Shark Fin Soup: A Novel

Shark Fin Soup: A Novel

by Susan Klaus
Shark Fin Soup: A Novel

Shark Fin Soup: A Novel

by Susan Klaus

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Overview

Christian Roberts, a handsome, young Floridian, has retired from horse racing and sets off with his wife, Allie, to cruise the Caribbean on his new sloop. Tragedy strikes, ending the dream vacation, and Christian becomes the prime suspect in a murder.Shattered and guilt ridden, Christian believes his actions caused the death, and suicide lurks in his thoughts, a way to end his pain, but he can't act on the impulse, at least not yet.  He must honor a dying request, Save the sharks. Do it for me.Every year, one-hundred million sharks are killed for their fins that are used in a Chinese soup, a symbol of wealth in Asia. Within the next ten years, one-third of all shark species will be extinct, and without these ocean predators, the reefs will decline.Christian embraces the impossible task of stopping the shark slaughter. Under the alias of Captain Nemo, he becomes an eco-terrorist while a suspicious FBI agent dogs his every move. Will Christian be caught and imprisoned? Will the fin traders kill him? Could despair win out, causing him to take his own life? Or will Christian succeed and save the sharks?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608091249
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Publication date: 08/09/2014
Series: A Christian Roberts Thriller , #2
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 340
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Susan Klaus, a native of Sarasota, Florida, has a long and extensive history of working with animals. She's managed and co-owned a horse farm, breeding and racing Thoroughbreds for the past thirteen years and is currently raising rodeo bulls. Klaus is the award-winning author of four sci-fi novels and is the host and co-producer of Author's Connection, a radio show with listeners in 148 countries. Shark Fin Soup is Klaus's second thriller in the Christian Roberts series.

Read an Excerpt

Shark Fin Soup

A Novel


By Susan Klaus

Oceanview Publishing

Copyright © 2014 Susan Klaus
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60809-123-2


CHAPTER 1

Bahamas, November 2012


Christian gripped the wheel and gazed at the watery dark horizon and fall sunset, the color of blood. Bare feet planted on the pitching deck, he stood as motionless as marble, his tall, lean frame braced in the Caribbean breeze that tugged at his open shirt like an impatient lover. Only his blond hair stirred, the tousled locks flicking at his deep-blue eyes.

Beneath him, the forty-seven-foot Catalina surged under full sail through the swells, but Christian's mind was not on his sloop, the sea, or sky. His thoughts dwelled on Allie and her lifeless body in the forward berth. He dropped his head and closed his moist eyes. It should've been me. I should be in there instead of her.

After a while he glanced up, bleary-eyed, and saw the outcrop of islands far ahead. He readjusted his course and brushed the tears off his cheeks. "Goddamn it, Christian, get your head out of this nightmare."

The blue waters had turned to black, and the first stars of the evening appeared sharp and clear when Christian's sloop, Hank's Dream, entered the bay. Up ahead, Nassau was on the right and Paradise Island on the left. The Bahamian waters mirrored the glittering lights from the docked cruise ships the size of cities and the high-rise hotels of the Atlantis theme park. He pushed the refurl button, and the main sail withdrew into the mast and the genoa sail coiled around the forestay. The sailboat, now driven by diesel power rather than wind, cut through the calm water like scissors through dark satin. He maneuvered his sloop toward the dock slips filled with a variety of crafts, from small skiffs to large cabin cruisers. Beyond the seawall was a street lined with waterfront shops, restaurants, and the large warehouse of the Nassau straw market.

Unsure where to pull in and mentally drained, Christian cut the engine and allowed his sloop to drift alongside a weathered trawler. Aboard were three Bahamian men, two young black men swabbing its deck, and a bearded old man who sat on a crate and mended a net.

"Could you help me?" Christian pleaded, his voice cracking with stress.

"Grab da boat," said the old man, rising from the crate. The young men dropped their mops and seized the sailboat's side railings to keep the boats from bumping. "What's the matter, mister?"

