The Night Charter

The Night Charter

by Sam Hawken

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Overview

"The deadliest female protagonist since Jon Land's Caitlin Strong and Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander."—Booklist

Exactly one year ago, Camaro Espinoza killed five bad men in New York City and fled town. Now she's keeping a low profile in Miami, running night charter catch-and-release fishing trips off the coast. It's a simple life for a former combat medic. But it wasn't easy to come by. Camaro plans to do everything she can to hold onto it.

Trouble comes knocking in the form of Parker Story, a man in over his head with all the wrong people. Parker wants to book Camaro's boat to run a small errand off the coast of Cuba. Camaro knows she shouldn't get involved. But Parker's got a teenaged daughter named Lauren, and Parker's associates have threatened to harm her if the mission doesn't go off without a hitch. Camaro has never met the girl. Barely seen her picture. But that doesn't mean she can ignore her plight.

Camaro's used to being wanted—by men good and bad, by soldiers wounded on the field of battle, by the long arm of the law. But she's never been needed before. Not the way Lauren needs her. Joining forces with Parker, Camaro soon finds herself in the midst of double crosses, international intrigue, broken promises and scattered bullets. Even a skilled warrior like herself may not be able to escape unscathed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316299213
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 12/08/2015
Series: Camaro Espinoza Series , #1
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,302,912
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Sam Hawken was born in Texas and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife and son.

Read an Excerpt

The Night Charter


By Sam Hawken

Little, Brown and Company

Copyright © 2015 Sam Hawken
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-316-29921-3


CHAPTER 1

Camaro Espinoza awoke before dawn. She had fled New York City after the killing of five men exactly 364 days before.

The bright fluorescent bulb in the bathroom hurt her eyes, so she switched it off, choosing instead to shower in the dark. She left the bedroom unlit afterward, putting on her clothes without a shred of sunlight passing through the slightly parted curtains. Her small backyard, only just visible, was a square of blackness because there was only the sliver of a moon.

She packed a small ice chest with a couple of beers and a lunch she'd made the night before, then let herself out onto the carport where a Harley-Davidson snuggled up against the shadowy bulk of her pickup. A pair of bungee cords secured the chest to the back of the pillion seat, and she walked the bike down the driveway and out onto the street. When it started up, the rumble of the engine was remarkably loud on the quiet street. She gave the throttle a twist and pulled away. The morning air stirred her dark, honey-brown hair.

Her home was in the Allapattah neighborhood of Miami, and she lived fifteen minutes from the water. A pair of lights illuminated the sign at the marina, and beyond the open gates were the steady rows of silent boats waiting patiently for their time on the waves. Camaro parked up against the side of the marina's office. She took the ice chest with her out onto the pier.

The fifty-foot Custom Carolina waited about halfway down, bobbing slightly as the water shifted beneath her hull. The boat was named the Annabel. It had taken all of the money she had for Camaro to get it. The flying bridge stood tall and white against the slowly lightening sky. Camaro boarded onto the aft deck and lightly touched the fighting chair mounted there.

She stowed the ice chest in the cabin and cast off before she climbed the ladder to the bridge. The boat had an even throatier noise than the Harley did, but there were no sleepers to disturb. The marina was utterly still.

Camaro navigated out of the forest of boats and out onto open water. She drove toward the rising sun and found a spot in the blue just as the last of the bright orange disk cleared the horizon.

There were poles on board and bait in a cooler she had stocked a day ago. Camaro let the Annabel drift in the Gulf Stream and cast a line. The bait sank a thousand feet. She sat in the fighting chair and relaxed with the pole in the holder between her legs, listening to nothing and feeling only the feathering morning breeze that carried across the waves.

She carried on until noon, pausing only to slather sunscreen on brown arms and drink a beer. She hid beneath a cap and a pair of wraparound sunglasses. Nothing bit, but she didn't much care one way or the other. Today was an empty day with nothing scheduled, no clients to meet, and no responsibilities. If she went ashore without a single catch, she would at least have spent the hours with the splendor of the sea around her and the luxury of absolute quietude.

