(A Jackie Harlan Mystery)
They knew -- they just didn't believe it could happen to them.
(This book is dedicated to Ham Radio Operators all over the world who open the lines of communication after a disaster. Although it was written over 20 years ago and the technology may be a little out of date, this book still honors their hard, behind the scenes work.)
All of Marti Talbott’s Books are suitable for ages 14 and above.
A little more than 33 kilometers below the earth's surface, two massive sheets of solid rock strained to move in opposite directions. Beginning deep in the Olympic Mountains, the jagged and deadly fault line stretched beneath the town of Bremerton, under the waters of Elliott Bay and directly below the City of Seattle. For centuries the mammoth walls remained quiet and in place, with thousands of tons of pressure prevented from shifting by the slanted ledge of the southern wall locked tight against the slanted ledge of the Northern. Week after week, month after month, year after year, and decade after decade, the tension increased - until at last, a tiny crack appeared in the northern ledge.
Sunday Afternoon, July 7
From a small landing pad in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains a Sikorsky CH-54A Sky crane slowly lifted into the air. At first glance, its royal blue bubble face resembled a mutant dragonfly, with two dark tinted windows set in silver frames for eyes and a wide, threatening silver slit for a mouth. Long rear legs with hydraulic joints extended from the round, thin body and the tail sloped upward. Duel, free turbine Pratt and Whitney engines powered the matching blue blades, whipping the air with the sound of a hundred stampeding horses and generating enough shaft horsepower to lift twenty-five tons. Originally designed to hoist cargo off ships, the air crane belonged to an unlikely trio, had a modified body and housed a sophisticated, satellite linked tracking system.
At the age of twenty-four Jackie Tate married Private Detective Dane Harlan. He taught her everything he knew, worked exotic exciting cases and showed her the world. But when the baby came they bought a house in Jefferson, Iowa, accepted less provocative assignments and settled down. A short two years later, someone simply walked away with their son Brian. For months, they feverishly followed every lead, ran background checks on hundreds of people and imagined all possibilities. But in the end, the best private detective team in the world couldn't find their own son. Jackie withdrew and Dane drank himself to death.
It was Carl Kingsley, a nearly forgotten high school friend and chopper pilot, who brought Jackie back from the abyss. He owned a floundering air crane business, a shabby mobile home and part interest in a small drug company he hoped was on the brink of discovering a new wonder drug. He also had an ex-wife determined to take it all.
In less than two days, and with the help of Michael Sorenson, Jackie tempted the ex-wife to settle for the sure thing -- the riches soon to be derived from the drug company. Or so the wife was led to believe. Carl retained his beloved air crane and his mobile home, Jackie awoke from her nightmare and the three of them began the Harlan Detective Agency. Not surprisingly, the drug company went out of business.
The new Harlan Detective Agency specialized in finding lost people, even those who didn't want to be found, and the company flourished. A few well-paying jobs later, they bought two new mobile homes complete with backup generators and roof mounted satellite dishes. Carl gave the air crane a paint job, Jackie designed a new modified body and Michael installed every conceivable electronic device on the market. Relocating between jobs was easy. The huge air crane simply lifted the mobile homes and flew away. For each assignment, Jackie found remote locations for their home base so Carl and Michael could hike, hunt, fish, and occasionally get lost in all parts of the world. And so it was, that their latest home setting was tucked away in the dense foliage at the base of the Olympic Mountains.
Their thirteen-year record of finding people was excellent, so when one of the wealthiest men in the world contacted them, Jackie wasn't surprised. She was surprised however, to learn Evan Cole wanted them to find his first wife Christina -- a woman lost at sea nearly thirty years before. Lost at sea, he thought, until her diamond-and-ruby wedding ring turned up in a New York pawnshop. It took Harlan Detective Agency six months to track the ring back to a robbery recovery in Los Angeles. But the LAPD had no record of the ring's original owner and no one filed a claim with any known insurance company. The trail went cold.
In the off hours with nothing but cold trails to contemplate, Jackie often ran her son's fingerprints through a Department of Motor vehicles. Soon, Brian would be old enough for a learner's permit. The question was, which DMV, which county, which state and which country? For fun, she ran the name Christina Cole -- nothing. She expanded the search, eliminated the name, added 5' 6" in height, 125 pounds, give or take 25, dark hair, age 54, and blue eyes. The numbers were astronomical.
It was Michael's genius with computers that led them to Seattle. Christina was born with two birthmarks, one the size of a quarter hidden beneath her dark hair, and a dime-sized one midway up her right forearm. Birthmarks sometimes turn to melanoma, a deadly form of cancer. It was a long shot, but Michael found thirty-six cases of birthmark melanomas in the US. Three were dead and the rest were the wrong age, sex or height. But suppose Christina Cole lied about her age? Yes there was one -- a woman living in Seattle. Upon hearing the news, Evan Cole was ecstatic.
Seattle's beauty was breathtaking and for a long moment the air crane held its position just above the Olympic Peninsula, allowing the snow-capped, spiny ridges behind it to showcase the chopper’s long, sleek lines. Just across the Strait of Juan De Fuca, Canada's Vancouver Island lay less than twenty miles north of the American coastline. To the east, a multitude of large and small islands dotted the intricate, sparkling waterways of Puget Sound. And beyond that, an imaginary line separated Puget Sound from Elliott Bay, a four-mile wide inlet lapping against Seattle's waterfront.