Scene of the Crime Deadman's Bluff - By Carla Cassidy

Chapter One

The sand dunes were nearly blinding in the late-June sunshine, but that didn’t stop the surge of adrenaline that raced through Seth Hawkins as he pulled his pickup to a halt and cut the engine.

Deadman’s Dunes. It had been almost a year since he’d been back here in the small Oklahoma town of Amber Lake to enjoy not only the company of his sister and niece, but also the thrill of conquering the dunes.

Seth pulled on a pair of goggles against the sun’s glare and then got out of his truck. As far as the eye could see the dunes rose up like an alien landscape located seven miles outside town.

In the distance he could hear the roar of quad and other ATV engines and knew he wouldn’t have the dunes to himself. Not that it mattered, there was plenty of room for everyone.

He’d driven here from his home in Kansas City early that morning and had a leisurely lunch with Linda and Samantha, his sister and niece, but he’d been eager to get out here on the dunes where nothing mattered but the throttle beneath his hand and the elemental challenge between man and nature.

It took him only minutes to unload his dirt bike from the back of the truck. As he strapped on his protective equipment and then pulled on his helmet, he drew in a deep breath of the fresh warm air.

For the next week he wasn’t FBI Special Agent Seth Hawkins—he was simply Seth on vacation, visiting with his only relatives and enjoying some much needed downtime from the job.

He climbed on the dirt bike and kick-started it, the thrum of the engine filled him with a teenagelike excitement. It felt as if in the past couple of years there had been nothing but work, no time for anything but murder and mayhem. He needed this vacation and he intended to spend each and every moment of it just having fun and relaxing.

With this thought in mind, he released the clutch and shot forward, the sand shifting ever ominously beneath his tires as he approached the first dune and after that miles of more dunes that would eventually lead to the large hump that was Deadman’s Bluff.

A hairpin turn at the crest of the hill had to be maneuvered with precision. Otherwise the rider would fly off the bluff and to the sand fifteen feet below. More than one rider had tasted that sand at the bottom of Deadman’s Bluff, although Seth himself had never had the unpleasant experience.

As he flew over the first mound, exhilaration spiked and he would have grinned, but knew that gesture would only get him a mouthful of sand.

He saw the tracks that others had left before him and saw in the distance several riders on quads who were obviously riding together.

Seth hadn’t visited Amber Lake often enough over the years to get to know the locals. He tried to come and visit his sister every six months or so, especially since her contentious divorce five years ago, but most of the time it was just an overnight visit.

But he was here now for a wonderful week and intended to take full advantage of having nothing more on his mind than dinner and dunes.

He’d been riding about a half hour when he spied the other three riders in the distance, all stopped and off their vehicles near an area referred to as the whoop-ti-doos, tiny bumps set so close together they rattled your brain. The young men looked like they were freaking out, two of them jumping around while the third stood as if frozen into a statue.

Was the young man who wasn’t moving hurt? Had he taken a tumble and was now in a state of shock? Seth turned his bike to head toward them and as he drew closer he could hear two of the male voices shouting above the whine of his engine.

Seth pulled up, cut his engine and pulled off his helmet and goggles. “In the sand...” It was a short, dark-haired young man who shouted at Seth. “There’s a dead woman in the sand.”

What? Seth dropped his helmet on the ground, wondering if this was some kind of stupid prank the three were playing on him. He walked over to where statue man stood staring down at the sand just in front of him. Seth followed his gaze and gasped in shock.

A pale face in the sand, a woman’s face, partially visible with her eyes closed.