Tag Archives: read a chapter

Read-a-Chapter: The Sons of Jude by Brandt Dodson

read a chapterRead a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the crime thriller, The Sons of Jude, by Brandt Dodson. Enjoy!

______________________________________

Purchase from Amazon

When Chicago detectives Frank Campello and Andy Polanski are assigned to investigate the murder of Trina Martinez it seems like an ordinary homicide. An unfortunate young girl in the wrong place at the wrong time has been brutally murdered. But their investigation is halted by a wall of silence, a wall erected by powerful interests that will render their inquiry a lost cause.

Then they enlist the support of reporter Christy Lee – and come under immediate fire. Polanski is arrested. Campello threatened. Christy is attacked.

It’s the case that every cop gets. The one that changes his life. The one where justice is elusive and the hunter becomes the hunted.

Frank Campello and Andy Polanski are The Sons of Jude.

______________________________________

Chapter One

Chicago Police Department

District 28 Headquarters

Monday, 11:00 a.m.

Detective Frank Campello stood in the doorway of the 28th district’s second floor squad room.  It was his first day back since the shooting, and everything looked the same.  Gun-metal gray desks stood nose to nose, the walls were still covered in nauseating beige, and the sound of hushed conversations filled the room, punctuated only by the occasional ring of a phone or the squeak of a chair. Everything was the same – except for Rand’s riderless desk.

Campello passed his late partner’s work station and slid out of his black leather jacket, draping it over the back of the chair.  A swarthy looking man of stocky build with close-cropped black hair and deeply-set brown eyes,  Campello preferred casual clothing to the department’s more generally accepted business attire.  On this day, he wore a black long-sleeved shirt that clung to his muscular frame, brown slacks and cordovan loafers.  A Sig-Sauer nine millimeter pistol rode on his right hip.

Taking his CPD mug to the coffee maker at the rear of the room, he met Detective Angelo Silvio.

“Welcome back, Frank.”  Silvio was stirring non-dairy creamer into his coffee. “I’m sorry about Rand.  He was a good cop.”  He tossed the stir stick into the receptacle and lifted the cup to his lips, pausing to blow before drinking.

“Thanks Angie.”  Campello filled his mug and returned the carafe to its nook.  “It’s hard to believe he’s gone.”

Silvio sat on the edge of the table that held the coffee maker.  “Things like this are always hard to believe.  How can a man like that, so full of life, be here one day and gone the next?”  He shook his head.  “It doesn’t make sense, Frank.  It just doesn’t make sense.”

“I’m sorry about Rand,” said Shelly Tertwiller as she approached. “I know you two were close.”  Tertwiller, a recent transferee to the 28th, was a detective with just two years less time on the department than Campello’s twenty.  Her coffee-colored eyes studied him from beneath a furrowed brow.  “You ok?”

“I’m ok.”

“I know everyone says this, but if there’s anything you need …”

“I appreciate it.”

“For what it’s worth, the buzz around here says you’ll come out fine on the other thing.” She was referring to his hearing before the IPRA, the all-civilian review board that replaced the previous Office of Professional Standards.  Campello’s killing of the suspect who killed Adams had automatically guaranteed him a review by the board.  All police-action shootings, regardless of their merit, went before the IPRA.

“I’ve already been exonerated, Shelly,” Campello said.

“Last week, wasn’t it?” Silvio asked.  “Where’ve you been Tertwiller?”

She gave her partner a hard look.  “Who’s talking to you, dummy?” She patted Campello’s hand. “That’s good to hear, Frank.  We’re all here for you.  You don’t stand alone.”

“I know.”

“We’re family.  When one of us goes down, we all go down.  It’s always been that way and it always will be.”  She held out her fist and he bumped it with his. “By the way, how’s your dad doing?”

“As good as can be expected.  He’s more forgetful, but he seems to like Marimar and they treat him well.”

“You see him?”

“I do.  Going this evening, in fact.”

She smiled.  “Good. Again, let me know if you need anything.”

“I will.  Thank you.”

“I mean it,” she said, turning toward him even as she was walking away.  “You need help with your case load … paperwork … whatever.  Bill and I have your back.”

Bill was her husband and a detective with the 31st.

“Got it.  Thanks Shelly.”

“Well,” Silvio said, “got to get to work.”  He held his hand out to Campello who shook it.   “We’re going to Jeep’s tonight.  You’re coming, right?”

“Absolutely.”

Silvio smiled and slapped him on the back.  “Excellent.  Five o’clock.  First round’s on you.”

Campello grinned and reluctantly went to his desk to begin his first day without Rand; his first day without his partner and friend.

He dropped himself into his chair and undid his tie.  His desk, like the others in the room, was nose to nose with his partner’s, an arrangement that facilitated communication.  Across the great divide, Campello could see Rand, sitting with his feet up and a smirk on his face.   Hey buddy, how ’bout them cubs, huh?

Campello reached across the desk tops and took Rand’s mug in hand.  The Cubs emblem was nearly worn off and the white ceramic cup was chipped and stained from years of coffee abuse.

He rolled the cup in his hands before putting it in the left hand drawer of his desk along with his pistol.

Campello stabbed the computer power button with his forefinger, brooding on old memories until the machine booted up and the CPD emblem emblazoned on the screen.  Then he opened a window to Adam’s case load; it was significant – weighty, even – and there was little doubt the district commander would re-assign some of them.  But Campello wanted to review them so he could have a say in which ones stayed with him and which went elsewhere.  The list represented a lot of effort and team work – and he did not relish the idea of losing control after all the time they had put into them.

He scrolled down the list and began by first making note of the ones that were set to go to trial.  He ran his finger down the screen as he copied the case numbers in a spiral-bound steno’s notebook, silently mouthing them to himself.  His hand stopped halfway down the list at an unfamiliar file number.  It matched no known classification, suggesting it was a dummy, something Rand had likely been working off the books, anticipating an upgrade to official status in the future.

Campello made a note of it and then circled it.  He would research it later.

“You got a minute Frank?”  He looked up to see Julio Lopez, the district commander.

“I was just going over some of Frank’s cases.”

“You can do that later.”  He pointed his chin toward his office.  “Come on back.”

Campello slid the notebook in a drawer of his desk and snatched his CPD mug.  He paused at the coffee maker to top off the cup.

“Close the door, will you?”  The boss said, settling in the chair behind his desk.

Campello pushed it closed and sat across from Lopez.  The office was Plexiglas on three sides, floor to ceiling, and both men felt their meeting being covertly watched by the entire crew.

“You doing okay?”

“Yeah.  I’m fine.”

Lopez gave him a distinct non-believing look.

“I’m fine, Julio.”

“You have more time coming, Frank.  Take it if you need it.”

He shook his head.

Lopez’s eyes searched him, studied him, before accepting his statement on face value.  “Okay.  I guess you are.”

“Anything new on the shooting?” Campello asked.

“You mean, is there any new information?”

“Yep.”

“No.”  He focused his gaze on Campello. “The IPRA cleared you.  Don’t worry about it.  You did the only thing you could.”

“I wish I’d fired sooner.”

“Don’t.  Rand’s time was up.  There was nothing you could’ve done.  We all know the risk when we pin on the star.”

“Maybe.  But that doesn’t help much.”

Lopez sighed.  “No, I guess not.  But it’s true.  You’ve got two choices, Frank.  You can blame yourself for this, or you can see it for what it is and get on with your life.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do.  That’s why I’m back.”

“Let it go.  Move on.”

“I have to move on, Julio.  I have no life beyond the job.  I have nothing else.  The department is my family. The fact is I don’t belong anywhere else.  There’s no one at home so I’ve got no reason to stay there.”  He lifted the mug again, and then paused to grin over the top of it.  “God knows I haven’t done so well in the marriage department.”

“Yeah, well, me either.”

Campello lowered the mug and set it on the edge of the commander’s desk.  “Four times for me.”

Lopez winced.  “Ouch.  Okay.  You win that one.”

Campello crossed his legs.  “You didn’t call me in here to chit-chat.”

“No.”  He folded his hands, resting them on the desk.

“What, Julio?  Just say it.”

“We’ve got a transfer coming in.”

“Who?”

“It wasn’t my idea.  It was arranged before Rand took a hit.  But with his passing, I thought you’d be the right guy for –”

“Who?”

Lopez sat back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair. “It’s Polanski.”

The flush of anger was immediate and Campello fought to control himself.  “Polanski?”

“The brass wants him transferred.  Since his allegations about the other shooting, the one in the thirty-first, he’s become too hot for them and a danger to himself.  The rioting there has escalated and they want him out of the district before he brings them any additional unwanted attention.”

“I don’t blame them.”

“I want him to work with you.  At least until I can figure out what to do with him.”

“No.”

The commander crossed his arms, his expression growing mulish.  “I need for you to keep an eye on him, Frank.”

“No, Julio.”

The commander nodded toward the squad room.  “Those people out there respect you.  You’ve got a lot of time and a good record with the department.  There isn’t an officer in that room that wouldn’t walk into hell with you.  I need someone who commands that kind of respect to keep an eye on Polanski.  So far, we don’t have the rioting and unrest going on here that is occurring in the thirty-first.  Your killing of the suspect who gunned down Rand is justified in the mind of the public.  But if Polanski stirs up the same concerns here that he did in the thirty-first, we’ll see the same kind of trouble.  The brass doesn’t want that and neither do I.  I don’t think you do either.”

“I don’t want to work with him, Julio.”

Lopez sighed.  “It isn’t up to you, Frank.  For what it’s worth, it’s not up to me either.”

“What do you mean?  You’re the commander.”  His voice was rising.

“I mean I have bosses too, and they want him here and you’re open right now.  I can’t let him work alone.  I don’t trust him.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.  You’re replacing Rand with Polanski?”

Lopez glanced toward the squad room and then leaned forward in his chair.  “I’m not replacing Rand with anyone.”  His gaze locked on Campello, his tone quietly emphatic.  “Stuff happens.  Rand’s gone and I have a new man who happens to be Polanski.  So you’re going to work with him, and you’re going to do it now, or you can take more time off and then work with him when you come back.”

“Work with a turncoat?  Are you serious?”

Lopez spread his hands.

Campello stared at him in disbelief.  “When does this happen?”

Julio slid a note across the desk.  “We just got a call.  There’s a body at Navy Pier.”

“What?  Now?  I haven’t even had time to clear the case load and …”

But he no longer had Julio’s attention.  The commander was staring into the squad room at an immaculately dressed man standing just outside the office door.

