Held in solitary confinement since she was met at the marina dock by a
fat, nervous Mexican police officer, she had every reason to agree with
veteran travelers who made it their policy never to stick around after
an accident in Mexico. He had her write it all down on a pad with a stub
of an old pencil and then read it back to him as he slowly pecked out
the letters on a manual typewriter. Then he had her sign it and, leaving
her a copy, bowed out the door of the interview room.
Every hour or so he would pop in with a cold soda or offer to escort her
to the ladies' room, which was depressingly dingy, and without any
windows to tempt her with escape, she naturally followed him back into
the room where he once again begged for her patience.
"The chief inspector specifically asked for your patience, please," he
said, smiling and backing out again.
A dead girl had been found floating in the ocean. What was so hard to
understand about that? Katy's passport said she was an American citizen,
her driver's license said she was a resident of San Francisco and her
police ID said she was a detective with the San Francisco police
department. The ID photo sucked but so did her attitude about now.
Just when she was beginning to think she might be here permanently, her
jailer whisked open the door for a broad-chested suit, a thick file
under his arm. The uniform stood guard while his superior squeezed his
big shoulders around his sergeant, loosened his tie, thumped the file
down on the table, and with a heavy sigh, lowered himself into the chair
across from Katy.
"I am Chief Inspector Raul Vignaroli and this is Sergeant Moreno," he
said, as if she hadn't already become best friends with the sergeant.
The Chief's basso profundo was clearly upper-class Mexican, but it was
also intertwined with something akin to a Louisiana patois. Odd, and
maybe she would find it interesting in some other situation, but this
wasn't a social call and there was no offer of a handshake as one does
when encountering another police officer, especially since that police
officer has gone out of her way to willingly report a suspicious death.
The slight momentarily bothered her, but what she really wanted right
now was to unstick her butt from the worn plastic chair she'd been
occupying for most of her first day in port and leave for the marina and
her boat Pilgrim. She had plans to get some deck work done while she was
here then haul the boat back to the States, and with a little luck,
she'd have a job to go back to. Today, however, was not going well at
all. Kept in solitary for six hours and now she was getting the snub by
the chief inspector.
She knew better than to initiate small talk; it only compounds the
problem for suspects. Suspect? She sat up in her chair, about to open
her mouth and ask if she needed an attorney, then reminded herself that
she was in a foreign country. Maybe things were done differently here
and, resisting the temptation to fold her arms in a defensive posture
across her chest, instead calmly folded them onto her lap and did a
quick assessment of the chief inspector.
The man in question pointedly ignored her and continued to study the
folder in front of him.
Maybe forty, she figured, lifting first one cheek and then the other off
the sweaty seat of her chair. Black wavy hair dipped over a high
forehead patterned with a load of worry that wasn't any of her business.
His skin was olive and the cleft in his square jaw said some Italian had
splashed across his gene pool not long ago. Not so bad looking if you
like the dark Latin type.Her eyes wandered up to the clock again. Jeez.
Over six hours. Now, if it was just the sergeant, I could give him a
quick hip shove, make it out the door and down the hall, through those
swinging double doors faster than a jackrabbit…
Then she noticed the inspector idly appraising her from under long dark
lashes. Is that amusement on his face? The bastard!
He snapped the folder shut and stared at her as if suspecting her of
having bunny feet.
"You alerted the Mexican Navy at seven a.m. this morning, is that
"Correct," she answered, and straightening her spine on the chair,
looked him in the eyes, hoping she sounded like the conservative,
upstanding citizen her mother always wanted her to be. "If I'd been in
the States, I'd have alerted the Coast Guard. But I understand that
mariners here are to call your Navy. So, do I need a lawyer, Chief
"That won't be necessary, Miss Hunter." Then, as if he couldn't help
himself, he gave her a quick dazzling smile, causing long dimples to
bracket the wide mouth. Wrap it all together and the man was not just
incredibly masculine, he was downright attractive. "We're not such a
third-world country that we arrest tourists who report finding a dead
body. At least," he added dryly, "not without cause."
"Of course. And, as an American police officer," she said, pointing out
once again what he already knew, "I'm glad I was able to help. So, are
we done here?"
A twitch, or was it a smirk, tugged at the corner of his wide mouth. But
instead of answering, he went back to studying the pages in the thick
folder while the clock on the wall slugged out another five minutes.
She clenched her hands together and stared at the clock, then rubbed her
tongue over her teeth, trying for some moisture.
"Have you been offered anything cold to drink?"
She jumped at the sound of his voice. Was he trying to make her look
Ignoring the crumpled paper cups littering the table, he snapped fingers
at his sergeant and said, "A couple of cold sodas, por favor?"
