An excerpt from Debra's upcoming novel 

"Hooked on Murder"

Chapter One

Fish on Hooks

Morning mist drifted up from the water of Cedar Sound, slowly swallowing the mountain slope that rose from the shoreline beside the fish farm. Melody gulped the last of her coffee and turned away from the bunkhouse window with a drawn out sigh.

     Today was only day three of her eight-day shift. Five more friggin’ days ahead. She pulled her cellphone from her pocket and re-read the text she’d received from Sabine. What to say? Sabine wanted her to quit her job at the farm and find work in town. Could she walk away from a job that paid good money? A job that allowed her to escape the panic that filled her when she was surrounded by too many people and too much noise? Peace and quiet. The farm served it up on a platter—at least until recently.

 

     She tapped a response: ‘Let’s talk later,’ slipped the phone into her pocket, and gathered what was left of her breakfast from the dining table. As she headed to the kitchen she glanced at her watch. Eight o’clock. Time for work.

 

     Michael sat sprawled on the living room sofa with his breakfast spread out on the coffee table, flicking through TV channels. She brushed past him on her way to the door.

    

     “I hope those damned idiots don’t show up today,” she said, reaching for her gear from a hook on the wall.Yesterday had been a bloody disaster. Protesters surrounding the fish farm in boats, people yelling with megaphones about the damage they were doing to the environment, angry faces shouting insults. Getting anything done had been impossible. And the demonstration was all for the benefit of TV cameras. The media loved to lap up the protesters lies. Environmentalists wanted to shut down the fish farm. Kill the industry. Dealing with a mob wasn’t in her job description. Maybe Sabine was right. She should quit work at the farm and find a job in Campbell River.

     

     She pulled on her boots. “Where’s Dan?”

     

     Michael dropped a spoon into his empty bowl. “No idea.”

    

     “Doubt he’s sleeping in.”

     

     Michael sat up and flicked the TV remote, changing the channel. “He’s probably finished taking water samples by now and halfway through feeding the fuckin’ fish. Asshole’s always in such a hurry.”

She pursed her lips. Dan, their boss, was keen all right. Did everything by the book. No shortcuts. No slacking off. No excuses. He was fair, though. A bit obsessive, but he worked bloody hard. Unlike Michael he was honest and friendly. Michael was a whole other story. Way too much testosterone.

 

     She zipped up her jacket and slipped into a PFD. Life at the farm wasn’t glamorous. Staying dry and safe—that was important. The farm was isolated. Floating on the surface of Cedar Sound miles from help if something went wrong. ‘Better safe than sorry’ Dan liked to say.

 

     As she clipped on her hardhat, Michael yawned, scratched at his armpit, then shuffled toward the coffee pot. “I’ll be down in a minute,” he said. “And I’ll tell Jordie to get his ass in gear.”

 

     “Get your own in gear... and wash your damned dishes. The plates from last night are still in the sink.”

 

     The low muffled moan of a foghorn sounded out in the strait as Melody closed the bunkhouse door and climbed down the steps that led to the fish pens. Scanning the raised aluminum walkways that ran between the pens, there was no sign of Dan. Was he in the equipment room checking the food silos? Maybe.

 

     White wisps of fog drifted in the breeze concealing then revealing the mountain that rose up from the Sound. Spruce, fir, hemlock and cedar grew on its slope, a forest of trees now hidden from view. Movement on the netting covering the fish pen farthest from the bunkhouse was folded back on itself and tangled, exposing the water surface. Three crows sat perched on the railing, their feathers dark against a white background. A screaming seagull circled the opening from the air, almost invisible in the swirling mist. Suddenly, it dove toward the water, a flurry of feathers that caught her off guard.

 

     “Shit.” She sidestepped one of the viewing cameras and hurried to see what the hell was going on. The farm’s walkways and bunkhouse floated on the surface while it’s ten net pens were anchored in the water below. Each pen was draped in netting to keep predators from helping themselves to the salmon they were raising.

 

     Moisture collected on her glasses so she took them off, wiped the lenses with a tissue and put them back on. The grilled walkways were wet after last night’s rain and the railings were still dripping in the damp morning air. A lifejacket was lying beside the last pen and the railing enclosing it had been pushed in toward the water leaving a wide opening.

Something lay half submerged in the water.

 

     She hesitated then moved in closer. Seeing what it was, she staggered back and opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She grabbed at the railing to steady herself just as the sound of the seagull’s scream filled the air. The crows took flight, disappearing into the swirling mist. Below her, in the water, a body was caught up in the pen’s netting, the handle of a gaff hook protruding from its back.

 

     “No,” she moaned as her legs gave way. She recognized the shirt with pink flamingos. It belonged to her boss, Dan Mathers.