Leave a comment

Filed under Read a Chapter

Read-a-Chapter: The Greeks of Beaubien Street by Suzanne Jenkins

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the women’s fiction, The Greeks of Beaubien Street, by Suzanne Jenkins. Enjoy!

______________________________________

The Greeks of Beaubien Street

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 147931174X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1479311743

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Nestled below the skyline of Detroit you’ll find Greektown, a few short blocks of colorful bliss, warm people and Greek food. In spite of growing up immersed in the safety of her family and their rich culture, Jill Zannos doesn’t fit in. A Detroit homicide detective, she manages to keep one foot planted firmly in the traditions started by her grandparents, while the other navigates the most devastated neighborhoods in the city she can’t help but love. She is a no nonsense workaholic with no girlfriends, an odd boyfriend who refuses to grow up, and an uncanny intuition, inherited from her mystic grandmother, that acts as her secret weapon to crime solving success. Her story winds around tales of her family and their secret laden history, while she investigates the most despicable murder of her career.

The Greeks of Beaubien Street is a modern tale of a family grounded in old world, sometimes archaic, tradition, as they seek acceptance in American society. They could be any nationality, but they are Greek.

______________________________________

Chapter One

Detective Jill Zannos stood in a darkened corner of the morgue at Detroit City Hospital, waiting for the autopsy of her latest homicide case to begin. She took a notebook out of her shoulder bag and read the facts as they presented themselves, starting with the early morning call she’d received from the precinct. When her cell rang, she had been sound asleep next to the body of her lover. She reached across the giant, snoring Alex in order to get the phone.

“Let it ring,” he grumbled.

“I can’t. I’m on call at seven; it’s probably work,” she said as she climbed over him to get her cell phone out of the charger. “Zannos,” she answered.

“Jill, it’s Jan Grant,” the police dispatcher said. “You have a body en route to DCH.”

“Okay, on my way,” Jill mumbled. She hung up the phone and curled her body against Alex’s side. “You better get up too, before Wasserman calls.” Sam Wasserman was the medical examiner at Detroit City Hospital.

“He can get started with the night shift.” Alex didn’t officially start work until eight.

“Well, you can’t stay here so you’d better get up,” she repeated. It was a sore point with Alex; she wouldn’t give him a key or let him stay in her house alone and the dialogue had been a recurring one in their relationship for many years. “It’s a matter of privacy,” she told him. “What if my dad wants to come by to work on the plumbing? If you’re here, it’ll cause all kinds of problems.” Her dad wouldn’t understand. At just fifty-eight, he was old-country Greek in spite of having been born in Detroit. Unmarried women didn’t have overnight male guests, let alone live-ins, no matter how old they were. “No, I’m sorry; get up.” She smacked his arm. “If I have to get up, you have to too. It’s not fair, sleeping in without me.” She rolled back to her side of the bed. Alex sat up on his side and scratched his head. He loved her and respected her relationship with her father, but he was also lazy and liked to stay in bed until the last possible minute.

“I’m up; I’m up,” he grumbled. “I’ll make coffee. Just for the record, your father would never leave that store of his in the middle of the day. You’d better find another excuse.”

“You’re probably right,” Jill said absently as she got her clothes together, thinking about what was waiting for her. Alex pulled on the sweatpants he had let drop to the floor the previous night. “C’mon, Fred, let’s go out,” he said to their English bulldog, the closest thing to a child either one of them would have as long as they were together. Fred got up and stretched—first his hind legs with his head in the air, then his front legs with his rump up. By the time the two of them went into the hall and down the stairs, Jill was already in the shower.

* * *

            Jill walked to her car looking up between skyscrapers. The sun was just starting to come up to the east over the Detroit River, the silhouette of the low buildings of Windsor inky against the turquoise sky. The two-story buildings of Greektown with their brick facades were nestled at the foot of the glass skyscrapers of Jefferson. Detroit was a city of contrasts. She stayed alert as she unlocked the door to her cruiser. Although this neighborhood was safe, it only took one desperate person looking for money to ruin your day. She drove to the hospital under bright streetlights casting an eerie glow. Autopsies were Jill’s least favorite part of being a homicide detective, but she liked going to the hospital. The details she’d need to begin investigating a death would originate there.

The city’s dead came to the morgue for their final examination. Considered the gold standard of hospital morgues in its prime, now the only thing Detroit City Hospital spoke of was decay and unfortunate neglect. Since the riots of 1967, the neighborhood steadily declined to its present, nearly derelict state. Although the mayor and city officials did all they could to protect the one place citizens were guaranteed equal access to health care, for the last few years money was so tight that cuts reached every department, including the morgue. Even so, it was an equalizer; if you were murdered in Detroit, you got the best autopsy available. If the family of the victim could be located immediately, the autopsy wouldn’t start until after the body was viewed. Because of the backlog of bodies in the coolers, this unlucky victim couldn’t wait. It was either now or two days from now, and by then it might be too late to gather crucial information.

While Jill waited, she noticed a strong dead-mouse smell coming from the closet behind her; the pine-scented cleaner generously used to scour all the metal surfaces in the morgue couldn’t hide it. She used her powers of discipline not to comment about the stench while the autopsy got underway. The smell brought back a memory from her childhood in Greektown. She was five years old and could tell before she stepped over the threshold of the family apartment that her grandmother was cooking lambs’ heads. The heads smelled differently than other lamb meat. All family meal preparation took place in the store below the apartment, but since lambs’ heads were a delicacy just for the family, they were baked upstairs. Jill balked immediately, turning to her mother.

“I’m not going in there,” she complained.

“Get moving, little one, before I call for your grandmother,” her mother warned.

“It smells! Gigi’s got heads in there!” But Christina Zannos pushed her daughter through the door.

“Well, they can’t hurt you, so get moving,” she said, once again amused and annoyed that her child was smart for her age but as stubborn as a mule. Jill reluctantly allowed the push, but fled for her room. The vision of the heads propped up on a baking pan with their long snouts and eyeballs intact scared the hell out of her. That a dead-mouse smell in the morgue would evoke the memory of the severed lamb head brought a giggle up into her throat that she fought by concentrating like mad, writing every single thing about the present scene in the morgue.

Alex enjoyed seeing her like this, focused and jotting down notes in a small leather-bound book as the pathologist, Dr. Wasserman, recited his findings. Although a protective mask wasn’t necessary unless you were standing at the table, Jill always wore one as a barrier between her nose and mouth and the morgue. She was very sensitive to smells, and dead bodies smelled bad. This one was no exception; the smell of the body blending with the dead-mouse smell.

The stench was a contradiction. The body lying on the metal table was of a petite, young female who had a beautiful face, a muscular, athletic body, and neatly brushed thick, blond hair. Someone had taken the time to wash her body off too. She was reported missing on Friday by her mother and father, and now it was Monday morning. A group of young boys looking for trouble found her in an alley off of Grand River and Cass shortly after midnight. Sometime between the missing persons report Friday and late last night she’d been murdered.

When Jill Zannos became a detective in the Detroit Police Department’s homicide division, she discovered she had an intense respect for the dead. Once, after walking in on an autopsy where a group of morgue workers were making snide comments about the victim’s body, she exploded, causing a scene but acting as an advocate for the respectful treatment of the decedent. Ever since her arrival, DCH had the reputation of being the most compassionate place to die in the county.

This victim was found nude. The medical examiner collected the foreign matter from her body to be examined later, hoping it would help determine the location of the actual murder. Fingerprints were taken. Once everything was collected from the outside of the body, an external visual exam was done by the medical examiner.

“Help me turn her over, Alex,” Dr. Wasserman asked his assistant. Against his will, Alex had given up and went into work early with Jill. He helped Wasserman roll the victim to her side.

“Whoa!” Alex said.

“Yeah, right,” Wasserman said. “It’s the bullet exit. Come here, Jill.” The detective moved closer to the table. The victim’s back had a large, six-inch cavity blown out between her shoulder blades. “Good lord!” Jill gasped. No matter how many times she saw the gore of murder, it would always momentarily stun her. “Where’s her back?”

“Not only her back, but the contents of her chest, including part of her heart.”

He reached around the victim’s front and pointed to a tiny spot between her breasts. “See this pinprick? It’s the bullet entrance.” The woman had bled to death, the bullet transecting her ascending aorta. Death had been swift, but other things were done to her before the end, torturous and excruciating.

“Any ideas yet what kind of gun it was?” Jill asked.

“Based on her wound, possibly a .40 Smith & Wesson,” Sam said. “It was something powerful.”

“Did you already wash her off?” Jill asked. “There’s no blood on her.” It was a contradiction: the gaping wound without any blood on her skin.

“Not yet,” Alex said. “Someone got to that before us.”

They returned the victim to her back. Dr. Wasserman bent her left leg up to do a cursory vaginal exam and swab for DNA. Once the external exam was complete, they would move internally, starting by cutting her chest open and removing her organs. It was at that juncture that Jill would escape. Blood, organs, saws, and the noise they made were not her jurisdiction.

“I’m leaving,” she announced. “Call me if you find anything, okay?” Her cell phone rang. She pulled off her mask and mumbled something into her cell, writing in her notebook.

“She’s been ID’d. Gretchen Parker,” she said, “from Dearborn. Twenty-six years old. Wonder what she was doing in the city?”

“Hang around for a minute, will you Jill?” Dr. Wasserman asked. Jill replied that she would be in the cafeteria getting coffee. The two often spent time talking about a homicide right after the autopsy; it solidified the facts in their minds.

It was still early in the morning; she would need a lot of coffee to get through the day. Jill walked to the elevator and pushed the up button. She never started obsessing about a homicide until after the autopsy. The scene investigators’ report would make the murder come alive for her, even if the murder itself took place at a different location. She would imagine the scene as it was upon discovery. A group of young boys found this victim. She closed her eyes for a second, visualizing them as they found the naked body of a beautiful, young girl. Were they shocked? Titillated? It would be her responsibility to question the boys. Remembering her dad, she got her phone out again as she stepped off the elevator.

“Papa?” she said when Gus Zannos answered the phone. “I’m going to be late for breakfast this morning.” She listened to him speaking, his voice raised, excited. “Yes, it’s mine alright,” she answered. “I’ll tell you about it when I get there.” Her father had heard about the discovered body on the morning news. She said good-bye and hung up. She had breakfast with her dad every morning at the family grocery store in Greektown, just five minutes from the precinct. But right now she would get coffee from the hospital cafeteria, find a secluded place to wait for Sam Wasserman, and look over her notes from the autopsy.

