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The Soldier&apos;s Secret Daughter
Cindy Dees

Frowning, she made a mental note of exactly where on the ship the container she’d seen them enter was located. She ought to be able to find it in the ship’s load plan the next morning. She could cross-reference that with the ship’s manifest and see what was in that box they’d tampered with. It was the sort of thing she might do in the course of her regular job duties. If somebody noticed her poking around, they wouldn’t think anything of it.

It wasn’t as though she could report what she’d seen. Schroder was clearly in on whatever was going on around here, and he was the guy she’d have to report the incident to. If and when she found evidence of anything suspicious, then she’d have to figure out if Schroder’s superiors were in on the racket out here. She could always call Customs—but they’d want hard evidence, too. Better to look into the matter quietly on her own and not make any waves for now.

She turned around to head back to her bed. She’d taken maybe a dozen steps when a dark shape emerged out of the rocks ahead to loom in front of her. She lurched, violently startled. “Kurt! I didn’t hear you coming!”

Schroder was maybe a dozen yards away from her, striding toward her angrily, his eyebrows slammed together furiously. “What are you doing out here?” he demanded.

She blinked, alarmed. “I couldn’t sleep after all that heavy food. I came out for a bit of fresh air.”

He looked over toward the Zhow Min and back at her suspiciously. “What are you doing up on this cliff?”

She was a lousy liar, so she stuck to the truth as much as possible. Meanwhile, alarm bells clanged wildly in her head. “I stopped for a moment to enjoy the view. She sure is a big ship, isn’t she?”

“How long have you been here?”

He asked that as if there was a definite right answer and a definite wrong one. More internal alarms and sirens warned her to answer evasively, “I just got here.” As he continued to eye her angrily, she added, “Too bad it’s not daytime. I can’t see much in the dark. I’d love to watch one of the big container ships dock.”

The stiff set of his shoulders eased fractionally. “A couple more are due in next week. Take a few minutes away from your desk and watch one. It’s a surprisingly delicate maneuver considering how big and clumsy those ships are.”

She nodded and then said lightly, “Well, I’m off to finish my hike around the island before I turn in. Wanna come along? I’ll race you back to the dorm.”

“Since when are you a runner?”

“New Year’s resolution to get into better shape,” she replied cheerfully.

He made no comment, nor did he make any move to join her as she turned to trot back toward her room and some privacy to think about what she’d witnessed and figure out what to do about it.

The next morning, she was no closer to an answer. She opened her cargo tracking database as usual and casually typed up the manifest for the Zhow Min. Third stack back. Sixth column in. Fourth layer high … and then it hit her, 3-6-D. If letters were used to designate the layers of containers, that was the exact location of the container she’d seen those men climb into. The cargo manifest said the container was a climate-controlled box—commonly called a reefer in the shipping business—with a self-contained ventilation and cooling system. This particular reefer was listed as carrying salmon, caviar and live lobsters to San Francisco. Nothing to inspire a middle-of-the-night break-in there.

She frowned at her screen.

“Something wrong?” Kurt asked from the doorway as he entered the building.

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