"My wife ... my wife ... she's been shot, killed. Could you call the police?" Saying the words aloud hit Christian hard. His eyes watered and his body quaked, the agonizing reality clawing like a beast at his gut. He sank weak kneed on a bench in the cockpit. Hunched over with his face in his hands, he muttered, "It's my fault, my fault. I'm so sorry, Allie."

For a moment, the three fishermen glanced at one another, apparently too stunned to speak or move. The old man said, "I'll make da call. Drop da fenders and tie his sloop off."

The two men grabbed the Catalina's stern and aft lines, securing Hank's Dream to their fishing boat as the old man stepped onto the dock and shuffled to a pay phone on the street.


Within five minutes, the first squad car arrived, lights flashing and siren blaring. Christian saw the old man point at him while talking to two black police officers. They hustled down the dock with the old man trailing and stepped aboard the trawler.

The police officers climbed aboard his sloop. They stared at him, but their gaze quickly shifted to the blood-stained deck. "Mister, your wife was killed?" one officer asked.

Christian swallowed and glanced at the cabin. "She's on the bed in the front berth."

One officer went below. The other remained beside Christian and asked him preliminary questions: his name, his wife's name, address, if he was the sloop's owner, and why he was in the Bahamas.

In a daze, Christian mumbled the answers as the cop wrote on a notepad. The other officer returned to the open deck and whispered into his partner's ear. "Please come with us, Mr. Roberts," the first officer said. "A sergeant will follow up with more questions."

As the two officers escorted Christian down the creaky wooden dock, he felt wobbly, his equilibrium off balance on solid land after days at sea on a rocking boat. He stared at the street that now resembled a carnival. Three more police cars and an ambulance had arrived on the scene. Amid blinking red lights, roughly a dozen policemen awaited him, along with a small crowd of spectators, the commotion drawing the curious out of the local businesses. All eyes focused on Christian. Being a lofty Caucasian, he stood out like a sail on a dusk sea among the Bahamians.

One officer instructed Christian to wait beside a police car. He chewed a thumbnail as he leaned against the fender and watched more officers crawl aboard his boat. He heard the trawler's diesel engine engage and saw the fishing boat motor away from the dock, yielding its space to Christian's sloop. Using the bowline, the police pulled Hank's Dream into the empty slot that gave them easier access to his boat, and Allie.

"Mr. Roberts," said a man's voice, "I'm Sergeant Drake. Could you please come with me?" Drake was a middle-aged black man of medium height with a thin mustache above a full mouth of large bright teeth. His accent was proper British and lacked the heavy Bahamian twang.

Christian followed him to another squad car.

Drake opened its back door and glanced at the growing throngs of tourists and locals that lined the street. "Please get in. I think it would be better to take your statement at headquarters."

Christian put one foot into the car but stopped, watching a white van arrive with CORONER written on its side. He shuddered and slipped into the backseat, grateful he would not be here when Allie's body was offloaded. Drake and a younger officer took the front seats. The trip through town was short, the riders sullen; no one spoke.

At the station, Christian followed Drake to a small, windowless room with a table between two chairs. Drake told him to take a seat, and he eased into a chair. Although the room was air-conditioned, small beads of sweat formed on Christian's forehead. He swept the moisture back through his collar-length hair.

Drake sat down in the other chair, facing Christian, and thumbed through the preliminary report that rested on the table. "I must inform you," Drake began, "that this interview is being taped."

"Do I need to lawyer up?"

Drake raised a skeptical eyebrow. "That is your choice, Mr. Roberts, but for now, you are not a suspect. It appears your wife died of a gunshot wound. I just need your statement on how it happened."

Christian leaned back in the chair. "I don't know how it happened. Allie was on board while I was diving. We were anchored off the shelf of the Tongue between the Berries and Nassau. When I climbed aboard, I found her on the deck, dead, and the boat was shot up and ransacked. I carried her below, and since everything was gone — cell phones, radio, computers — I couldn't call for help. The GPS was also ripped out and missing, so I dug out some charts and used the compass to get here."

"What time did this happen?"