A strange jittery feeling was beginning in Jill’s body, starting in her abdomen and spreading through her chest and neck. She knew when she tried to talk, her lips would quiver. It was her standard reaction at the beginning of a new case. Someone had met the end of their life at the brutal hand of another. It was her job to find out who committed the murder and, just as importantly as far as she was concerned, why. She’d make sure the prosecutors had all the evidence they needed to put the guilty away as long as possible. Michigan had abolished the death penalty in 1846, and Jill was happy that killing defendants was not the part of the equation she had to work with.

Standing on the coffee line, she did isometric exercises so she wouldn’t explode with anticipation. She’d tighten her ass muscles alternately with her thighs and if she wasn’t careful, she’d look like she was jogging in place while waiting for her turn at the cash register. If she were outside she could do a cartwheel if she wanted, but here she exercised self-control. Around the hospital, she was referred to as “the strange one.” Employees saw the dark-haired detective walking from the morgue, often talking to herself or, worse, paused in the middle of the hallway with her eyes closed. Best not give them any more ammo. Her hands were shaking as she tried to stuff her notebook into her shoulder bag; she steadied them by holding her elbows in close to her body. The cardboard coffee cups were stacked precariously next to the pot and one wrong move would send them scattering all over the place. It had happened before. Fortunately, she was able to get her coffee and sit down before anything catastrophic took place.

Excitement about a case grew gradually for Jill. When the first call came, her curiosity was merely piqued. The dispatcher said “a body” was waiting for her. Nothing more was offered. Not the race, sex, or location. There were early facts about a case that qualified it as a homicide. If a missing-person report was filed with the police department and a dead body fitting the description was found, it was deemed something for the homicide detectives until proven otherwise. If there were obvious indicators of a murder, such as visible bullet or knife wounds or signs of a beating, strangulation, or dismemberment, the homicide division got involved. It was an assumption that could be made without repercussions.

It wasn’t until the scene was visited that the events surrounding the murder would come totally alive for her. She sometimes visualized the crime taking place, the murderer standing over the body, either with his hands around the throat of the victim or wielding a knife, stabbing repeatedly. She often saw the make of the gun if it was a shooting. If the victim was raped, the man in her vision would begin to unzip, but she would shake it away before he could reach into his pants. Then there would be a period of anxiety that Jill would either fight with meditation and exercise, or succumb to with nausea and insomnia.

Despite the anxiety they produced, her visualizations often guided her toward solving the homicide cases she was assigned to. Her boss asked confidingly that if she had any “ideas” about other cases to please speak up. She used caution, however, looking at her ability to visualize the details of a murder as a gift and not exploiting it; she’d pretend when he asked that she didn’t know what he was talking about. She never admitted to anyone out loud that she consulted her psychic intuition to solve cases. Despite her discretion, however, she was still viewed with suspicion by some of her colleagues. One let it be known that he thought she must have an in with organized crime in order to have successfully closed all the cases she had. Her partner said they were secretly in awe of her and jealous of him for having landed a partner who had such amazing crime-solving skills.

The department recently acquired a panoramic 3-D camera that would give the team a detailed record of the area where the body was discovered. Rather than relying on memory or notes, all an officer had to do was pull a videotape out of the file and get a renewed sense of the crime scene. Although Jill would memorize the video, there was nothing like being the first on the scene. Unfortunately, she was not with the team who first saw this body and investigated the area. Their department was too busy to allow the luxury of a start-to-finish investigation; they often overlapped cases so the few detectives available could sleep occasionally. She had to settle for the scan and the report, which she would view as soon as she got back to the precinct. And, although it wasn’t necessary, she would go to the location where the body was found later in the morning.

Finally, Sam Wasserman arrived with a tray holding two large coffees and a plate of chocolate-covered doughnuts. Alex would finish up the autopsy.

“Thanks for waiting, Jill.” Sam sat down and offered her a doughnut. She took one without hesitating. “She’d had intercourse,” he began. “Or maybe I should reword that. She’d had something shoved into her vagina. There wasn’t any semen as far as I could tell; the microscopic report may show differently. But she had a large tear in the posterior introitus.” He crammed half a doughnut into his mouth. “Something bothers me about her besides the obvious. I can’t put my finger on it. She didn’t have one scratch on her, not one mark, outside of the bullet hole. And then this enormous laceration of her vagina. There was no blood present; she, or someone else, cleaned it up. It appeared like a recent injury, maybe yesterday, but it definitely happened several hours before her death. The edges of the wound were already beginning to granulate.” He looked thoughtful, finishing his doughnut and taking a drink of coffee.

“So, she wasn’t dead when it was done to her.” Jill’s anger rising to the surface, increasing at the notion that someone would torture this young woman in such a brutal way, which only deepened her determination to find Gretchen Parker’s killer. Wasserman could see the transformation and stifled the impulse to comment. Jill’s eyes narrowed, her jaw set. He proceeded gently.

“No. And that isn’t all. She was a virgin; remnants of her hymen were present. So, she wasn’t a career girl, unless it was her first day. She also had someone else’s pubic hair on her back and the back of her legs, like she’d been on a dirty bathroom floor; washed off carefully, but placed on the dirty ground. It makes no sense. We’ll get a profile from it, but I don’t know about this.” Wasserman looked at her intently, concerned. “Are you getting anything yet?” They’d worked together for so many years that he was one of the few people who knew she often got a “feeling” about a case that would later result in an arrest.

“Nothing yet, outside of the disgust you’d expect. Maybe after I see the scan,” Jill said. Wasserman looked out into the cafeteria, pushing his chair back and standing up.

“I better get back. I’ve got a backlog. The report should be dictated by this afternoon,” he said.

“Thanks, Sam.” Jill got up too.

“It’s such a waste,” he said, putting his tray on a shelf and taking his second cup of coffee with him.

“Twenty-six years old,” Jill said. They got to the elevator and Jill said good-bye to Wasserman. The fact that someone would brutalize Gretchen Parker, but then take the time to comb her hair and bathe her, would fester in the recesses of her mind.

She’d go see her father before she went to the precinct. It would make things better for a few minutes. They would sit in the back of the grocery and drink the strong coffee he made for her. It took her less than five minutes to get there from the hospital. Greektown was in the middle of everything. When she pulled into the alley behind the store, he was waiting for her at the back door. He watched her get out of her unmarked cruiser and she could see the smile slowly spread across his face. She’d been an officer for almost fifteen years, a detective for ten, yet he reacted as though he had just found out whenever he saw her in that car. He was so proud of her. Anyone who would listen heard the story of his cop daughter. But she worried for her dad. It wasn’t always a popular thing to have someone so close to you in the police force.

Jill had been raised in Greektown. Most Greeks lived in the suburbs of Grosse Pointe and Saint Clair Shores except for Jill’s family and one other family, the Nickopoloses. The Nickopolos family owned a gun store down the street from Gus’ Greek Grocery. Frank and Estelle Nickopolos, their son, little Frank, and Frank Senior’s mother, Dido, lived above the shop, just like the Zannos family did. Dido was blind and looked like a gnome. She stood about four feet six inches tall and was just as wide, and wore black shirtwaist dresses that strained across her ample bosom, with a black babushka on her head, a caricature of Greek womanhood. Frank placed a stool for her outside of the main door and Dido sat on the stool all day, spitting at people as she sensed them passing by her, shaking her cane in their direction. Only serious gun shoppers dared to cross the threshold of the store because it meant being attacked by Dido. Once inside, they then had to tolerate the screaming voice of the family’s parrot who spoke only Greek. He was actually reciting Scriptures, but it sounded like the worst vileness. In spite of, or maybe because of it, Dido’s presence and that of the bird made life more difficult for Jill when she was a small girl. Those people and their damn bird were also Greeks and therefore clumped together. She never felt accepted, even by her own people. Going to school in Corktown didn’t help. Originally populated by the Irish who fled their homeland during the potato famine, now it was a mixed community of Germans, Arabs, and Mexicans. In late summer, Jill and her mother would walk the few blocks to the Woodward Avenue J.L. Hudson store to buy clothes for the new school year. Her classmates wore clothes from Sears and other discount stores, but her mother wanted something better for her daughter. Jill could still see the pretty dresses, patent-leather shoes, frilly slips, and underpants her mother bought her. She’d have everything delivered. Jill remembered the confused look of the deliveryman when he pulled up in front of the grocery store, their apartment right above it. She saw him thinking, How did these gypsies afford all this merchandise from Hudson’s? She might be the best-dressed little girl in her elementary school class, but she was still a Greek. Her parents spoke a foreign language, their food was different, and she looked different from the children she went to school with in Corktown.

The adult Jill continued to feel like an outsider. Alex argued that this was because she was a snob who thought most people weren’t smart enough for her to waste her time with. She was keeping her distance from them, not the other way around.

“Oh, go to hell,” she said. “If I were a snob, why would I be with you?” He laughed at her, their teasing and bickering often a prelude to lovemaking.

“Good point,” he agreed, wrapping his arms around her.

* * *

Gus Zannos had the coffee made and a slice of fresh, crusty bread with olive oil and tomato awaiting, Jill’s standard breakfast. The period of time she would spend here with her father was a good segue from the autopsy to seeing the crime scene video.

“So tell your father about this new murder.” Gus got to the point. He lived vicariously through his daughter. He often had good advice for her, too. “Already they have the details on the news. So quick!”

“Yeah, it’s typical to broadcast a few facts, like the body being found after her parents filed a missing persons report over the weekend.” She took a bite of bread, the thin crust snapping to expose the fluffy white interior, without regrets. She was thin and a few extra carbs would be okay. “She was from Dearborn. Did they say that?”

“Yes, they did. Why would a beautiful girl from Dearborn end up in an alley downtown? Stay home with your family where you belong!” He tapped the table with his finger for emphasis. Jill laughed. She lived six blocks from her father. “Do you have any ideas yet who could have done such a thing?” She shook her head ‘no,’ her mouth full of bread.

“Not yet Papa, not yet. I haven’t even seen the crime scene video.” He was fascinated by her work, and their brief visit energized him. She pushed her plate away.

“Okay, I’m stuffed. And I need to get to work before I fall asleep. Can I take your cup?” She asked the same question every morning, standing up and holding out the white china mug to him. She took one to work daily, filled with coffee her father ground and brewed especially for her.