By two she'd had a couple of nibbles but no solid hits. These were swordfish waters, but swordfish hunted by night. It wasn't unheard of to catch them in the full glare of the sun and see them rear out of the water at the end of the line, battling the hook and the tension of the rod. She could have set the bait lower, all the way down to two thousand feet, and maybe find a little action, but she preferred to let the fish come to her today. If there was going to be a fight, then there would be one, but she wasn't looking for it.

She reeled in at three and took her lunch inside on the vinyl-surfaced galley counter. The second beer went down cold and good, and even her sandwich tasted better for the wait. There was a bed in the bow, good for naps, and she considered it, but in the end she went back to the water and rod and line and the glare of the cloudless sky.

It was close to seven o'clock when she brought the bait in for the last time and set course for the marina. She'd drifted some forty miles, and the trip back was slow, the Annabel cresting the waves and carving them, the engine keeping her high. Eventually, the shoreline came into view, and the glitter of Miami was visible in the distance. Camaro felt a delicate sadness at returning to people and roads and cars and all of that. It was better out here beyond the skyline, absent all demands. She could stay here forever if the opportunity came. She'd buy a sailing vessel and take to the high seas and be free of it all.

The sun was failing, and already the lights in the marina were on as Camaro entered the marina, closed on her berth, and spotted the man coming down the pier.

CHAPTER 2

He looked like a beach bum from where she stood, dressed as he was in long khaki shorts and a bright short-sleeved shirt. As she drew closer, she saw the sun-streaked dark blond of his hair and the deep tan of his skin. He waved to her with a newspaper in his hand, but she didn't wave back.

He waited for her as she killed the engine and tied the boat up, and then he approached her. "Is this the Annabel?" he asked.

"Yeah," Camaro said.

"Is the captain aboard?"

"I am the captain."

"Oh, sorry," said the man. He switched the folded newspaper to his left hand and extended his right. "Parker Story. I came because of your website. Coral Sea Sport Charters? That's you, right?"

"That's me. You been waiting long?"

"Only about an hour. I wasn't sure when you'd be back."

"I could have stayed gone all night."

"That would have been bad luck," Parker said. "I'm looking for a boat to charter."

"That's what I do."

"I didn't catch your name," Parker said.

"Camaro."

"Ha! That's a good one. Your parents must have been into cars."

"My dad was. Can you give me a minute, Parker?"

"Okay, sure."

She went below to get her cooler, and back on deck she dumped the melt water and ice over the side before stowing the empty beer bottles inside. When she came back to Parker, she looked at him more closely. She figured him for his middle thirties, or maybe a little older. He had a weather-beaten face, like he'd spent his life in the sun, and he wasn't soft like a lot of clients. Some women might even have thought he was handsome.

Parker did not stare at her chest, which she liked. He looked her in the eye when they talked, and he seemed solid, but he rolled the newspaper between his fists. Camaro watched him. "You have a nice boat," he told her.

"Thanks. There are some outfits that have nicer ones."

"I liked your website. Nice and simple. Seemed homemade."

Camaro stepped off the boat. The cooler dangled from her hand. "I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not."

"It is. Some of those places are way too flashy. You know they won't give you the personal touch."

"You want the personal touch?" Camaro asked.

"If I can get it."

Camaro nodded. "You can get it. I take you out to the good water, and if you don't know how to fish, I'll show you what to do. Rates start at forty-five dollars a person, and I can take up to ten. It gets a little crowded with that many, but it's all right."

Parker pointed to the boat. "Who gets the chair?"

"Whoever hooks the big fish."

"Do you do nighttime charters?"

"I do," Camaro said. "Is that what you have in mind? The rates go up."

"How much?" Parker asked.

"One seventy-five a person and we stay out for about eight hours or so. Depends on how everybody's doing and if the fish are biting. If they are, we stay out longer. If they aren't, I won't waste your time."

