There's a killer loose in the Florida Keys,and it's up to Detective MJ Kepke to find him.
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Jo Webnar / Author
When a severed hand is found in the Florida Keys, Detective Merri Kepke is called to the scene. Every law enforcement database is used to identify the remains.
She isn’t thrilled when the FBI sends an agent, who knows nothing about the Keys, goes strictly by the book, and doesn’t have a sense of humor. Before she can get rid of him, s skeleton chained to a bucket of cement, proves that a serial killer is dumping bodies in the Keys.
Although she would like to send Agent Chad Marlow back to Quantico, she needs the FBI’s resources, and he needs her local knowledge. They are forced to work together and neither of them like it.
Traffic entering and exiting the Florida Keys was backed up for ten miles. Squad cars of every possible jurisdiction were parked on both sides of Highway 1, lights still flashing.
The temperature was a humid 82 Fahrenheit, but a breeze off Florida Bay kept most of the bugs to a minimum. Springtime in the Keys, nightfall was just a few hours away. Still, it was uncomfortable if you weren’t in the shade.
On the shoulder an ambulance waited, its doors open. Two paramedics leaned against the hood with their arms folded, watching everyone. From the report M.J. Kepke received, they wouldn’t be needed. Still, there was no harm in them hanging around if they didn’t receive another call.
MJ slammed the Jeep’s door and looked around. A Florida State Trooper stood next to a sign: ‘Crocodile Crossing.’ A young deputy sheriff barfed in the bushes. Two fishermen sat quietly in a battered skiff in the shallow water off Little Blackwater Sound. The water looked dark and sinister. They looked like conchs, men born in the Keys. They wore T-shirts, dirty shorts, and work boots. Intelligent but wary eyes followed her every move.
A few yards from them, a deputy with a smirk on his face guarded something in the shallow water. No doubt he thought she would lose her cookies.
MJ acknowledged him with a silent glance.
“Detective.” The young deputy in the mangroves cleared his throat and wiped his hand against his mouth. “It’s still snagged on his pole, ma’am. We haven’t touched it.”
She studied him for a moment. Normally his baby face was the color of coffee with a dab of cream, but now it was a sickly gray, and his eyes weren’t focused.
“Thanks, Jordan. Are you going to be all right?”
He took a deep breath and nodded.
With a fluid motion, she grabbed the back hem of her long calico skirt, brought it between her legs, and tucked it into the shell belt she wore. From the back of the jeep she pulled out a pair of rubber dive boots. She exchanged the boots for her feminine sandals. They were ugly, but worth every dime she paid for them. With careful steps she waded through the muck and mangrove roots to the deputy by the water.
“Deputy Anders.” Her voice was businesslike as she said his name.
Casually he answered, “MJ.”
“Detective Kepke,” she corrected, and glared at him.
He glared right back and waved toward the water. “That’s it.”
He pointed at a fishing pole propped against a mangrove root. Something white that reeked of death was caught on a hook.