“Of course,” he said, going behind the deli counter to pack her lunch. He put fresh romaine lettuce, feta cheese, kalamata olives, a hard-boiled egg, fresh tomato, and two anchovies into a plastic container. He stuck the container into a brown paper bag and added a slice of the same bread she had for breakfast and a small container of his homemade, fragrant salad dressing, garlic-free for a work day. At the end of the week, she would return the five white china mugs, and the following Monday the scenario would repeat itself. He walked her to the cruiser and held her coffee cup while she got in with her lunch bag.

“Come by after work and get your dinner, Manari mou. Stuffed peppers tonight.” She reached up and with her hand through the window opening, patted his cheek.

“Okay, Papa, see you tonight!” Gus stood and watched Jill as she sped away, kicking up a little gravel for effect. Arriving at the precinct minutes later, heads turned and noses sniffing the air, teasing her, jealous that her father packed a lunch every day.

“Zannos, how many times do we have to tell you that it’s no fair? Bring some for everyone or leave your damn food at home!” the chorus of voices from the bull pen said.

“It’s just a salad! Gus is waiting for you to come for lunch.” I must smell like my dad’s cooking, she thought to herself. But they were only teasing her, aware due to her transparency that she’d be a self-conscious target. She wound her way through the crowded desks to her own little piece of real estate. Her desk was pushed up against that of Albert Wong, who was deep into a heated telephone conversation. Jill put her lunch in a small refrigerator behind their area. Next to it was a large green board that had a chart drawn in chalk, listing the active cases and the detectives assigned to them. At the end of the list, because it was the latest addition, was the name Gretchen Parker with Jill and Albert’s names written next to it. Jill looked and let it sink in. She would never grow tired of seeing her name listed under the word Detective. She went back to her desk just as Albert was hanging up.

“Sorry. My bank is having trouble keeping track of my money,” Albert said. He rummaged around on his desk. “Okay, here it is: video and scan. Any revelations at the autopsy?” She sat down facing him.

“Just facts,” Jill said as she dug through her purse. Reading from her notes, she related what the post revealed. “She was moved post-mortem; there’s no blood evidence on the sidewalk. Cause of death was exsanguination. Her back was blown out. She had a large laceration of the vagina, but no semen. Sam doesn’t think she was a working girl because she may have been a virgin until whatever it was was shoved up her vagina. Or it was her first night on the job. Someone was mad as hell at Gretchen Parker, but they took the time to comb her hair and bathe her.” She took the package from him and stood up. The video and scan were wrapped in a tevdek envelope. They felt cold in her hands, but alive. They would be her introduction to the hell that Gretchen Parker’s life ended in. She walked out to the hall and up two flights of stairs to a private room where she could watch alone. She put the video in first. An officer started shooting the video immediately upon entering the site, even before the crime scene tape was placed.

The film was slightly grainy because of the darkness. It had been early, just after midnight. The light on the camera was barely bright enough. The city didn’t have the money to employ a professional photographer with lights or to replace the infrared camera that was ‘misplaced,’ but Jill didn’t mind. She could see what she needed to see along with the scan. The scene was wide at first. She could just make out the body in the distance. Gretchen was lying on her back, nude. One arm was thrown over her body, the other at her side at an odd angle. She had obviously been thrown there on the ground. Her thighs were together, but legs sprawled from the knees down. Even in the dark, you could tell she was beautiful. Her hair stood around her head like a halo. As the focus came in closer, Jill saw more. Gretchen Parker had small, youthful breasts, not augmented. If she had been a professional she might have had large implants. Her crotch was shaved, but that didn’t mean anything anymore. It was getting harder and harder to make generalizations based on personal hygiene. As the camera got closer, Jill could see that Gretchen’s eyes were open. Her mouth was open in a silent scream, her chin mashed down on her chest. Unnatural. The camera swept the area, but it was difficult to see much detail. Then the film went to daylight. The body had been removed, but the area was undisturbed. Jill was grateful for the additional footage.

Even in the daylight, it was a gruesome looking alleyway. Cracked concrete was covered in a thick layer of broken glass. It had the look of the sort of abandonment that many parts of the city were slowly adopting. A large hotel and several restaurants backed up to the alley. There was a plot of grass with an Ailanthus tree growing through a crack near where the body laid, at the entrance to a blind alley with no exit. Whoever killed Gretchen had driven slowly by and thrown her out of the car. The camera swept a higher view; the windows of the buildings surrounding the alley came into the shot. She didn’t notice anything suspicious there. The video played a loop and the scene with the body played again. Jill could feel the way the air must have felt on Gretchen’s skin. She sensed the surprise the young woman experienced as she watched someone pull a gun out and fire at her. The impact of the bullet, the caliber large enough to have blown her heart apart and taken most of her back with it, must have thrown her back several feet.

Jill’s heart was beating faster. She could feel it racing, irregular. She would watch the scan, too because she had to, but she already knew what happened to Gretchen Parker. She was no working girl. Someone she knew well did this to her. And although she wouldn’t document her thoughts, Jill felt the remorse and sadness of the murderer. Of course, she would have to work the case step by step, but now they wouldn’t have to waste precious time on unnecessary investigative work. She turned the video off and, in the darkness of the screening room, closed her eyes and said, “Thank you, God.”

Reprinted with permission from The Greeks of Beaubien Street by Suzanne Jenkins. © 2012 by Createspace.

2 Comments

Filed under Read a Chapter

Read-a-Chapter: Buzzard Bay by Bob Ferguson

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the thriller, Buzzard Bay, by Bob Ferguson. Enjoy!

______________________________________

 Buzzard Bay
  • Paperback: 628 pages
  • Publisher: XLIBRIS (September 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1477122087
  • ISBN-13: 978-1477122082

Murder, drugs trafficking, kidnapping and betrayal are the detonators that set Bob Ferguson’s explosive thriller BUZZARD BAY into motion.

The tale begins on a cold winter night in a remote area of Canada. Five assassins surround an old farm house. They have already made four kills and this one seems as routine as the others. But then a dog barks and the murderous plan is suddenly disrupted. In a breathless chase over the next two days, three of the assassins lie dead, including their leader. Eventually, the only assassin to escape is a man named Henekie. He had vowed to kill the man they missed and knew someone who would be willing to pay him to do it. He heads back to Germany to find that contact.

The killers’ target is Bob Green, a Canadian farmer who needs some serious funding to keep his business operating in the black. A solution seemed to materialize when Bob joined the other assassination victims to work on a farm project in the Bahamas touted as “the opportunity of a lifetime.” Bob and his wife, July, had spent a blissful honeymoon in the Bahamas, so he is happy to return to his paradise with the promise of making money. But paradise turns deadly when his fellow workers discover that the project is just a front to keep an airstrip open to be used as part of a cocaine distribution route from the islands. Now, the Canadians are being eliminated one by one after being sent back home, and someone is holding July in the Bahamas. Bob must get back to the Bahamas to find her.

The suspense mounts as Bob sets out to rescue his wife and set things right. To do that, he must agree to a CIA plot to go underground and pose as a well-known drug dealer thought to be dead. His decision puts both July’s and his life at stake.

Bob Ferguson’s Buzzard Bay gives readers all the adventure and thrill they could ask for in this unputdownable read.

______________________________________

Chapter One

1997

Like the shock of an electrical wire, my every sense becomes alert. Instantly, I’m awake, searching to understand what it was that startled me from that deep sleep. Someone’s in the house, or is it just the house cracking and shrinking from the intense cold outside? Silence. Only the ticking of Mom’s old mantle clock breaks the intensity of the moment. A feeling of fear begins to invade my senses; something’s not right.

I quickly scramble from the old feather tick. Panic grips, my heart’s in my mouth, and I feel like running. But where? How? Deep breaths; get a hold of yourself. Maybe it’s nothing, yet something’s not right. What? Slow now, think… you know you’ve been worried about something, and you know what that is, so confirm your suspicions. I don’t think what’s troubling me is in the house, at least not yet, so check out the house.

The panic is subsiding; cold calculation is setting in as I throw on my pants and shirt. I know downstairs, Dad’s gun case is hanging on the living room wall. What am I saying? It’s probably nothing. Much more confident, I slip downstairs.

The moonlight shining off the snow illuminates the living room, giving me no problems finding my way around as I quietly check out the house. It’s out the back kitchen window that I see them. Christ! There they are, right outside the window, three of them. I’m so scared I start to cry.

“They’re going to kill me,” is all I can think of. My first instinct is to crawl up into a ball and pretend that this isn’t happening, and then anger clears my brain. I’m still alive. I know they’re there. Let’s move! By the front door of the kitchen hung the coats. I grab one and put on some boots, then run into the living room where I take Dad’s old .270 Winchester off the wall. In the drawer, on the bottom of the gun case, there is a box of shells, not a full box; but I’m not taking time to count them. I glance out the front window, there are two more of them, just standing there.

George. What about George, Mom’s old dog? He must have got a bark off before they got him. Must be what woke me up and probably why they were standing there, waiting to see if he had woken anyone up… waiting to see if a light came on so they would know my room. I had to have a plan. Maybe if I wait for them… no! I remember as a child that by opening the spare bedroom window, you could reach the kitchen roof. The kitchen was built onto the original two stories as an addition. The kitchen roof’s eaves run almost to the edge of the bedroom window. As a child, I had been able to step over to it from the windowsill—why not now?

Fear propels me up the stairs to the bedroom window, and then doubt takes over. The window—how to quietly open the window. Would it open at all? Strangely, sweat drips in my eyes.

“You have to try. It’s the only chance you’ve got,” I hear my mind say. It opens effortlessly—must be because of the cold. Now when to make my move… If they hear me, I will be dead. I didn’t have a rifle with me when I was a kid either. A crash downstairs tells me to move; they are coming in. I look down; one of them is below me. He breaks the living room window and climbs in. I climb out. About a foot of snow covers the roof, hopefully muffling my footsteps. I am on the run now, crossing the kitchen roof, then leaping into the snow below. The snow is deep, and I flounder desperately, scrambling my way toward the tree line, which is not that far, yet an eternity away. I stiffen my back as if this would fend off the bullets about to hit my back at any second, then plunge headfirst into the underbrush.

I made it! For the first time in the last few minutes, I knew I had a chance. This newfound energy drives me down through the trees, into the valley below.

The old farmhouse was built on the edge of a deep wooded valley about half a mile wide. The valley bottom was fertile farmland with a small river meandering through the middle of it. My idea now was to keep moving until I reached the other side. There were no roads over there, and I would be able to see anyone following me. Fear propelled me, but my mind wouldn’t focus.

