Anchored by Death is the third installment in the Jo Oliver thriller series, and you can read an exclusive excerpt from chapter 26 right here.

About ‘Anchored by Death’

A dead body, a cryptic clue — will Jo Oliver solve the riddle in time?

Police Chief Jo Oliver needed a little time to herself. But when her escape to Wisconsin turns deadly, she teams up with FBI agent Nick Vitarello, hoping to catch the Bow Tie Killer. Their romantic past and complicated present leads them into uncharted territory as they match wits with a psychopath bent on destroying everything they hold dear.

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Exclusive excerpt from ‘Anchored by Death’

Chapter 26

“Okay, Bhatt. We’re lowering the kayak into the water, and I’ll turn it around so you can get in easier as I walk into the river. You’re going to wait until most of it is in the water. I’ll keep her steady and wait for you.”

Bhatt nodded grimly. Quinn was already afloat.

I winked at her, faced the river, and strode quickly into the swirling waters, bracing myself for the frigid reception. It didn’t help. Icy fingers of water tore at my clothing and soaked my bandages. I gasped, letting the shocking waves roll over my legs. Everything was playing out as planned, up until the point where Bhatt was supposed to follow me into the river. I faced her, holding the bucking kayak in place, and beckoned her in.

Her eyes were rimmed with white, and for a moment, I was sure she’d bolt. She swallowed, looking at me like a terrified fawn.

“Move, woman! One foot in front of the other.” I shoved the kayak as close to the bank as I could, edging it onto the sand. “You don’t even have to get in the water. Just get in. I’ll do the heavy lifting from back here. Move to the side of the kayak, put your butt in the seat, and pull your legs in.”

What her wooden movements lacked in grace, they made up for in speed. She was in her seat before I could worry about her. I jumped into mine, glad to get my legs into the relative warmth of the air.

I jabbed my paddle into the river, pulling us around to follow Quinn, who bobbed in the distance. “Just like I told you on land. One smooth stroke down through the water on one side, lift it up, and do the same on the other side. I’ll talk you through it and do all the steering.”

Bhatt’s back was rigid, making her movements in and out of the water stiff and her shallow paddling as much a hindrance as a help. I countered her jerky movements with my own strong, smooth, deep strokes, muscle memory kicking in as my wounds shouted out, alternating on either side of the kayak.

A gray shape jutted out of the water, fifty feet ahead of her. “Bhatt! Paddle left. Left! The other left!”

I stuck my paddle deep into the water on the right side of the boat and kept it there, counting on her frantic paddling to help swing us around. Seconds later, the big river rock sailed past on our right. I exhaled, long and loud, and kept paddling.

“Why did you not tell me about the rocks?” Bhatt’s accent sharpened as she paddled.

“You can go back to alternating sides with the paddle now. And slow your roll. Paddle smooth and steady.” I looked upriver at Quinn, bent over his cell phone, frantically poking at the screen, as I steadied our little craft. What had he learned?

Bhatt would paddle once, maybe twice, then her fear would crawl up her spine, causing her weight to shift and the kayak to move with her. Her panic was endangering us both. I had to talk her off the ledge, or she’d put us both in the water—maybe worse.

“Listen, Bhatt, Lisa, you got this. Just relax, breathe, and slowly paddle on one side of the kayak, and then the other. It’s easy.”

“I do not have this, Chief.” She kept her frantic paddling up.

Another large rock appeared on our right, less than thirty feet ahead. “Bhatt. Relax. Put your paddle on the right side of the kayak, and paddle faster.”

She looked up. And panicked. She jumped out of her seat like a cat, landing too far to the left.

“Bhatt! Stop it! Calm down!” My shouting only panicked her more. Time to try a different approach.

She looked back at me, terrified. “Do you have any more fine advice?”

“Yeah. Not sure how all this works on your side of the ocean and all, but feel free to start praying, fasting, and maybe sacrificing small woodland animals at any time.”

“You are a cretin!”

“Yeah, I get that a lot.”

I opened my mouth to tell her how to steer away from the rocks, when she screamed and leaned her weight too far to the right.

“Relax, Bhatt. We got this.” I spoke in low tones, trying to calm the wild animal that had been unleashed inside her. And then I saw what she saw—five feet of glistening charcoal shale jutted up in front of the kayak, slightly to our right.

“Hard right! Paddle hard right!” I jabbed my paddle into the swirling waters trying to steer us away from the rocks. For a moment, I thought we might sneak past it.

But I couldn’t control Bhatt. She panicked again, overcorrected, lost her balance, flew to the right of the kayak, then leaped back to the left. The kayak bucked and shifted. The rocks moved toward us at the speed of sound, and we crashed right into the hulking mass of rock.

The hull of the kayak moaned and split open. Water rushed in, covering Bhatt’s feet, her legs. I was about to tell her how to lower herself safely into the rapids, when a wall of water slammed into us from the side, pushing us into the middle of a wild caldron of churning waters.

My head snapped to the left and back again, hard. Cracking sounds reverberated up and down my neck. Was it broken? My end of the kayak slammed into another rocky outcropping. Pain shot through my shoulder, and then my head followed the movement, smacking hard against the rocks. An image of Bhatt throwing her paddle into the air and jumping into the foaming waters was the last thing I saw before everything went black.

About the author

Dr. Catherine Finger is privileged to serve not as a police chief but as a high school superintendent in Grayslake, IL. Passionate about sharing His truth through her fiction, she presents her debut novel Alabaster Vases. She is also passionate about her faith and community and serves on a variety of volunteer projects and organizations, including The Oasis of Grayslake where she is serving as chairwoman of the annual ZOMBIE RUN! in October.

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