Off to a rocky start with Sam, Detective Christie O’Shea is trying to hold onto the the contents of her stomach in the back seat of a Piper Supercub twisting and turning over Florida cattle country with the guy she ticked off in the front seat at the controls. Twelve hundred miles from home and desperate to save his son, Sam has thousands of acres of scrub and oak hammocks below with two armed bad guys and eighteen-year old Ken. The dozens of deputies out on the hard road can’t get through the sand and palmettos fast enough, it’s left to Sam and Christie.

ROPE BREAK, the second book in the SAM DELAND CRIME NOVEL series, takes Sam out of the middle of a double murder investigation and into Christie’s hunt for Sam’s kidnapped son. Still my favorite work, so far, Sam’s team back in Pennsylvania has to get the job done without him, he’s a little busy at the moment trying to stop a shooter and not crash the Supercub.


Jimmy was beside the truck and looked up to watch the plane fly north over the prairie. He didn’t connect the plane to anything, but tried to remember if there was an airport down there. He moved to the rear and worked on the sand built up at the wheels. He heard the plane engine change sound and looked up again. He was surprised to see the college boy running at him at full speed.

Jimmy backpedaled to the driver’s door and reached in with his bad arm to grab the rifle. He kept thinking, That damn Russell, damn Russell.

His right arm couldn’t pick up the rifle and he switched to his left. He brought it out and cocked the hammer while holding it between his legs. By the time he could raise it up, the college boy was closing to within a hundred yards. Jimmy propped the rifle up on the side of the truck, put the front sight on the boy’s belly and yanked the trigger.

Ken could actually see fire coming from the rifle and dove. The bullet had already hit the ground ten feet in front of him before he made contact with the sand.

“There!” Christie shouted in the intercom.

Sam swiveled his head, but didn’t see anything. “There where?” Sam shouted.

“Left, out the left window. The truck!” Christie said loudly.

The special deputies and the stuck deputies in the SUV all heard the gunshot south of them. Some of the horsemen stopped. Unsure if they should go on. All were armed with some kind of handgun and some had rifles and shotguns in scabbards on their saddles. But this was a lot different than riding down Ringling Boulevard in the Fourth of July parade.

Sam banked left and put the truck under his nose to close the distance. As he got nearer, he banked left then right again to fly parallel to the truck.

“Gun!” Christie shouted.

Sam looked down and saw a figure standing next to the truck holding a rifle and pointing back behind the truck at something, or someone.

Jimmy pulled the rifle down between his legs and worked the lever to chamber another round. The boy had vanished, but Jimmy remembered where he had dropped and fired again.

Ken heard the splat as the bullet ripped through the palmettos and sunk into the ground two feet to his right. He thought just a second and rolled left several feet. Another round found the spot where he had just been.

Christie was struggling to get the .308 out from under the seat where it had slipped when Sam did the near vertical takeoff from the street. They couldn’t hear the gunfire, but saw Jimmy shoot two more times. Sam was furious. He knew Jimmy could only be shooting at Ken. He was almost as mad at Ken as Jimmy. Ken should have gone the other way. He would be safe by now.

Ken heard the plane roar overhead. Sam pushed the throttle full forward and put the Supercub on its right wing and dropped right at Jimmy. Jimmy pulled the trigger again and heard a click. He was out of ammunition and needed to reload. Just as he stuck his head back in the cab to pull the box of shells from behind the seat, the right wheel of the plane skimmed across the roof of the pick-up. It shook the truck violently and sounded like a bomb exploding. He nearly pissed himself. His head would have been right there moments ago. The crazy guy in the plane was trying to kill him.

Christie thought her stomach was going to squeeze out through her ears. She had a hand on the rifle, but couldn’t pull it free and the dive to the truck didn’t help.

The plane soared back up into the air and topped out, going level flight again. Christie felt a moment of weightlessness and the rifle broke free and came up into her lap. If she didn’t throw up she might actually get the thing up and on target.

Jimmy struggled to get the 30-30 shells into the feed ramp on the side of the rifle. He laid it out on the truck seat and got five shells in the rifle and stuck one in his pocket. The rest had fallen on the floor when the plane’s wheel had tried to decapitate him. He didn’t take the time to look for them; he heard the plane coming back.

Ken was up on his knees and snuck a look over the palmettos. After that dive at the truck, Ken knew it was his dad flying it. He could see the Supercub pull up and do a wing over, coming back down on the truck again, He saw Jimmy come back out of the truck cab and point the rifle up at the plane.

The sheriff stopped his car in the middle of 72 and stood next to it watching the plane dive and climb over the ranch. “Who the hell is that?” he said to several deputies standing near the fence. None of them had an answer.


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