"This afternoon, around two, I think."

"When you surfaced near your boat, did you see any other boats in the area?"

"No, nothing."

"You didn't hear a boat motor while you were underwater or see another one overhead during your dive? Our waters have a high visibility."

"I told you, I didn't see or hear anything. I did a forty-minute dive and was a good distance from my boat. Hell, maybe the bastards sailed or paddled up to my sloop. Maybe that's why I didn't hear a motor."

"That's rather unlikely," Drake said. A faint smile played on his lips. He questioned and re-questioned Christian, the interview approaching the third hour. "All right, Mr. Roberts, let's move on," he said and flipped to another page. "The old fisherman heard you say that it was your fault. Did you and your wife get into a fight or have marital problems?"

Christian looked up, his eyes burning like hot blue flames. He was exhausted and famished, not to mention grief stricken, and had little patience left. "Fuck you, man," he said. "I loved her. Buying the boat, going on this fucking trip was my idea, so it's my fault she's dead. Now, are you going to find the sons of bitches that killed my wife, or are you looking to pin this shit on me?"

"We will do everything in our power to find your wife's murderer."

"Are we finished?" Christian rose abruptly from the chair.

"For now," Drake said and also stood. "We'll need to take your DNA and fingerprints so we can separate them from others found on your boat. One of my officers will drive you to a hotel and set you up for the night. I'll have more questions for you when our investigation is further along, so don't leave the Bahamas. In fact, I need your passport."

"I don't know where the hell it is. It was on the boat, top dresser drawer in the front berth, but God knows if it's still there — shit's dumped and scattered everywhere."

"We'll look for it. If it's lost, I'll begin the procedure to have your government issue another one." Drake patted Christian's shoulder. "Get some rest, Mr. Roberts."

Christian nodded. I need to shut up, stop cursing and ranting. It's making me look bad. "I'm sorry I'm a little short. I'm tired and still can't believe she's gone."

After Christian was fingerprinted and a DNA swab taken, he and another officer left the station, drove along Bay Road, and turned onto a side street to a mid-range hotel several blocks from the coast. Inside the lobby, the officer told the clerk that the Bahamian police department would be picking up his tab for the night.

The officer left, and Christian, barefoot and whipped, walked from the lobby into a small adjacent restaurant that still served food at eleven o'clock. He hadn't eaten since early that morning. His stomach groaned with hunger pains, but his thoughts weren't on food. He was thinking about the police interview. Of course, Sergeant Drake suspected him. Plenty of boyfriends and husbands killed their women, and when the cops found only his and Allie's fingerprints on the boat, they would be even more suspicious.

He sat down at a table away from other diners. As the waitress approached, he realized he had no wallet, no cash, or credit cards.

"Can I put this on my room bill?" he asked.

The waitress said it would be fine, and he ordered a burger, fries, and a Coke. When his meal arrived, he stared at the juicy sandwich and thought of Allie. Only the day before, she had said she was ready for a burger. He took a bite but couldn't taste the food, because of his runny nose and watery eyes. Embarrassed, he quickly wiped his moist face with the napkin and looked around, but nobody had noticed. He managed to eat half the meal.

In his room, he slipped out of his cream linen shirt and Dockers shorts and took a quick shower. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he collapsed on the bed and stared at the ceiling fan. Throughout the day, he had tried to be strong and focused. "Just get through it," he had kept telling himself. At midnight, the day was finished. His resolve toppled like a sandcastle with the incoming tide. He turned on his side and curled up into a fetal position. Burying his face into a pillow, he sobbed. "Jesus, Allie, how did we end up like this?"

CHAPTER 2

Sergeant Drake returned to the sloop Hank's Dream and the crime scene after his interview with the temperamental Christian Roberts. Drake supervised as his small forensic team lifted fingerprints from Roberts's sloop, collected evidence, and took photos of the dead woman, a petite strawberry blond in her late twenties. Standing on the dock, Drake reflected on the handsome husband, his pretty wife, and the luxurious sailboat. Youth, looks, and money; they had had it all.

