives with her husband, six rescue cats and three tropical birds at an airpark in Florida. Not too far from the water.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781635110012
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication date: 03/22/2016
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.57(d)

Read an Excerpt

Death by Sunken Treasure

A Hayden Kent Mystery


By Kait Carson

Henery Press

Copyright © 2016 Kait Carson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63511-004-3


CHAPTER 1

Pea rock sprayed from under my tires as I pulled into my parking space. I exited the car at a dead run, juggling my briefcase in one hand and my handbag and coffee cup in the other. Our receptionist, major domo, and front desk person Ruth looked somber when I opened the door. "Your phone rang off the hook this morning."

Of all the mornings to be late. I scooted past her into my office, dumped my burdens on one of the guest chairs, rounded my desk, and punched the button to activate my computer. Our email program recorded all voicemails. The computer was going through its usual beeps and boops when my boss and supervising attorney, Grant Huffman, pushed open my door, a pink message slip clutched in his hand. He had his jacket off and the sleeves of his shirt cuffed back to just below the elbow. I knew instantly something was wrong. The light banter of questions about his weekend died on my lips.

"Hayden." His voice held a doomsday note. "Dana Terry has been trying to reach you."

My stomach twisted like I was on a tilt-a-whirl. Why did she call the office and not my cell? I tried to read his face and failed. "Did she tell you what it was about?" Grant and Dana were old friends. Dana ran the historic site on Pigeon Key and acted as president of the foundation that supported it. Grant represented Pigeon Key Foundation on a pro bono basis. As his paralegal, I sometimes assisted with the annual procedures required of a not for profit corporation, but my relationship with Dana and the Foundation was more personal.

He shook his head and handed me the message while I punched Dana's speed dial button. "I asked. She only wants you."

My call went to voicemail. Concern fought with the premonition that something was very wrong. Dana could sometimes be mysterious. I didn't want to overreact, so I left a noncommittal message and hung up. I pulled my cell phone from my jacket pocket and sent her a simple "what's up" text. My private line rang as I lifted my finger from the send icon. Pigeon Key Foundation.

When I answered, a babble of words came at me. She was crying hysterically and I couldn't understand a word. "Dana. Slow down." A loud sobbing answered my request, followed by a wail.

What had happened that caused her to call me hysterical from work? I glanced at the caller ID again. It definitely read Pigeon Key Foundation. Lowering my pitch to something I hoped was soothing, I broke into the dreadful sobbing. "Start at the beginning. Tell me what happened."

A loud gulping followed by the sound of nose blowing came over the line. "It's Mike," she sobbed. Her voice shook with emotion. "The police are here." A burbling sob interrupted. "At work. At the Foundation."

My mouth fell open. Before I could frame a question, Dana gulped a few times. "He's ... dead. Mike's ..." The sentence ended in a keening moan.

A trickle of cold sweat broke out along my hairline at her words. My memory replayed Mike's statement from our meeting on Thursday. He said he might not have much time. Was this what he meant? Did he know he was going to die?

"Oh, Dana." My voice failed me for a moment. I wanted to reach through the phone and draw her into a hug. My heart broke for her. "I'll be right there." I scrawled a hasty note to Grant and shoved it at him over the desktop. His face paled under his tan.

"I can't talk. Please, you tell her." The words came out in a broken whisper. A hollow fumbling followed by a barely decipherable, "She's my friend. Hayden Kent."

A male voice came on the line. "Ms. Kent, this is Deputy Diego of the Monroe County Sheriff's office. We're waiting for a victim advocate to arrive." He paused.

The sound of a door creaking open followed by the clacking of a breeze playing through palm fronds came over the line. He'd left Dana. Gone outside. My teeth clenched. The woman was heartbroken. How could he leave her?

"The medical examiner just arrived." His voice rose and fell in cadence to his steps. "Your friend found her son's body here on the Key. It looks like a diving accident. The currents near the bridge can be treacherous."

In the background a voice with a lilting Caribbean accent gave directions I couldn't make out. If Mike had died on Pigeon Key, he had to be with or waiting for Dana. I offered up a silent prayer that they hadn't argued before he died. Things had been tense between them lately.

But why would he be in dive gear? An awful thought crossed my mind. The water near the Key was shallow. Had he died from a propeller strike?

The door clicked again. Dana's teary voice asked if I was still on the phone. She sounded calmer, more resolute as she took the phone again. "Promise me you won't come to the Key. They sent someone here for me. She'll take me home." Dana drew a ragged breath. A picture of the tall, slender Englishwoman flashed into my thoughts. "I ... I'd like it if you could come by the house after you finish work."

"I'll be there at five," I promised. Tears splashed on my desk as I hung up the phone.