Why? We’d been sent back to Canada without any passports. How could we be of any danger to anyone? Yet I had this nagging fear that someone might come looking for us.

“Guess that’s what kept me alive so far,” I think as I reach the thin row of trees along the river’s edge. For the first time, I look back to see if anyone’s behind me. There’s no one in sight. I try to listen over my heavy breathing but can hear nothing. Quickly I crossed the ice on the river. Not until reaching the other side of the open flat would I feel secure enough to rest before ascending the far hill.

Other thoughts race through my mind. “What about the others? Bill and Hania, Dale and Pearl—had they already killed them, or was I the first?” I must try to warn them.

The hill is steep, but finally, I clear the trees at the top and come out onto open farmland, which stretches for miles on this side of the valley. For anyone who’s never been in the north, it’s hard to imagine how the moon lights up the terrain like a city under streetlights, creating shadows at the least indentation. Unlike the city, there are no people— only yourself and, except for the occasional wild animal, the unending world of snow and trees. It’s eerie, so quiet you can hear your heartbeat, so cold you can see your own breath. Not only are you being hunted by humans, you know that nature can kill you too.

Along the top of the valley at its crest are huge mounds of snow, not unlike sand dunes. These sand like dunes were created by the wind blowing the snow off the flatlands and piling up against the trees that bordered the valley, creating hills of snow twelve feet high in places. This snow was packed hard, and it was one of these that I ascended to survey the valley below. There they were, crossing the first flat between the far hill and the river. I had done better than I thought; although they had found my trail, it had taken a while. The moon washed the valley with light, making them vulnerable, but I guess they have no idea I am armed.

My problem is that I hate guns. Although my father was a crack shot and an excellent hunter, he had never encouraged me to use a rifle. However, he had shown me how to use one, which is right now coming in handy. Pulling the box of shells from my coat pocket, I inserted three shells into the rifle, thinking I should conserve my ammunition. Then I lay in the snow, focusing on the black objects with the scope, which turn them into humans obviously laboring in the deep snow. Remembering what I had read about when shooting downhill, one intended to shoot high. I aim at one of the figures legs, not breathing, and pull the trigger.

My first sensation was that my shoulder hurt. The black object in the scope seemed to leap, and snow flew; as the sound of my rifle broke the silence.

“Roll, they’ll see the flash from my rifle. Get away from it.”

I lay face down in the snow, expecting a barrage of gunfire; although there is noise from below, nothing is being disturbed anywhere around me. I peer over the edge. Uzis. I can see the wink of gunfire in all directions; it almost makes me giddy. Hell, they have small close-range machine guns, Uzis or whatever they are called, and it’s having no effect on me whatsoever.

As my senses clear, I can see one of them thrashing in the snow. The two others are running for the tree line along the opposite side of the valley. To the west, there is a graveled road with a bridge to cross the river. Although there are no roads running toward me, this road did run north to a small village about four miles away. Just below the farmhouse, the lights of a vehicle come on and start to descend the hill toward the bridge. In my estimation, this is where the killers had left their vehicle out of sight and gone the rest of the way to the house by foot.

My thoughts went back to George.

“Should have put him away,” Mom had said. “But Dad would have never stood for it, so I guess we’ll let him die in his own time.” I was pretty sure that George had saved my life.

In cold fury, I turn the rifle on the descending car lights and fire, ejecting the spent casing, then aim again. The sharp crack is still in my ears as I watch the lights turn slowly to the right and then fall down the steep embankment along the side of the road. The lights bury themselves in the deep snow at the bottom, leaving only the taillights sticking straight up like beacons. I feel a deep hatred inside me; I feel like shooting some more. I have turned from a man who couldn’t kill his own injured dog to a man who wants to kill anyone around him… These thoughts and the cold air bring me back to what was going on below. The two men in the flat had now reached the trees, and the third was crawling through the snow ever so slowly in the same direction.

To my right, a figure is moving beside the ditched vehicle, and then another one appears. I guess they had dug themselves out. I loaded another cartridge into the rifle. The figures began scampering up the side of the ditch. I fire and through the scope, I watch them dive back toward the vehicle.

Actually, I couldn’t believe how well I’d done. I had hit one of them with the first shot and caused their car to run off the road with one of my others. Not bad for a guy who had not fired a gun for a while—probably just damn lucky.

Now reality begins to set in. It must be at least thirty degrees below zero. The sweat I had worked up has now turned to ice. Maybe this is what they call shock. I don’t know, but I’m starting to feel very cold. These guys are not going anywhere for a while, so what do I do? I have no mitts, no hat… better start to walk, but where? To the east, there’s a farmhouse about one and a half miles away. It’s only used in the summer months by the people who farm the land. Probably some kind of heat, still a mile and a half through three-foot deep snow, in my condition, can I make it? The lights are on in Mom’s house. It looks so safe, beckoning.

Down below in the flat, the two shadows run out and grab their downed partner. I could fire at them, but I’m too tired emotionally and physically. They’re going to end up in that house, and it seems so unfair. Determination sets in, and I sling the rifle over my shoulder. If I stay along the very edge of the valley, maybe the snow will be hard enough on top of the dunes to carry me.

I begin to walk. A mile and a half… well, I sure hope there’s some way to heat that shack if I can ever get to it. My mind begins to wander back to a time of turmoil in my life, but I had never, never thought it would lead to this.

“Just an ordinary guy,” I think. The going is good, and I begin to run a bit. I’m coming for you, July. I’ve dragged you through pure hell, but we’ll make it. I strode on with new resolve.


Reprinted with permission from Buzzard Bay by Bob Ferguson. © 2012 by Xlibris

Leave a comment

Filed under Read a Chapter

Read-a-Chapter: Executive Command by Gary Grossman

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the political fiction, Executive Command, by Gary Grossman. Enjoy!

______________________________________

Executive Command

  • File Size: 1053 KB
  • Print Length: 502 pages
  • Publisher: Diversion Books (October 10, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009P9MYGA

The clock is ticking down to an attack on America’s most vulnerable natural resource: Water.

Our nation’s water resources are high on terrorist target lists, but low on America’s consciousness. Water sources are largely unprotected, providing open access to any enemy with chemicals and biotoxins.

So far we’ve been lucky. But that luck won’t last.

This is the all-too-real-and-present danger facing President Morgan Taylor and Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke as they desperately try to prevent hell-bent terrorists from destroying America and its infrastructure city by city, and state by state.

Fact-based in frightening detail, Executive Command is a political thriller that will leave you pondering its strong possibility the next time you pour a glass of water.

 

______________________________________

Chapter One

Houston, TX

3 January

He tried not to look nervous.

“Step forward.”

At first, the man didn’t hear the order.  The thick, bulletproof glass of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer’s booth muffled the sound.

“Step forward,” the agent at the Houston terminal repeated.

The man wanted to be invisible.  Mistake.  His instructions were to blend in, act casually, and make small talk. He was five-eight, clean shaven.  He kept his black hair medium length; normal.  Except for a small scar under his chin, there was nothing memorable about his look.   Nothing distinctive.

“Step forward!”

He tensed.  Not good.  He should have smiled politely and done as he was told.  However, the man was not used to being told what to do by a woman.   He hesitated again and was slow to hand over his passport.

The agent didn’t know how much harder the president had just made her job.   Generally, work came down to evaluate, stamp, and pass.   Sometimes it took longer, but it was usually the same thing every hour of every day.  Evaluate, stamp, and pass.  In twelve years, she’d probably only flagged twenty people, principally because they were belligerent to her and not a real threat.   It was different today.  Houston was beta testing a new system that was sure to be on a fast track everywhere.  But right now it was slow, and Agent Carlita Deluca was already feeling pissed off.

The man finally passed his papers under the glass in the booth.  With the Argentine passport finally in hand, she studied the picture; then the man before her.  The evaluate part.  She made quick assessments.  Recent scabs on his face.  Cuts from shaving?  Sloppy knot on his tie.  Not a professional.  She rose up from her chair and examined his rolling suitcase.  Brand new.  Then Deluca looked at the passport more closely.  Armenian name, but citizen of Argentina.  She checked whether he had traveled in the Middle East.  No stamps.

“State your business in the United States.”

The man cleared his throat.  A bad signal, but he didn’t know it.

“Job interview.”

She listened to the accent.  Carlita Deluca had become pretty good at detecting certain regionalisms.  Not Armenian.  German?  She needed more.

“Where?”

“University.  I’m a professor.”  He put his hand out impatiently, expecting his passport, which Deluca didn’t return.

“Of what?”

The man shifted his weight from one foot to another.  “Philosophy.  Comparative religions.”

“Have you taught here before?”

“No.”

“And where is your interview?”

“New York.”

Deluca nodded, scanned the passport through her computer and waited while the photo traveled as data bits across the Internet.   The accent?  Definitely not German.  Not European at all.  More….

A video camera also captured the man’s image at the booth.  The new image and picture on the passport were instantly cross-referenced against millions of other photos through FRT or FERET —Facial Recognition Technology.  Some of the process was standard post 9/11; some as recent as the president’s last sentence.

“What school?”

 “Universidad Nacional De Cordoba‎,” he answered, almost too quickly.

“No, where is your job interview?”

“Oh, New York University.”

Middle Eastern?  She couldn’t quite peg it yet.  So, Deluca continued to study the man.  It also gave the computer—which she understood very little about—time to talk to whatever it talked to.  It was definitely sluggish, and the line behind the man was growing longer.   She stamped the passport and wondered whether the computer was even working.  It was.

A 2004 report to Congress concluded that America’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies missed, ignored, or failed to identify key conspirators responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.  The public agreed.  People who should have been flagged as dangerous or, at the very least, undesirable, entered the United States[DC2]  undetected.  Once here, they engaged in highly suspect activity that went unchecked.

It’s not that the system didn’t work.  There was no effective system.  That changed with the establishment of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6.  In Beltway speak—HSPD-6.  The White House directive, issued September 16, 2003, consolidated interagency information sharing.   The avowed goal—to put the right intelligence into the hands of the right people; securely and in a timely manner.

At the center of HSPD-6 is TSC—the Terrorist Screening Center.  The department has been charged with identifying, screening, and tracking known or suspected terrorists and their supporters.  Feeding TSC is the FTTTF, the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, and TTIC, the Terrorism Threat Integration Center, all administered by the FBI.

In addition to establishing the TSC, HSPD-6 effectively rerouted watch lists and terrorist identification programs through another service called TIPOFF.

