Watery Grave - Sharon Hamilton

Chapter 1

It was a beautiful Spring day in Coronado when Davey Jones barfed up one of his special ones. Kyle had just put the two boys in a corner for their second time out of the day. Luke, the youngest of their three, had managed to develop quite an undercut. He’d split and fattened his older brother’s upper lip, which protruded forward like a bad Botox treatment. Brandon was deadly with the cusswords he’d learned before Kyle and Christy became aware of it and started paying attention to their home language.

But Luke was the silent type and nearly fearless—a biproduct of being the youngest. Unlike his older siblings, his first word was, “mine.”

Kyle was secretly proud of both of them but had to hide it in front of Christy and the boys.

Christy was at work, driving around a newbie SEAL and his girlfriend, checking out houses they wouldn’t be able to afford unless someone came from big bucks, which happened never.

When Kyle opened the front door, a cloud of moisture from his lawn sprinklers gently bathed his face. He came face to face with a twenty-something goth kid with a wooden ear plug the size of a quarter wearing eye makeup, clutching a faded tote bag with flower and heart stickers all over it.

California has really gone to the dogs.

He almost slammed the door in the kid’s face but saddled his patience and eked out a smile.

“Is there a Christy Lansdowne who lives here?” he asked.

“That would be my wife,” Kyle said, his eyes squinting, ready to clock the kid on his doorstep.

“I’m from the Crown & Star Cruise Lines, and we’re returning her lost luggage.”

Kyle hesitated before he took hold of the hot pink handle. He recognized Christy’s cosmetic bag, the one they’d taken with them on the cruise some ten years ago when they’d thwarted a terrorist attack aboard ship. Another bag had been returned almost a year ago now. But this one was special. It contained the ashes of one Joseph Hoskins, better known to Team 3 as “Gunny”—their former Marine brother in arms and owner of Gunny’s Gym, where they worked out. Their mission had been to return Gunny to the sea.

When the bags were lost, the Team figured the terrorists took care of that detail for them. They’d held their service anyhow, without the spreading of the ashes, which had been lost in the mayhem that ensued.

The case was still heavy. Kyle rattled it a bit to see if it was still filled with water. He just heard dry contents jostling around.

“We make sure they don’t leak when we bring them back. It’s been sitting at our warehouse in Florida for at least a year, so I’d tell your missus not to use any of the makeup.”

The kid must not have known about the contents.

“There’s a dead man inside,” Kyle said, his voice in an ominous, raspy whisper, imitating a pirate.

The messenger jumped back about three inches. “Geez. I didn’t know that. I didn’t need to know that.” With his hands shaking, he produced a wilted consent form and a ballpoint pen, asking for a signature, indicating where.

Kyle ripped it out of his hands, set down the case unceremoniously, and scribbled a signature no one would be able to read, shoving it back into the kid’s chest. “You have yourself a good day, son.” He winked and then slammed the door.

The boys had heard too much of the conversation, especially the part about the dead guy inside, and came running over, surrounding Kyle, jumping up and down, peppering him with questions. Maggie tried to grab the case.

Kyle ran through the living room, the case high above his head, with his three children jumping up to try to grab it from his fingers. He was laughing so hard, he almost lost his focus when Maggie almost snatched it.

“Wait a minute, guys!” he yelled, setting the case down on the kitchen countertop. He knew Christy would be horrified to see it there, but he had no choice. Finally, to get the kids from leaping over the top of the counter, he had to raise his voice another few decibels.

“Cut it out. Stop! This is enough!”

They knew he was at the end of his rope.

“I’m going to open it, slowly. But I’m not sure it’s healthy for you to be close, so back off! And I mean it, dammit!”

Behind him, he heard Christy’s voice. “So why is that thing even in my kitchen, Kyle.”

He whirled around to find the