Excerpt from A Deadly Exchange by Sheryl Jane Stafford, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Deadly Exchange

by Sheryl Jane Stafford

A Deadly Exchange
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    Jan 2001, 364 pages

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"Drugs," he said flatly. "They're after drugs." "Are you sure? Where did it come from?" "I don't know. "It's probably heroin or cocaine or something like that. And we can guess who put it here. I don't know why, but I know who. This isn't all. There's more behind that wall. And they want it." "Well, let's just give it to them." "It's not that simple. You see, babe, we know. We know about their drugs. We know what they look like. We mean trouble to them. We're a liability. They might think they have to get rid of us and sink the boat." "Oh, no, Matt!" "Turn off the flashlight." "Your hand?" "It's okay." She extinguished the light and they sat in the dark, not speaking. Matt heard her breathing, quick and shallow. The wind, blowing out of the northwest, moaned in the rigging. He felt the cabin closing in around him and inhaled deeply with measured breaths.

"I'm gonna have to open one of the windows in the head," he told her. I can't…" He unlatched a window, inhaled the moist night air.

"What are we going to do?" Alex asked when he returned. "I don't know just yet. We have to think." They sat still while their minds raced to make some sense out of what was happening to them. Alex broke the silence.

"I have an idea." "What?" "We could hide the bags on the Island and show those guys that we don't have them on board. You know, then if they want the stuff, they would have to do as we say. And they couldn't do anything to us because if they did, they'd never find the drugs on their own. They might not want to risk losing whatever it is. They'd have no choice but to cooperate. You say we just can't give it to them because of what they might do, so we won't." Matt rubbed his chin as he considered her suggestion.

"Actually, that makes good sense. If we hide the bags, we have a bargaining chip. Just might work," he said nodding. "Let's do it." "Now what?" "Help me get the rest of it out of the locker. We'd better hurry. God knows what those guys are up to." "Please hold me a minute," she said softly. "Just a minute." Alex rested her head on his shoulder and leaned into him, trembling. He stroked her hair for a moment.

"There," he said and gently pushed her away. "We have to hurry." "Okay, what do you want me to do?" "Hold the flashlight while I make a bigger opening." Matt feverishly chipped and hacked out the remaining packages, twenty altogether. Alex's hands shook as she stacked the powder-filled bags on the dinette table. "I wonder what all this is worth?" he said. "Probably a lot, maybe thousands. Let's triple-bag the stuff in those freezer things we planned to put fish in, you know, the jumbos." Alex pulled out a box of extra-large freezer bags which they quickly filled and sealed.

"I can't believe this is happening," she said. "It's happening." "We're going to be okay, aren't we Matt?" "Check to make sure they're closed," he said as they worked. "I don't want water to seep inside and spoil the goods." Alex silently examined each package. When they finished, Matt grabbed a heavy-duty trash bag and stuffed the packages inside.

"Get me a sail bag," he said. "I'll put everything inside it." Alex felt the wind buffet the boat and shivered.

"Now I'm going to hide this somewhere on the Island, and I don't want you to know where it is." "Matt…" "I think that the less you know, the safer you'll be. I'm going to take this ashore. I won't be long. You'll be okay after you put the pole in place. No one will be able to get in." "But I want to go with you." "I know, babe," he said and drew her to him, "but this is the best way. I can move faster by myself. I don't want to have to worry about you. Really, I'll do better by myself." "But…" "I'm going to climb out the hatch and then you put the pole back. I'll leave you the thirty-eight." "But Matt…" "Listen, dammit," he said as he gripped her shoulders, "we don't have time for this. I have to get the bags ashore. I promise I'll be back before you know it, in a half hour or less." She nodded.

Copyright Sheryl Jane Stafford, 2001. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of Sheryl Jane Stafford.

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