Parker seemed to consider this. He slapped the newspaper against his leg. "We don't have a big party. Only five altogether. I'm not sure what that runs to."

Camaro did the math in her head. "That's eight seventy-five. When do you want to go out?"

"Well, that's the thing: we're not quite set on a date yet."

Camaro frowned. "I can't hold dates open if I don't know when you're going out. It's first come, first served."

"Right, I understand. Can I get back to you in a couple of days?"

"I'll need twenty percent up front. That's one seventy-five. I only take cash, no checks or credit cards. Is your party going to need gear?"

"We'll bring our own," Parker said.

"Okay," Camaro said, and she moved to walk past him.

Parker gave way and then hurried to keep up with her as she walked along the pier. "It doesn't bother you to go out with five guys at night?" he asked her.

"I've gone out with twice that many at night. I'm not worried," Camaro said. She was ready to stop talking now. All day long she'd enjoyed the perfect tranquility that could only be gotten out on the waves. Now the man was talking at her. She walked a little more quickly.

"I wanted to make sure," Parker said. "About how far out do you go?"

Camaro stopped. "I go out about twenty miles. The water's close to two thousand feet out there. It's a good spot for swordfish. You are looking for swordfish, right?"

"We'd be happy with anything," Parker said, "but swordfish are good. They're the ones who come out at night, right?"

"Lots of things come out at night. But if it's swordfish you want then, yeah, the night's a good time to get them."

She moved on. Parker stayed at her side. "Do you ever go out farther? I mean, out where it's really deep?"

"No need. You go out too far, you'll leave the good grounds behind, and then you won't catch anything. Don't worry: I know where to go so you'll get what you want."

"Been doing this a long time?" Parker asked.

"A while," Camaro replied.

They reached the Harley, and Camaro used the orange bungee cords to tie up her ice chest. The bottles rattled around inside. Camaro turned her back on Parker completely to shut him out, but he was undeterred. "Good Harley," he said. "Heritage Softail Classic, right?"

She looked at him again. In his sandals with his bare, brown legs showing out of his shorts, he seemed like the sort to drive an old VW Bug or a van with ugly art on the side. Camaro had seen his type a thousand times. "That's right," she said. "How'd you know that?"

"I like Harleys. I don't own one myself. My daughter asked me to stop riding, so I gave it up. She worried about losing me if dumped it going too fast. I had a Honda cruiser before. Kind of looked like yours a little, but it wasn't the real thing. You know how it is."

"Sure," Camaro said. "Listen, Parker — if you get me that deposit by tomorrow, I'll hold open the next seven nights for you and your guys. After that, you'll have to take what I can give you."

Parker nodded. "Tomorrow? No problem. I can get it to you tomorrow. Where are you going to be? Here?"

"Come back to the boat tomorrow afternoon about three o'clock or so, and I'll meet you."

"I'll be here," Parker said.

"Good. I'll keep an eye out for you."

She swung a leg on the Harley, and when she turned the engine over there was no more talking to be done. Parker waved and mouthed a good-bye. Camaro watched him go before she circled around and pointed herself toward the marina gate. She saw his car — not a Beetle or a van but a little, rusted-out Toyota pickup with a bashed-in passenger door.

CHAPTER 3

Parker watched Camaro go, and even when she was out of sight he could still hear the blare of her Harley's engine. He got behind the wheel of his truck and started it up. The little sound it made was a thoroughgoing disappointment. He left the marina parking lot and turned himself toward home.

Parker lived deep in the dense urban expanse that spread over Miami-Dade County. The house was small and rented, but it had two bedrooms, and that was enough. The lawn was a patchy little square of crabgrass and dirt, and the property was too small for a garage or a carport. Parker left the truck at the curb out front and went inside.

The smell of food wafted through the front door when he opened it, and he came in to lights and the sound of the television turned too loud. "Hey!" he called. "I'm back!"