This is precisely where the photograph of the man at the airport was being examined electronically against hundreds of thousands of other pictures.

TIPOFF began in 1987 with little more than a shoe box full of three-by-five-inch index cards.   Now it ran through a complex computer network; one of the most secretive in the world.  Every nanosecond, search engines mine data from CIA deep cover reports, to Customs photo scans, right down to Google, Yahoo, and Bing images.  Until recently, the subjects in the TIPOFF database were primarily non-U.S. persons.  Out of necessity, that changed.   Today, the program cross-references records of American citizens and even legal permanent residents who are “of interest.”   It feeds that information to the U.S. Customs Service, now administered by the Department of Homeland Security.

The man’s “biometrics”—the physical characteristics including facial geometry—were being interpreted at the speed of light by the TIPOFF computers.  The nation’s interlocked FRT programs rejected more than 99.999999 percent of the matches. That took less time than the next step.  The program kicked the photograph back into the database for further analysis when it registered positive against some fourteen other pictures.

“Can you tell me where I can find Southwest Airlines?” the man asked as politely as possible.  He was beginning to feel this was taking too much time.

“After baggage claim, go outside.  There’s a tram.”

“Thank you.”  The man shifted his weight again and forced a smile, hoping this would speed things up.

Egyptian.  Deluca decided.  But the computer’s identity program still hadn’t given her any reason to hold the man.  She reluctantly returned his passport.

“Proceed to your right and straight through the doors.”

The man smiled again and then let out a breath.

A sigh of relief?  Deluca could hold him, however travelers behind him were growing impatient after their long international flights.  But still.

 “One more question.”  The fifty-nine-year-old mother of four was clearly stalling.  Agent Deluca wanted to give the computer another moment.  That’s when a short pinging sound indicated an incoming message onscreen.  She checked the monitor.  One word appeared under the picture captured by the new Customs surveillance program.

DETAIN

When she looked up, a couple and their child were now standing at her window.  The subject had taken his passport and left.

“Where the hell?”

Deluca rushed out of the booth, down the hallway, and through the doors where she had directed the man.  She reached for her walkie talkie, but she’d left it at her post.  On the other side of the doors she faced the concourse lined with luggage turntables.  Which flight?  She remembered.  Aeromexico out of Mexico City.

Another customs agent read the urgency on her face as she passed him. “What is it?”

“Got a detain.  White male.  Well, white-ish.  Medium build, brown sports jacket.  Short brown hair.”

Carlita Deluca had just described dozens of men within fifty yards.  The second customs agent did what Deluca hadn’t done.  He radioed upstairs.  But it was already redundant.  Homeland Security  computers had signaled an alert.  Simultaneously, the conveyer belt froze.  The outer doors locked.  No one was going to get through.

Five agents converged in the baggage area; all with printouts of the subject’s photograph. Deluca pushed past some arriving passengers to get to the arrivals board.  She read it aloud until she came to Aeromexico 4325/Mexico City.  Baggage Claim 7.  “Yes!”  Deluca turned and looked down the line.

From twenty feet she spotted the man who was walking near the conveyor belt.  She signaled the agent closest to radio the location.  Seconds later, agents appeared from everywhere.  People automatically made room for the uniformed officers whose 40-calibre Glock 23s were out.

The Egyptian sensed the mood change in the concourse.  Three of the largest men he’d ever seen were now running across the expanse on an intercept course.  Behind them, he saw the cursed female agent who was pointing him out.   She had a gun.  So did the others.  He couldn’t place the weapons.  That wasn’t his expertise.  He panicked.

Abdul Hassan started to run.  There was no time for how or why.  All he could do now was escape.  The exit.

Hassan ignored the shouts to “Stop!”  He pivoted right and bounced off an elderly couple.  The man nearly fell down.  A pregnant woman next to him was not so lucky.  She hit the ground hard. This brought screams from another family and the crowd began to scatter.  People tripped over one another.  The route to the doors clogged.   He darted to the left and suddenly found himself running at full force toward the customs agent from the kiosk.  He jammed his head into her gut, instantly bringing Deluca down.   The Egyptian grabbed her gun.

“Drop it!” shouted another agent.

He answered the order with a wild shot.  Twenty feet away, a father of two fell to his knees.  His last thought before his head cracked on the cement floor was for the safety of his twin boys.

People screamed and dropped low.  Only five remained upright.  Hassan and four of Houston’s most experienced U.S. Customs and Border agents.  Their guns rang out from nearly 360 degrees to the target, each finding its mark—a difficult-to-make head shot, two bullets to the lungs, front and back, and two more in the heart.   Any of the agents could have taken credit for the kill.


Reprinted with permission from Executive Command by Gary Grossman. © 2012 by Diversion Books

Leave a comment

Filed under Read a Chapter

Read-a-Chapter: French Illusions by Linda Kovic-Skow

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the memoir, French Illusions by Linda Kovic-Skow. Enjoy!

______________________________________

French Illusions

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing (October 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1457514575
  • ISBN-13: 978-1457514579

In the summer of 1979, twenty-one-year-old Linda Kovic contracts to become an au pair for an wealthy French family in the Loire Valley. To secure the position, she pretends to speak the language, fully aware her deception will be discovered once she arrives at her destination. Based on the author’s diary, French Illusions captures Linda’s fascinating and often challenging real-life story inside and outside the Château de Montclair. The over-bearing, Madame Dubois, her accommodating husband, Monsieur Dubois, and their two children are highlighted as Linda struggles to adapt to her new environment. Continually battling the language barrier, she signs up and attends classes at the local university in the nearby town of Tours, broadening her range of experiences. When she encounters, Adam, a handsome young student, her life with the Dubois family becomes more complicated, adding fuel to her internal battle for independence.

______________________________________

Chapter One

The Dubois Family

 

1

 

Je suis américaine. Je ne parle pas français.”

It took equal parts sign language, broken English and even more broken French before I understood the train attendant in Paris. Two more transfers? You’ve got to be kidding, I thought.

Cursing my high-heeled shoes, I dragged my luggage down endless platforms before boarding my final train. An hour later, just as the sun set across the Loire River, we pulled into Songais. Only three other people disembarked and went off their separate ways, hastening around me as I wrestled my suitcases into the station.

Filled with both apprehension and excitement, I surveyed the room, looking for Madame Dubois, but no one there fit her description. Wandering over to one of the tall arched windows, I pressed my face against the pane, peering left and right.

The Songais train station sat along a narrow cobbled street, lined with one white stone building after another, each attached to its neighbor. The structures varied in height, either two or three stories, their rooftops gabled, some with severe peaks. A few buildings presented Juliette balconies trimmed in black wrought iron, their built-in flower boxes filled with raspberry-red geraniums. Seeing no cars or people in either direction, I refocused my attention inside the building.

As I waited, a million thoughts jumbled through my head. How would Madame Dubois react when she discovered my lie? What would I do if she refused to let me stay? Was there a train back to Paris tonight? Even if I could persuade her to let me stay, what about her husband?

The longer I waited, the more agitated I became, starting whenever I heard the slightest sound. A woman entered the station, her heels tapping a steady beat on the linoleum floor. When I saw she carried a suitcase, my heartbeat moderated.

“Avez-vous du feu?” My body jerked as a handsome young man leaned toward me.

Fumbling through my reference guide, I found the word feu, which meant fire, and tried to make sense of his question. Convinced this was a come-on, I glared at him and refused to answer. His shoulders slumped and he shook his head as he walked away. A few minutes later, it occurred to me he merely wanted a light for his cigarette, but by then he had vanished.

“Bonsoir, Mademoiselle Kovic.”

I spun around and saw a tall, statuesque woman, far advanced in her pregnancy, walking toward me. A burst of adrenaline discharged in my brain. With each step, her dark blue wool coat opened, exposing a large belly. Stopping in front of me, her lips forming a thin smile, she extended her hand in one swift motion.

“Bonsoir, Madame Dubois.” My voice quivered as I clasped her palm against mine.  “Good evening” was one phrase I managed to learn, but what to say next? “Parlez-vous anglais?”

Madame Dubois frowned and tilted her head sideways. “Yes, I speak English fluently, but you speak French, correct?”

“The truth is, I speak only a few phrases.” Inhaling deeply, I continued. “I realize this must come as a shock, but I hope you’ll let me explain before you make a decision whether or not to let me stay.”

Her eyes hardened, the color drained from her face. Seconds ticked away as I swallowed firmly against the bile rising in my throat.

Finally, she spoke. “Clearly, I am stunned by this turn of events, but you are here now. As you can see, I do need an au pair very soon. We will discuss the situation with my husband and decide what to do then.”

She motioned with her hand for me to follow her and moved toward the exit. I felt so relieved by her words, it took me a moment to react and pick up my bags.

With her nose raised higher than necessary, Madame Dubois led us around the few remaining passengers and out the door to her Peugeot.

“Put your things back here,” she said, opening the trunk with her keys.

I shoved my bags inside with a grunt, slid into the front seat and Madame pulled out of the train station’s side parking lot. As she maneuvered the car through the town’s slender streets, I studied my new patron. She appeared to be in her early thirties. Her thick blonde hair was pulled back from her face into a low ponytail, emphasizing her prominent nose. Unadorned by makeup or lipstick, no one would have called her pretty, but her alabaster skin glowed flawlessly, and her reserved demeanor suggested self-assurance in her social standing.

Hoping to ease the tension, I ventured, “Is it far to your home?”

“No, we live only a short distance from town.”

“How convenient,” I said, twisting to gaze out the window, marveling at an ancient stone church and then catching a glimpse of a grand, elegant chateau rising above the town, its multi-towered turrets extending skyward.

“Have you lived here long?”

“I grew up in Songais and so did my mother before me.” Madame Dubois’s voice sounded cool and aloof. “I would not consider living anywhere else.”

Her chilly reception increased my anxiety. I shifted my position, trying to relax my clenched teeth. At least she didn’t put me back on the train immediately. Somehow I would have to persuade her and her husband to give me another chance and let me stay on as their au pair.

 

Five minutes later, Madame pulled the car off the main highway onto a private road marked with an ornate metal gate. We progressed slowly along a gravel driveway through a forest so dense it formed a tunnel in front of us. As Madame rounded a bend in the road, I caught my first glimpse of the Château de Monclair on the hillside.

