Out of the Depths - By Pamela Hearon


THE INTERCOM BUZZED like a trapped insect, and Chance’s mind immediately shot to items he could use to put the old thing out of its misery. When he became a judge, his gavel would top the list.

“Sorry to bother you again, Mr. Brennan. Sheriff Blaine on line three.” Despite having fielded hundreds of calls during the day, Alice sounded as fresh as she had at eight that morning.

Chance took the opportunity to stretch his back and shoulders as he swallowed the last bite of a turkey club. “Thanks, Alice. Now, please, go on home. It’s late.” Before she could hang up, he added, “I hope your dad’s surgery goes well Monday. If you need anything, just let me know.”

“I will, Mr. Brennan, and thanks again for all your help. Good night.”

“Night, Alice. See you Wednesday.” Chance punched the button to line three, leaving the phone on speaker. “Hey, Buck. What’s going on?”

A frustrated sigh exploded in his ear.

“Caught kids at the cave again, Chance.”

Chance bit back the expletives on the tip of his tongue. He didn’t have time to deal with the teenagers and their nonsense. “How many?”

“Five. These was having an orgy and smokin’ pot. Probably got a stash hidden in there somewhere.”

“Which means they’ll be back. Or somebody’ll be back.” Chance massaged his eyelids with his thumb and forefinger. The constant hassle with kids and the cave was making him doubt his sanity about buying that property, even if it was a prime lakeshore piece. One girl already had stitches from cracking her head on a low overhang. How many more of them getting hurt was it going to take?

“That’s what I figure, too. I’ll have a look-see tomorrow. Maybe I’ll find it or find whoever comes after it.”

The sheriff’s easy manner didn’t fool Chance. If a stash was there, Buck Blaine would find it. His redneck mannerisms conned a lot of people, but underneath the hick exterior beat the heart of a criminal investigator.

“You need me to come to the office?” Chance offered halfheartedly. “I’m still in Paducah, so it’ll take a half hour or so, but if you need me…”

Buck’s customary chewing gum smacked across the phone line. “Nah, no need. Trespassin’s gonna be the least of these kids’ problems. We can hold off on the paperwork till tomorrow.”

Chance rubbed his hand down his face, relieved he wouldn’t have to add a stop at the sheriff’s office to his already late night. “Sounds good to me.”

“We’ve got most of their parents on the way, so I’m gonna make sure these young’uns have had a bad night.” Chance could almost feel Buck’s laugh vibrating the receiver. “They’ll think twice before they visit your place again.”

“I don’t know, Buck. These kids don’t even think about things the first time.” With all the secluded areas around Kentucky Lake, it was beyond Chance’s comprehension why the damn kids insisted on partying on his property. “Can we keep this out of the paper? If the cave gets any media coverage, kids will likely swarm it again.”

“Can do.”

“If that state-of-the-art, handy-dandy security system I’ve ordered ever gets installed, you may be out of a job.”

The sheriff gave a gritty chuckle. “I can only wish, but I doubt it. The Bible promises the ignorant are with us always, you know. Or somethin’ like that.”

“Amen, brother.” Chance raised his soda in a toast. “I’ve seen enough frivolous lawsuits to know ignorance is a certainty.”

“You got that right. See you tomorrow?”

“I’ll be there. Night, Sheriff.”

“Good evenin’, Chance.”

Chance hung up and looked at all the piles of paper covering his desk. The call had broken his concentration. Getting back into the wearisome Davenport case seemed unlikely now, even if his dad did expect the finished briefs by Sunday. He’d have to wait until he could see it with fresh eyes. Tomorrow.

He glanced at his watch, noting it was after nine. Friday night and still in the office. “Brennan, you need a life.” He wadded up the sandwich wrapper and pitched it into the trash.

His mom had tried to warn him what it would be like, tried to make him see joining his dad’s practice wasn’t a good idea. Bill Brennan had never accepted anything but perfection from his sons. Perfection had come easily for Hank but seemed always just out of Chance’s reach.

“‘Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?’” Chance read the plaque on his office wall, a gift from his dad.

Those kids at the cave needed such a