Lauren poked her head out of the kitchen. She smiled and his concerns lifted. Never in his life would he ever have said that one look from a fourteen-year-old girl would be enough to put him at ease, but it was true, and he was glad of it.

He turned the TV down in the front room and then went to the kitchen. Lauren fussed with a pair of insulated gloves as she opened the old, olive-green oven to get at the Pyrex dish inside. Immediately there was a stronger odor of spicy meat. "What are we having?" he asked.

"Chuck-wagon casserole," Lauren said.

It was Kraft macaroni and cheese mixed with corn and browned chunks of Italian sausage. A meal that could be made on the cheap but was filling for two. Parker hugged Lauren as she stripped off the gloves. "Smells terrific," he said.

"Fifteen minutes to cool down?" Lauren asked.

"Fifteen minutes," Parker said.

He turned to leave her, but she brought him up short with a question. "Where did you go? I thought maybe you were going to get us ice cream for dessert."

"You know, that would have been a good idea," Parker said, "but I completely forgot. I had to run an errand for Uncle Matt. We're gonna go out fishing soon."

Lauren's face turned down at the mention of Matt. "You're not getting in trouble again, are you?"

"No, of course not. Why would you say that?"

"Mom said Uncle Matt is the kind of guy who gets everybody in trouble."

Now it was Parker's turn to frown. "Your mother wasn't exactly an authority on anything. You'll notice she's not around to eat this great food. And she's not running out to the store for ice cream, either."

"Sorry, Dad."

"Don't worry about it. Set the table, and I'll be back in a few."

He left her and went to his room. He closed the door until it almost caught, and then he listened for the sound of Lauren fiddling in the kitchen. When he heard it, he went to the closet and opened the doors. His few nice clothes hung there, and his single pair of dress shoes rested on the floor beside an empty suitcase. These last two things he moved aside to expose the wall behind them.

Parker crouched in the closet and caught hold of the wainscoting at the back. An eighteen-inch section was loose enough to get fingernails behind, and rocking it gently pulled it completely free of the wall. A flat attaché case was revealed. He pulled the case out.

When he unzipped it, a bundle of bills fell out, and he picked it up. It didn't have a paper strap like a bank would use, but was simply collected inside a tight rubber band. He unwound the bills and counted off two hundred in fifties before putting the band back on again. The bundle went back in the bag.

Parker put the attaché case back into place and then stopped. He pulled it out again and emptied it to count. There were fifty bundles of a thousand dollars each, and they were all there, minus the little bit he'd just taken for the deposit. His sudden fear satisfied, he put the money away and secreted the case in the wall before replacing the wainscoting. He closed the closet and put the two hundred on the nightstand.

He had a phone in his pocket. He used it to dial Matt. It rang three times. "Who is it?" Matt asked.

"It's Parker."

"Parker? Why isn't your name coming up on my caller ID?"

"I don't know. Maybe something's wrong with your phone."

"Man, there's nothing wrong with my phone. It has to be your phone."

"Okay, I'll check it."

"All right. So did you go out there and get us a boat?"

"I talked to the lady who runs the charters."

"A chick?"

"Yeah, but it's okay. She seems to know what she's doing."

"Did you talk to her about what we want?"

"Not yet," Parker said. "I just told her we wanted to do a night charter for some fishing. It didn't seem like the right time to get into the rest of it. I'm going back tomorrow to give her the deposit."

"Don't wait too long to get down to business," Matt said. "We don't have a lot of time."

"I'll do it. Let me talk to her a little bit and see how it goes."

"Dad! I'm putting it on the table!" Lauren called.

Parker put his hand over the phone. "I'll be right there," he said, and then he spoke to Matt again. "Don't worry about anything. I have it covered."

"All right, man. Talk to you again tomorrow."

Parker killed the connection and put the phone back in his pocket. His mind was weighed down again, but then he went to the little dining room and Lauren made him forget about all of it.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Night Charter by Sam Hawken. Copyright © 2015 Sam Hawken. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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