Built in the mid-1800s, it stood three stories high, topped by tall gables decorated with medallions and leaf designs. Elegant dormer windows on two sides protruded from the roof. Red bricks dominated the building, but cream-colored stones framed all eight of the massive paned windows, four on the first level and four on the second. An intricate stone railing encircled the court off the first floor, and the area below opened up to a massive expanse of grass lawn. We pulled up to the front entrance and I glanced at Madame Dubois, my mouth agape. “It’s unbelievable.”

She smiled and dipped her forehead, a regal motion like a queen to a servant.

The interior of the Château de Montclair proved equally impressive. The ten-thousand-square-foot structure housed eight bedrooms, five bathrooms, a library, and various formal and casual rooms. Moving around the interior, our heels clicked on the gleaming marble floors, the sound resonating upward from the foyer, emphasizing the soaring grandeur of the building.

Twelve-foot ceilings, six-foot tall mahogany wainscoting and intricate built-in dark wood cabinetry highlighted the superior artisanship of the 19th century. Period furniture and ancestral art, placed to perfection, made me feel I was touring a museum rather than a home. In almost every room, elaborate colorful flower arrangements welcomed us. The bouquets looked freshly picked—possibly from a garden somewhere on the grounds.

Several times Madame Dubois hastened me along, her fingers gripping my elbow when I stopped to gawk at a sculpture or a painting. “Come this way and I’ll show you the upper floors of the chateau.”

We climbed the stairs to the second landing and strolled down the hallway, Madame pointing toward closed doors as we passed by. “These are the children’s rooms, but they are already in bed.”

My eyebrows lifted in surprise when she said this. Leaving the children alone to fetch me from the station seemed irresponsible, but then again, it was only a five-minute drive.

When we reached the master bedroom, Madame grasped both handles on the double doors and opened them with a flourish. A large, exquisitely carved mahogany bed dominated the room, complemented on either side by matching nightstands. On the opposite wall, a mirrored dressing table accommodated several perfume bottles with crystal stoppers. Beside the six-foot tall window, a dozen burgundy-red roses sat on their own stand, and two graceful armchairs took their places nearby. The royal and light blue silk bedspread and elegant floor length blue-patterned drapes finished the room.

Standing still, drinking in the scene before me, I obeyed with reluctance when Madame Dubois waved me toward the exit.

Continuing up the stairs to the third floor, we entered the first bedroom on the left, one of four on this floor.

“This room is reserved for my au pairs,” Madame Dubois said, prompting a wide-eyed double take from me.

The diminutive room contained a graceful barrel-arched dormer window with two built-in wardrobes on either side. Below the window, a compact desk invited au pairs to sit and write while enjoying the view of the valley below. A small, narrow bed rested against the opposite wall, and a comfortable stuffed chair filled the corner. The adjacent room contained a small sink, but nothing else.

“It’s lovely, but where is the bathroom?”

“Down the hall,” she replied, pointing with her forefinger. “I suppose all of this is quite different from your home in the United States?”

“That’s for sure. I never imagined I would live in a place like this.”

Madame Dubois crossed her arms under her chest. “We will see . . .  My husband and I will listen to your explanation first.”

Descending the stairs, I contrasted my own home with the Château de Montclair. Raised in a humble family with very few extravagances, my reference for this kind of wealth came from television and the movies. My parents shopped at second-hand stores and discount grocers, always settling for the less expensive choice in order to save a dime or two. Over time, they saved and accumulated money, acquiring several low-income rental properties. Influenced by hardships during the Great Depression and World War II and always looking toward the future, they remained hesitant to spend money on anything deemed “unnecessary.”

For the last three years, I lived in one of their apartments while I worked and attended college. Although I appreciated the discounted rent, I dreamt of one day moving into a chic residence in a more sophisticated part of town.

Madame’s voice brought me back to the present. “I’ll pour us some lemonade, and we can wait for Armand in the salon.”

Holding my drink, I followed her into the room, and we sat in two armless chairs near the fireplace. A few minutes later, Monsieur Dubois, debonair in an expensive business suit and tie, sauntered into the room.

Broad-chested and of average height, his brown eyes and olive skin augmented his good looks and suggested a Mediterranean influence. He glanced my way, but before acknowledging my presence, he greeted his wife. Strands of dark wavy hair fell forward as he kissed her on the cheek.

He then turned to me. “Bonsoir, Mademoiselle Kovic.”

The bile revisited my throat. I pushed it down.

Armand, Mademoiselle Kovic ne parle pas français,” she told him. Miss Kovic doesn’t speak French.

Monsieur Dubois scowled and wasted no time dissecting the matter. “I do not understand. The agency assured us that you spoke French. Who wrote the letters for you? Why would you take such a chance?”

“I know it was foolish of me and I’m sorry.” Swallowing back tears, I tried in earnest to explain how and why I had deceived them, my voice cracking on several occasions.

After I finished, neither of them spoke, their cold blank stares daunting. At last Madame Dubois broke the silence. “This is your explanation?”

She didn’t understand how much I wanted the flight attendant position with World Airways. I’ve never wanted anything so much in all my life, I thought.

Desperate now, I leaned forward and offered some final heartfelt words. “You have every right to be angry with me, but I really am a good person. I promise to work very hard as your au pair, and I’ll practice my French daily if you’ll only agree to let me stay.”

A look passed between Madame and Monsieur Dubois, and then he rose from his seat. “We will need a few minutes alone to discuss the matter. Would you mind waiting in the foyer?”

“No, of course not.”

I exited the room, doubt swirling inside my brain. Did I convince them? I wasn’t sure.

While I waited, I chewed my bottom lip, pacing back and forth, my hands clasped behind my back. When Monsieur called me back into the room, my lungs froze in my chest.

“Madame and I have decided to let you stay. As you can see, we have very little choice with the baby coming so soon. We hope this deception is the last we will experience while you are here.”

A long lingering breath escaped from my mouth. “Thank you so much.”

Monsieur Dubois offered me a tenuous smile and his voice softened. “I am sure you are exhausted. Why don’t you go up to bed? Everything will look brighter in the morning after a good night’s rest.”

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | ITUNES

Reprinted with permission from French Illusions by Linda Kovic-Skow. © 2012 by Dog Ear Publishing

1 Comment

Filed under Read a Chapter

Read-a-Chapter: Deadly Plunge by Greg Messel

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the mystery fiction, Deadly Plunge, by Greg Messel. Enjoy!

______________________________________

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Sunbreaks Publishing (October 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0985485922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0985485924

Former baseball player and newly-minted private investigator, Sam Slater is hired to find out why a rich, politically-well connected San Francisco man, Arthur Bolender,  suddenly ended his life by plunging off of the Golden Gate Bridge. All those who know Arthur say unequivocally that he did not commit suicide.  However, Bolender’s body was found floating in San Francisco Bay and his car was abandoned in the traffic lane of the bridge.  Meanwhile, Sam’s romance with glamorous TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan continues to blossom and deepen. She is now his secret fiancee. Amelia also eagerly helps Sam solve his cases when she’s in town. The key to unraveling the mystery seems to be a strange old Victorian-style house. Bolender’s widow, a rich, seductive socialite named Maggie Bolender, was not even aware that her husband owned the house. What is really going on behind the doors of the mysterious house?  Finding the answers will plunge Sam and Amelia into a dangerous world of political intrigue in the exciting sequel to “Last of the Seals.”

______________________________________

Chapter One

When a jumper leaps off of the Golden Gate Bridge it takes only four seconds to hit the waters of San Francisco Bay.

From the pedestrian walkway on the iconic bridge there are breath-taking vistas of the beautiful city. The water below looks shimmering and soft.

It is not.

Instead of gently leaping into the hereafter, the jumper dies the same death he or she would suffer if being hit by a fast-moving car.

There is still something deceptively appealing to those who want to escape life’s problems.

A leap over the railing 245 feet above the water will seemingly work magic in a troubled life. In just four seconds financial problems are over. In four seconds a hated spouse vanishes. In four seconds a broken heart will stop hurting. In four seconds all of the problems with a job or an obnoxious boss disappear.

The water of San Francisco Bay is a frigid 47 degrees and the wind can be bone-chilling on most nights.  There are believed to be more suicides at the Golden Gate Bridge than at any other site in the world.

Those who want to end it all even travel long distances to San Francisco to jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge. Rental cars, belonging to suicide victims, have been found in parking lots at the end of the bridge’s span.

The impact of hitting the water is horrendous.  The jumper’s body is falling at a rate of 80 miles per hour when it slams into San Francisco Bay and essentially stops. However, due to inertia, the internal organs keep traveling, tearing loose from the body.

Autopsy results for jumpers commonly show lacerations to the liver, heart, spleen, and aortas. The skeletal structure takes a pounding as well. There are usually broken sternums, pelvises, necks, and skull fractures.

Some have survived jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge, but not many. Death is almost certain and happens quickly.  Generally, the impact of hitting the water kills the jumper. Occasionally, the jumper is knocked unconscious.

There have been times when the person jumping off of the bridge briefly survives and can be seen flailing around in the water, trying to stay afloat before succumbing to extensive internal bleeding.

Not all jumpers are detected. Some bodies are never found and apparently wash out to sea.

Generally the shattered body of the person plunging off of the bridge is picked up by the Coast Guard and taken to Fort Baker on the shoreline of San Francisco Bay.  It is there that the Marin County Coroner’s office begins tying up loose ends. The body is identified, relatives are notified, and there is an autopsy.

After the body is retrieved, it is placed in a long carrier with handles and covered with a yellow tarp to await the arrival of someone from the coroner’s office. Any personal items are placed on top of the corpse.

On a rainy Monday night in January 1958, Scott Perkins, a young stockbroker was leaving San Francisco, carefully heading across the Golden Gate Bridge to his home in Marin County. Scott had stayed much later at the bachelor party for his friend than he had intended. Tomorrow was a workday and the last thing he needed was to start his Tuesday with no sleep and a hangover.

After work on Monday, Perkins had met a group of friends at a bar on Van Ness for dinner. It was a bachelor party for his co-worker and friend, Michael Smith. But things had gotten out of hand. It was now nearly midnight and he had way too much to drink.

Scott’s hope was to carefully drive over the bridge to the exit near his apartment building without hitting anything or encountering a cop. If either of those things did occur, Scott was undoubtedly on his way to jail.

He was in the home stretch.  Scott slowly navigated his red 1953 Ford through the streets of San Francisco and had successfully found the on-ramp to climb onto the Golden Gate Bridge.

Now all he had to do was to drive straight across the bridge and take the off-ramp near his house, just over a mile into Marin County.