Turning back to Katy, he added, "Regular Coke okay with you? We don't
Katy sighed. Standard police tactics. "What do you want from me,
Inspector? I've told your sergeant everything I know. But now that I've
been here for six—oops, make that six hours and fifteen minutes, I'm
sure by now you know more than I do. So, did she fall off some party
boat or what?"
He gave her a noncommittal stare. His eyes, she noticed, were the color
of burnt sugar and there was some kind of golden ring around the edge.
Wolfish eyes combined with that low, threatening voice and she would've
considered him a very sexy package—except for the wedding band on his
left hand. She did like her bad boys, just not married bad boys.
"Sure, a cold Coke would be nice, thank you."
Peering at her over imaginary reading glasses he said, "You have a
husband, a friend, anyone who can account for your whereabouts?"
She knuckled her tired eyes. "Inspector, if that fat file says anything
about me, you already know that I'm on sabbatical from the San Francisco
PD, I'm single, I live in a studio apartment in Columbus Street. There
are ten, maybe twelve people who know where I was this morning at seven
a.m. because I checked in with them after I called your Navy." Then she
added with a tilt of a smile, "But, whatever you do, please don't call
He answered her smile with one of his own, and this time it appeared
genuine. "As a dutiful son with a constantly worried mother, I can
assure you we will not call your mother."
Sergeant Moreno backed into the room with two cold cans in his hand. He
set the cans down on the table, and giving her a timid glance, bent to
whisper in his boss's ear.
The chief inspector blinked. Then suddenly purposeful, he scraped back
his chair and stood. "Señorita Hunter, we will detain you no longer. In
the course of your brief stay here in Ensenada, I hope you will not hold
this unfortunate incidence against us. Please enjoy the rest of your
vacation and thank you for your cooperation." He nodded once to his
sergeant and turned to leave. When he saw that Katy wasn't standing, the
black brows went up a notch.
"So, nothing to share, Inspector? Like, was she murdered?" Katy asked in
a voice that quavered from the pent-up emotion of the last six and a
He looked down his long Roman nose at her as if he'd just encountered
something smelly. And she probably was, too. Her last shower being now
almost twenty hours ago.
"I can only give you the standard reply; I am not at liberty to divulge
anything at this time. And, as they say in Mexico, Que le vaya bien. It
"I know what it means, Chief Inspector. As for having a good trip, I
think that boat already sailed."
She waved a floppy hand to indicate she had no intention of explaining
American slang to him and stood up. And, with as much dignity as she
could muster, marched past him out the door and down the hall, trailing
the sergeant behind her. At the lobby, she turned to the sergeant. "Will
you call me a cab, please?"
"Oh, that is not necessary, señorita. I will personally drive you to
Baja Naval was expecting her. It was a good working marina and she was
looking forward to the respite. Scrub the boat, get the teak work done
and leave Mexico and its troublesome problems behind. She nodded
thankfully to the sergeant. She could almost taste the late afternoon
sun, the fragrance of tacos frying in local stalls. Oh, and there was
the fish market. Maybe she could persuade the sergeant to stop long
enough for her to pick up some fresh fish, or better yet, some fish
tacos. Her stomach rumbled at the thought.
She was still thinking about those wonderful fried fish tacos as the
double doors of the police station slammed open with such force that the
ceiling fan stuttered in its lazy rotation. Two policemen marched in,
dragging a listless prisoner between them.
A thick, sun-bleached blond head of hair flopped over half-closed eyes,
the buttonholes missing their mark on a faded Hawaiian shirt.
Katy judged him another drunk American giving Mexicans cause to believe
everything they've heard about privileged Yanks with their big wallets
and bad manners.
He was a good foot taller than the two Mexican officers, but with his
hands manacled behind his back, it was obvious that he wasn't going to
give them any trouble. But before Katy could dodge around him for the
exit, he raised his head and a startling pair of aquamarine eyes met
He straightened his back, wincing at the angle of his cuffed wrists.
"What the… Whisper?"
Suddenly, the sound of the ceiling fan was terribly loud. Blood pounded
in her ears, her mouth went dry, her palms were damp and her feet were
nailed to the floor. In a knee-jerk reaction, she hissed, "Don't call me
Then realizing her mistake she backed up and bumped into Inspector
His brief nod to his sergeant indicated there would be a detour in the
prisoner's march for the holding cells and Katy's freedom.
Excerpted from "A Dangerous Harbor (Pilgrim's Progress) [Kindle Edition]" by RP Dahlke. Copyright © 2012 by RP Dahlke. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.