Grave Danger

By: Rachel Grant

CHAPTER ONE



July 2002

Coho, Washington

LIBBY MAITLAND’S TRUCK WAS GONE. She stood in the tiny, eight-space parking lot, gripping her keys until they dug into her palm, and wondered where the hell her truck was. The Suburban couldn’t have been towed. The lot was too small and her truck too large. Towing would have caused a commotion. It must have been stolen. A lousy end to a rotten day.

She couldn’t care less about the truck. Old, beat-up, and rusted, the beast drank fuel like a dehydrated camel, and a tank was more maneuverable. But it was the only vehicle she had, and, even worse, the excavation notes from the archaeological dig were inside. She mentally listed everything she’d loaded in the back when she left the site an hour ago: the stratigraphic drawings, the photologs, the burial notes, and the field catalog. If she didn’t get her truck back, her career as an archaeologist could take another major nosedive.

She turned around to go back inside the restaurant, planning to call the police, but she must have been their last customer for the night because the door was locked and the shades lowered. The windows vibrated with a loud bass beat she could hear through the glass. The cleaning crew had turned up the stereo. They would never hear her knock.

She fished around in her purse for her cell phone, and then remembered the phone was in the damn truck. She looked up and down the street. Who would have thought her truck would be stolen in Coho, Washington, a quaint little historic sawmill town where everyone knows everyone? Maybe this was a game the locals played: mess with the city girl who moved here only two weeks ago.

At ten p.m. on a summer night, the lengthy Pacific Northwest twilight was just starting to lose the battle with darkness, but there was enough light for her to see the police station, only a few blocks down Main Street. She headed in that direction, disconcerted to see the street was empty. Coho, a town at the edge of Discovery Bay on the lush green Olympic Peninsula, did not seem to offer an exciting nightlife.

The police station was a prime example of 1970s civic architecture: low, long, and brown. She went in the visitor’s entrance and was greeted by a series of windows reminiscent of ticket booths. Behind the first window sat a woman in uniform. Her name badge said Eversall. “May I help you?” she asked with the smile of someone relieved to have something to do.

“My truck was stolen.”

The officer looked surprised. “Wow. It’s been a while since we had a GTA in Coho.”

“GTA?”

“Grand Theft Auto. Give me the make, model, and plate so I can radio the patrol officers, then I’ll buzz you into the interview room, and an officer will take your full statement.”

Libby gave her the information and then went through the inner door.

“First door on the left,” Officer Eversall said.

The first door to the left was open. She flipped on the lights but thought the room held more promise when dark. The décor was bland industrial with a hint of municipal barren. Everything was clean, functional, made of metal, and at least twenty years old. She pulled out a chair and sat down facing the open door.

A man in plain clothes entered the room. Tall with broad shoulders, he was masculine in a way that would have flustered her if she were still seventeen. He walked with confidence and purpose that also would have befuddled her at a younger age. Thank goodness she’d said goodbye to seventeen half a lifetime ago.

“I’m Chief Mark Colby, ma’am. I can take your statement. I’m sorry to hear your vehicle was stolen.” His deep, warm voice held genuine concern.

Surprised to be greeted by the police chief at this late hour, she stood and shook his hand across the table. “Thank you. I’m Libby Maitland.” His handshake was firm and solid, and, like the rest of him, contained an air of authority. He was no backwoods hick in a small sawmill town. “I can’t think of why anyone would steal a beat-up old truck like mine.”

“What kind of vehicle is it?”

“A 1987 Chevy Suburban Silverado four by four. Black, gray, and rusty, it’s as big as it is ugly. And it’s really big.” She noticed his slight smile and felt entirely too pleased with herself. She wanted to flirt with him as if she were in a bar with her friend Simone and they were betting to see who could collect the most phone numbers. Of course, Simone always won because she had bigger breasts and wasn’t afraid to use them.

You are not in a bar. This is a cop.

“I don’t care about the truck so much as what’s inside it. All my field notes are there, and—” A wave of horror rippled through her and she gripped the edge of the table. “The GPS mapping unit is in the back. It costs two thousand dollars a week just to rent it.”