There were very few cars on the Golden Gate Bridge at this late hour on a Monday night. Suddenly, Scott spotted a car in the traffic lane just ahead of him. Struggling with his slow reactions, Scott thought of switching lanes to go around the slow-moving car but for some reason he didn’t.

Then to his horror, Scott realized that the car was stopped in the traffic lane.  He slammed on his brakes.

Scott winced, praying that he had hit his brakes in time. It was going to be close.

He then heard a sickening thud and felt the impact. Scott’s Ford slid on the wet pavement into the back of the giant fins of a 1957 red Chrysler New Yorker.

Hopefully, it was just a fender bender.  Scott glanced over at the nearby lane to make sure there were no cars coming. He bailed out of his Ford and went to survey the damage.

Scott’s Ford had a broken headlight and maybe a small dent in the front bumper.  The back of the Chrysler had more damage. The taillight on the driver’s side of the Chrysler was broken and the large fin was crumpled.

Scott staggered forward to see if the driver of the Chrysler was all right.

Why was this car stopped in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge? It wasn’t stalled. The engine was still running and the automatic transmission was in park.  He couldn’t see the driver.

In his confused state, he opened the door of the Chrysler. There was no driver. He glanced into the backseat, which was empty. The scene was surreal to Scott Perkins in his altered state. For some reason Scott could hear Connie Francis singing, “Who’s Sorry Now?” Then he realized that the radio was playing and the windshield wipers were running.

Where was the driver?

Scott was sobering up quickly. He was mystified at the abandoned car.

It was then that an explanation occurred to him. He glanced towards the nearby pedestrian walkway and the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The driver had apparently stopped his car and jumped off of the bridge.

Reprinted from Deadly Plunge by Greg Messel. © 2012 by Greenbriar Book Company

Leave a comment

Filed under Read a Chapter

Read-A-Chapter: Paranormal Suspense Thriller ‘Cocaine Zombies’ by Scott A. Lerner

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the paranormal suspense thriller, Cocaine Zombies, by Scott A. Lerner. Enjoy!

______________________________________

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Camel Press (November 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603819037
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603819039

Samuel Roberts, a small-town lawyer in Urbana, Illinois, is contacted by a prospective client accused of selling cocaine. Nothing Sam hasn’t handled before. Or is it? Thomas is accompanied by a mysterious and exotic beauty named Chloe. Who is she, why is she paying for Thomas’s defense, and why is the accused so antsy around her?

Soon after Sam takes on the case he is plagued by terrible nightmares. Only, in these nightmares, when he dreams of death, people die. Realizing that he is out of his depth, Sam enlists the help of his friend, Bob Sizemore. Bob is oddly insightful about the supernatural and deeply suspicious of big business and the government. Sam and Bob soon discover that a major German pharmaceutical company has been using human guinea pigs to test a highly addictive and dangerous derivative of cocaine first developed in Nazi Germany. Combined with ancient herbs provided by a Voodoo priest, the substance has become increasingly addictive and dangerous.

After Thomas’s head shows up in Sam’s refrigerator, suspicion naturally falls on him. Now he has no choice but to face the forces of evil head on. But how do a small-town lawyer and a computer geek defeat an enemy with the power to enslave mankind?

______________________________________

Chapter One

I’ve been a lawyer for about ten years. In that time I have always worked for someone else; first for a small law firm and then for the public defender. For the first time in my career, I had opened my own office. The office itself is nothing special, a ten-by-ten foot room on the top floor of a six-story white mason block building. It has about the same dimensions as the jail cells I try to keep my clients out of. The building was originally designed to house apartments, but the architect did not put in enough closets. So the owner was trying to attract anyone who would bite. The result is that some floors contained offices, and others, apartments.

After I moved in I gave the walls a fresh coat of white paint. Actually, eggshellwas written on the can, but it looked white to me. I bought two file cabinets, three chairs, and a wooden bench at a used office supply store. I arranged the office so that the one comfortable chair sat behind the large desk and the two armchairs faced it. The desk is the only nice piece of office furniture I own. It is mission style and made of smoked oak, built around the turn of the century. My father, who gave it to me, claimed it was made by Stickley, but I doubt it. I have a laptop computer and a printer on my desk and pay enough money to get all the research tools I need online.

I also have a secretary named Susan who comes in a couple hours on the weekends to help with typing and filing.

Looking around, I realized I had everything I needed to practice law—other than clients, of course.

As if in answer to my thoughts, the phone rang. “Law Office,” I responded in a too cheerful voice.

“Is Samuel Roberts there?”

“This is he,” I said, grateful it wasn’t a call for Domino’s Pizza. They had a phone number similar to mine and despite just opening the office I had already received a number of calls for pepperoni and extra cheese.

“I was told you do criminal work.”

“Sure, what can I do for you?” I asked.

“It’s not for me but for my friend. Can we make an appointment?”

“Sure,” I said, pretending to be looking at something other than a completely empty calendar. “How about Friday at nine a.m.?”

“Could we get in today, by any chance?”

“All right, how about four?”

“Thanks.”

The caller sounded like she had money but it might have been wishful thinking. In the world of criminal law, most potential clients don’t have money. It is always a mistake to allow clients to pay over time in a criminal case. If you lose, your clients will have to pay fines and costs, and your bill isn’t a priority. If your clients go to jail, they’re out of work and have no way of paying. Also, clients who go to jail tend not to care about their lawyers being paid. If you win, clients don’t need you anymore and so won’t feel the need to pay you.

I played Halo on the computer until four p.m., when there was a knock on the door. “Come in,” I said.

In came an African-American man with a shaved head. He was six foot two and couldn’t have weighed less than  three hundred pounds. He had a four-inch scar above his right eye. With him was the woman I must have spoken with over the phone. She was probably five foot six and had long, straight black hair and bright green eyes. She looked tiny compared with her friend, but there was no doubt who was in charge. She was wearing a green dress in a snake-skin pattern. It was so tight I was concerned that it would rip when she sat down. Her perfume filled the room, replacing the smell of my fresh paint with a scent both sweet and hot, like a mix of honey with Tabasco sauce.

The woman wore a gold necklace with a strange pendant strategically placed so as to draw the maximum attention to her large breasts. The pendant was a gold chicken’s foot squeezing a very large, pink, heart-shaped diamond. If the diamond was real, money was not an issue. Her gold men’s tank-style Patek Philippe watch probably dated back to the 1940’s. This woman could more than afford my rates. Her friend, however, was wearing torn blue jeans and a white muscle shirt. She might be able to pay, but my guess was he couldn’t. I sure hoped she liked this guy.

The woman spoke first. I couldn’t place her accent. “My name is Chloe,” she said, extending a hand, which I shook. “My friend is Thomas. Thomas is charged with selling cocaine. He didn’t do it. He needs a lawyer to get him off. Can you do that?”

“I can give him good representation. If you want a fortune-teller, I’m afraid I can’t help you.” I immediately regretted the sarcasm, but she ignored it.

“He is being charged with a Class X felony. With his record he could be in the Department of Corrections for the rest of his life.”

A class X felony subjects a defendant to a term in the penitentiary from six to thirty years. In addition, if convicted, the defendant would serve eighty-five percent of the imprisonment rather than fifty percent for most crimes. There is a possibility of an even lengthier sentence, depending on other factors such as the defendant’s record.

“Why don’t you sit down and tell me what is going on,” I said, looking directly at Thomas. Chloe began to speak. “Chloe,” I interrupted, “what Thomas and I speak about is privileged. The attorney client privilege assures our conversations can’t be used in court against him. If you are present, it would be considered a waiver of that privilege and you could be subpoenaed to testify about our conversation. Would you mind waiting outside?”

What I said was legally correct but I doubted that the State would know to subpoena her. I was really just trying to get rid of her and I think she knew it. She left without another word.

Thomas seemed more at ease the minute she left. I entered his address and phone number in my computer. From his slight accent, I guessed he must have spent time in the Caribbean. He had a tattoo depicting two snakes intertwining around a cross on his left upper arm that reminded me of the symbol doctors use—the caduceus. Although the symbol used in the medical profession has only one snake, not two.

“I have sold crack in the past,” he said, “but just to get money or drugs for my own use. I spent some time in the Illinois Department of Corrections and don’t want to go back.” I nodded. “While in the joint, I found Jesus and accepted him as my Savior.”

Of course, I thought, everyone finds Jesus when they have all day to look. From my experience more people find religion at the Stateville Correctional Facility in Joliet then Jerusalem, Mecca, and Mississippi combined.

He continued, “I have a ten-year-old daughter, and I don’t want to miss being a part of her life. That’s why I wouldn’t risk selling drugs and going to prison. Since I got out I have been completely clean.”

“Are you still on parole?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he responded.

That was odd. I wondered why they would let him out on bond and not issue a parole hold.

“What does the government claim you did?”

“Sold coke, but I swear I didn’t. Why would I?” he whined.

For money or drugs, I thought, why does anyone sell drugs?

“What is your last name and date of birth?”

“Traver, October 30, 1964.”

I did a quick computer search of the circuit clerk’s website to find Mr. Traver had five prior drug convictions, including two class one felonies. He had three prior convictions in the last ten years. Each of those convictions was after the birth of his daughter. The fact that he was out of jail was shocking. It looked as if he had posted a $50,000 bond. That was a lot of money for the man in front of me to come up with—a lot of money for anyone to come up with.

I was good at judging who was trying to deceive me. You learn quickly in the Public Defender’s Office. Despite all this crap about finding religion and his daughter, I believed Mr. Traver. Something about his demeanor made me trust him.

“Why would the police lie about you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, “a lot of the cops in this area hate me. They can’t get over my past. Who knows? Maybe I just look like someone else.”

“If you want me to get involved, I will need a retainer of five thousand dollars,” I said.

He looked shocked. I knew it was more than he could pay, but I had an office to run. And if he could pay to bond out, he could certainly pay me.

“Can I talk to Chloe?”

“Sure.”

He left the room and Chloe came back in with a wad of cash in her hand. I guessed it was $5,000. She handed me the money and I took it.

As I walked them to the door, I told them that I would file an entry of appearance and a demand for discovery. “When I get the police reports, I’ll let you know,” I said. I waited until they left to count the fifty hundred-dollar bills.

My mind wandered as I speculated where Chloe kept the roll of money in that tight dress. I didn’t remember her carrying a purse. The money reeked of her scent.

Reprinted from Cocaine Zombies by Scott A. Lerner. © 2012 by Camel Press.

Leave a comment

Filed under Read a Chapter