While I'd talked to Dana, Grant used his cell to call someone. From the bits of conversation I overheard, I realized he was talking to Monroe County Sheriff's office. His pen flew over the pages of a legal pad on my desk as he asked questions and scribbled notes. I tuned him out.

Dana was like a second mother to me. When my parents died, I'd plunged into a deep depression. Dana pulled me out by giving me work as a volunteer interpreter of history, someone who took tour groups around Pigeon Key and explained how the Island served in the construction of Flagler's railroad. I owed her more than I could ever repay.

A frisson of sadness cut through me. How does a mother survive the death of her child, especially a child who clawed his way back from the edge of hell?

Grant's hand covered mine. "You okay?" His voice sounded gentle.

I shook myself and came back to the present. I felt like I did when I surfaced from a deep dive. The corners of my mouth were stretched into a frown. My lips trembled as I fought back a fresh onslaught of tears. "Memories. Was anyone at Monroe County able to tell you anything?"

He cocked his head to the side as if assessing me. "Not much. The investigation is too new. Dana found Mike under the crossbars of the ramp when she got to work. He wore full scuba gear."

He turned his face away and looked down at my desk. A small muscle jumped in his cheek. "No one had seen him since Friday. The day he signed his will."

CHAPTER 2

The day dragged on. I found it difficult to focus on work. At three o'clock, Grant came into my office and asked if I had heard from Dana yet. In response, I picked up the phone, called the sheriff's office, and asked for Deputy Diego. The dispatcher told me he was on his way into the office. She wouldn't tell me if he was returning from Pigeon Key or just coming back during his shift. She did tell me the victim advocate had turned in her report.

"Why don't you leave now?" Grant suggested. "Spend some extra time with Dana."

Grateful for his suggestion, I grabbed my handbag and left the office. When I got to the town of Marathon on Vaca Key, I passed the turnoff for Dana's house and drove directly to the sheriff's station. Deputy Diego should be in his office by now. I didn't expect him to share much, but anything he told me might help Dana. The woman I considered a second mother. She'd pulled me back from the brink of despair after the death of my parents. Deaths I blamed on myself. I shook my head to chase the thoughts away. This wasn't about me, I had to do everything I could to care for Dana now.

Cold air greeted me as I mounted the steps to the heavy glass doors that fronted the sheriff's station. The air conditioning in the office was set low enough to cause tiny beads of condensation to collect on the base of the door where the sun warmed the top step. It took a considerable push to gain entry to the lobby area. The cold inside was almost painful. I quickened my step past a row of benches attached to the walls flanking the door and walked up to an area set off by bulletproof glass. I gave the deputy who sat there my name and asked to see Deputy Diego. He directed me to sit on one of the benches while he called the deputy. I opted to stand, pacing to keep my blood circulating.

A clicking sound off to my left caught my attention. A young well-built man dressed in the distinctive green uniform of a sheriff's deputy walked through a door. As he drew closer, I saw the name Diego etched on a white name badge over his shirt pocket.

"How may I help you, Ms. Kent?" His smile nearly blinded me. An air of quiet competence surrounded him.

"This is a little awkward," I responded. "It's more about how I can help my friend. I was hoping we could talk about what happened this morning on Pigeon Key."

Brown eyes stared into mine. A flush of heat touched my face under his scrutiny. He must have seen something that made him understand my request. "Sure, come with me."

I followed him behind the door and down a hallway constructed of cinderblocks to a large room. He led the way through a maze of cubicles, most occupied by men and women in uniform, to one that sat near a window. The natural light must be a welcome change from the harsh light coming from the fluorescent fixtures overhead. I wondered if having a desk near a window was a sought after perk. Deputy Diego indicated a chair alongside the desk and stood until I sat. He took his seat, closed a file folder that lay open on his desk and looked at me expectantly. "What do you need to know?"

"What happened? How did my friend find the body?" My face heated again. I'd seen drowning victims. I hoped Dana hadn't found her son that way. I searched for a way to frame the question and finally settled on, "Was he ... intact?"

The man's eyes widened slightly at my words. Whatever he was expecting me to ask, that wasn't it. He pulled a pad of forms toward him, picked up a pen, and printed something across the top. "We don't know much, Ms. Kent." He tapped the knuckles of one hand with the pen he held in his other. "Your friend got off the water shuttle and saw something she thought was a large trash bag under the pilings of the access ramp from the old bridge. She approached and realized the bag was a diver in a black wetsuit sprawled on his side. At first she thought he was hurt. The dispatcher said her 911 call was calm and she asked for an ambulance. While the dispatcher was taking down the information, your friend became hysterical. She recognized the diver as her son."