One of his officers approached. "Sergeant Drake, they are done with the forensics and the coroner is ready to remove the body."

"Go ahead, but tell him to hold off on the full autopsy."

Drake's supervisor came alongside him. "What do you think?" he asked, watching the men load the woman's body into the van.

Drake released a loud sigh. "On this one, I called the pathologist in the States. He's flying in tomorrow morning for the autopsy. And since the husband and victim are US citizens, I plan to have the Miami FBI assist us. When I questioned the husband, he was scared, used anger to hide it, and was defensive. Asked if he needed a lawyer. Plus there are flaws in his story. He says he didn't see or hear anything while he was diving. Sound travels a good distance underwater. He also said he carried his wife from the deck into the berth, yet he didn't have a drop of blood on him. Only a person wishing to conceal something washes up and changes clothing after a spouse is murdered. And we haven't found any bloody clothing except hers." He turned to his supervisor. "So what do I think? I think he did it."

* * *

In Miami, Agent Dave Wheeler sat at his desk in the FBI field office and played with his ballpoint pen, clicking the end in and out while he studied the papers. The case was a dead end unless more evidence was found, but more evidence could mean another body. He pulled out the three photos of women, all young, lovely brunettes, and dead. Each had been raped and stabbed in a different part of Florida. Disgusted, he started to close the folder, when he glimpsed his eighteen-year-old daughter in a nearby picture frame. She resembled the murdered girls. Some cases hit closer to home and gave him more incentive.

"Hey, Dave," Ralph, his partner of four years, called from his neighboring desk. "Line two; it's your buddy in Nassau."

"Drake?" Wheeler tossed the pen on the folder and ran a hand over his short, salt-and-pepper hair. On his last trip to Nassau, he had told Drake he needed to hire a good homicide detective for the Royal Bahamian Police Force. The sergeant laughed, said they didn't have the money or enough murders to make it worthwhile.

Wheeler leaned back in the chair and pushed the flashing red light on the phone. "Wheeler."

"Agent Wheeeelerrrr," said Drake, his accent drawing his name out like a song. "This is Sergeant Drake. I have a murder that involves two of your Americans. Last night a young husband sailed into our port with his dead wife. The coroner from the States just finished the autopsy. She was killed with a shotgun blast to the chest and had gunpowder residue on her right hand. The boat was also riddled with shotgun pellets and looted, made to look like a pirate raid. There was no shotgun on board, but we did find a forty-four handgun that had been recently fired, but curiously, no prints. In fact we have yet to find any prints on the boat other than the husband and wife's. According to the woman's body temperature, the time of death was around ten a.m. yesterday, yet the husband claims she died at two in the afternoon." He recited the rest of the details as Wheeler jotted them down.

"I'm certain that Mr. Roberts has been less than truthful," said Drake.

"All right, fax me what you have and the autopsy report. I'll check Roberts out on this end. Hold off questioning him further. I'll fly over tomorrow."

"I will have a Cuban cigar and a nice bottle of Appleton waiting for you."

Wheeler hung up and turned to his computer, performing a background check on Christian Roberts, age twenty-seven of Myakka City, a native Floridian. Roberts's sheet showed that a few years earlier, he was arrested for assault in Miami when he shoved a man named Ed Price at Calder Race Course, but no conviction; the prosecutor dropped the charges. He studied Roberts's features from the arrest photo. Six two, blond, and good looking, he thought, a package that usually reeks of arrogance.

Ralph walked over to his desk. "What's going on in the Bahamas?"

"Pack your bags. We're taking a puddle jumper over tomorrow. Drake's got a murder, an American woman, and has requested an assist. The husband is a person of interest — lots of circumstantial, but no smoking gun. I'd rather get there before the good sergeant screws up the case. Check on a horse trainer named Ed Price living here in Miami. The husband had a scuffle with him a few years back. Sometimes the friends — or enemies — a person keeps tells a lot about someone."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Shark Fin Soup by Susan Klaus. Copyright © 2014 Susan Klaus. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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