The world seemed to go into slow motion. The horror of the words delivered in an almost uninflected voice conjured an image in my mind of Dana making the gruesome discovery. It took me a moment before I could form a coherent thought. Then I said, "Did he have a mask on?"

Deputy Diego leaned back in his chair. "Yes. Barely. One of the rear straps was torn and the second frayed to the point of near breaking. But the mask probably accounts for the delay in her recognizing him. Did you know," he paused and glanced at the file folder that had been open when I first sat down, "Mike Terry?"

"No. Not well. I knew he dove. And that he was the main diver for his treasure salvage company."

"Treasure?"

He scribbled something on the form.

"Yes, didn't Dana tell you?"

His look softened. "She wasn't able to tell us much. You said salvage. Had his group found something?"

I shared what information I had about the wreck and the site, which wasn't much. And told him that the law firm I worked for would be representing his estate in the probate and Grant was named personal representative. In exchange, he told me that it looked like Mike drowned, but nothing would be final until after the autopsy. In the meantime, he would head the investigation, not the detective unit. When I had arrived, he was in the process of checking missing persons and marine reports. If Mike hadn't dove from the shore, as many people did if they were lobstering under the bridges, then someone should have reported an abandoned boat.

While I sat at the side of his desk, he made a few more notes and then looked up. "Anything else come to mind that might be important?"

My teeth worried the inside of my lip. Grant's words floated up in my memory. "Mike signed a new will on Friday. When he left our office, he said he was going to dive the wreck."

Deputy Diego didn't respond for a moment. Then he made a note and drew a box around the word wreck. "Have I helped you know what to say to your friend?"

The interview was clearly over. I thought back to our conversation. He hadn't told me much about what happened. More about what was going to happen. Still, I felt I had enough background that I could let Dana talk without feeling the need to ask any questions. Most importantly, I knew that when Dana saw her son, a boat propeller had not mutilated his body. "Yes, thank you."

He walked me back through the labyrinth of desks and down the hall. When we reached the door to the lobby, he slid a key card into a slot on the door, and when it clicked, he held it open for me to pass. As I stepped through into the nearly refrigerated area he said, "We may want to talk to you again."

The door closed behind me before I could react.

CHAPTER 3

All I could offer Dana was an ear and sympathy. When I arrived, she was sitting on the couch paging through a photo album full of shots of Mike, most of them water-oriented, but a few taken on visits to her family home in Britain. She rotated the book in my direction so the pages faced me.

"Look. This is Mike's certificate from when he graduated from dive instructor school." Her finger tapped the top of the page. "First in his group. He was the best."

Grey eyes filled with pain met my gaze. "Look at the year. He was eighteen." She sniffed loudly and reached for another tissue.

Uncertain what to say, I whispered, "That's quite an accomplishment. He was an amazing diver. Lots of locals have wonderful stories about his skills. Even stories about how he saved lives."

"Hayden," she began, "that's the point. I don't understand. How did he have an accident? He was too good. Diving was second nature to him." She picked up a small framed box from the end table and toyed with it. "Something was different. Those last few weeks. Something was so different."

I wrapped my arms around her and let her cry in my arms all the while remembering his last visits to my office. He'd wanted his will changed. Everything changed. His son was to be his only heir. Rage snapped in his eyes as he reiterated no one else was worth inheriting from him. The next day a totally different Mike walked into our office. The man was disassociated in some ways. Clearly competent, but different. What did he mean by his comment that he didn't have much time? Did he know he was going to die? With an effort, I pulled myself back to the present. None of that would do Dana any good, and I doubted it would make any difference to her whether or not she was in his will. She wanted her son back, not his money. When Dana seemed cried out, I helped her to the bedroom and waited while she showered and climbed into bed.

The last thing I wanted to do was leave her alone tonight. "May I stay? I can make up the bed in the guestroom."

She smiled up at me from the pillows. "No. I'll be fine. I took a sleeping pill. I want to be alone tonight." Her voice cracked. "He was my heart. I ... I'm hoping he'll come to me in my sleep." Her hand reached for mine and she patted it. "Dive his site, Hayden. Do it for me. He was too good to have an accident."

"Dana, I wouldn't know what to look for." I pulled back a bit and studied her face. Did she have a reason to suspect Mike's death wasn't an accident? "Are you asking me to look for something specific?"

"I'm asking you to look for Mike. He lived for the sea. He was more at home underwater than on top. I want you ... I'm not sure how to say this ... to connect with him ... no ... see the last things he saw ..." She broke off and stared in the direction of the floor-to-ceiling sliders separating her bedroom from the walkway giving her a view of the ocean. "The police told me they were going to dive the treasure boat site." She grabbed for my hand again. "I want a friend there first. Someone to tell him I loved him."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Death by Sunken Treasure by Kait Carson. Copyright © 2016 Kait Carson. Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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