May 032016
 

Veil of Deception

by Michael Byars Lewis

on Tour April 18 – May 31, 2016

 

Veil of Deception 

For years, Air Force Captain Jason Conrad flew and instructed in the supersonic T-38. Despite his decline into a self-destructive lifestyle, he was considered one of the best instructors on the base. Following a terrifying jet crash, Jason finds himself on a very short list of people on their way out the door. It is a surprise to everyone when he is assigned to the home of the U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center. Jason should have known that in a ‘one mistake Air Force’ where you ‘do more with less’, everything would not be what it appears. Attached to a secret project with a shadowy contractor, Jason is caught between two complications; an overbearing, retired general determined to see him fail; and an aggressive television reporter who wants him in prison. When a ghost from the past shows up and a beautiful, yet mysterious woman enters his life, Jason soon discovers his special project has more secrets than anyone knows about . . . and it could cost him his life.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: SATCOM Publishing
Publication Date: April 2016
Number of Pages: 458
ISBN: 0991476425, 9780991476428
Purchase Links: Amazon iBooks Barnes & Noble SmashWords Goodreads

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Chapter 1

April 14, 2001

SHERRI DAVIS APPROACHED THE ENTRYWAY, already regretting her decision. After filling out paperwork and release forms for thirty minutes, she stood hidden behind the filthy curtain covering the doorway, the knot in her belly growing tighter. She pulled a small section of the worn fabric to the side. Colored lights blinked rapidly, and several spotlights locked on the mirrored ball above the stage, creating hundreds of dancing reflections around the large room.
“It doesn’t hurt, ya know,” a voice said over the loud music.
Turning her head, Sherri spied a girl in her late teens standing next to her.
“You look nervous. It’s your first time, isn’t it?” the girl said to Sherri.
“Yes,” she said, releasing the curtain and facing the woman. In the dark hallway, Sherri could barely make out the girl’s features, though her heavy eyelashes and straight black hair were clearly prominent. It was the young girl whose locker was next to hers.
“It’s not like sex. Doesn’t hurt the first time.”
Sherri nodded. “Got any advice?”
“Have fun sweetie, that’s my advice,” the girl said. “Go out there and relax. You’ll do fine.”
“Relax,” Sherri replied. “Right.”
“Honey, once those assholes start handing you twenties to sit on their lap, you’ll relax,” the girl said. “Now get on out there and bring home the bacon,” the girl said as she patted Sherri on the rear. Sherri noticed the pat was a little too soft and lingered a little too long before the girl retreated back down the hallway toward the stage entrance.
Sherri sighed heavily, her hands pressing the pleats of her skirt. She cupped her breasts for a quick adjustment and pulled her shoulders back. Her transition from the dark hallway to the work area was dramatic. The mist spewing from the smoke machine burned her eyes, and her ears pulsed each time the deep bass vibrated through the speakers. Her steps were short and deliberate, as if she had a choice in these five-inch stiletto heels. She gave up the security of the doorway, crossed her arms in front of her breasts and meandered between the tables, dodging a waitress carrying a tray full of beers.
The girl, nineteen at most, took the stage like a veteran and danced around the pole while a variety of wishful male suitors watched her every move. Sherri scanned the crowd. The darkness of the bar, the mist, and the flashing lights made it difficult to see anything in detail. The music made her head hurt. Unable to see the two men she was looking for, she began to worry she might be wasting her time.
“Hey, baby,” an overweight, drunk businessman said as he reached out and tried to grab her arm.
“Not tonight, sweetie,” Sherri replied, pulling away, never making eye contact. She gave the bald drunk the brush-off with her right hand. He shook his head and walked off toward another girl; alcohol making him more optimistic than he had a right to be.
While she looked the part—plaid miniskirt and a white button-down tied in front of her push-up bra—she realized she wasn’t acting the part. She sensed her movements through the bar were awkward. Relax. Standing in place, she tapped her foot to the music and rhythmically swayed her body. Sherri closed her eyes and started a slow, seductive dance in place. Her hips swayed like sea oats blowing in the ocean breeze. It didn’t take long before the men nearby stared at her instead of the stage, waving twenty dollar bills at her. Feeling more confident, she moved around the bar again. She had to work fast, as she was scheduled to make her stage debut in half an hour.
After a couple minutes meandering through the crowded bar and refusing three more requests for lap dances, she saw the first subject. He had come out of the men’s room and returned to a table located away from the stage. His name was Ahmed Alnami, a Saudi Arabian living in and moving around the United States. Now he was in Pensacola, sitting at a table with Saeed Alghamdi, his partner now getting a lap dance from one of the girls. Alnami sat at the table where he took a long swig of his beer and gave his partner a big smile. Weren’t these two supposed to be devout Muslims? Why were they here?
Sherri recognized her opportunity and approached the table. She leaned toward Alnami, her breasts at eye level, right in front of him. He stared in her eyes, looking fearful. Not the fear of danger. The innocent fear, like a teenage boy about to lose his virginity. “Hey, big boy,” she cooed, “are you lonely?” Alnami continued to stare, clearly unsure what to do.
Sherri smiled and pointed at her eyes. “Honey, you need to change your focus from here, to here,” she said as she moved her hands to her breasts. Alnami’s face beamed.
“Yes, please to sit,” he said in broken English. Sherri sat on his lap. He was a small man; Sherri was taller than he. No wonder he was smiling—a blond Amazon had landed in his lap. She reached over and ran her hand through his hair. It was oily and hadn’t been washed for a while. Wiping her hand on the back of his shirt, she cringed, yet forced a weak smile. Alnami lunged his face forward and buried it in her breasts. Sherri pushed him back. She wanted to punch him, but that would undo all she’d accomplished.
“Settle down, big boy, we need to get to know each other first.”
“This is what I want,” he said, pointing at his partner, whose lap dancer was grinding aggressively into him.
“Oh, you’ll get that and more,” she replied. “We’ve got to do some talking first.”
“What is this talking?” he said in a louder voice. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of bills. The smile faded and his eyes bulged. “I want boobies! I want the grind-a-grind!” The teenage innocence disappeared, and the self-absorbed arrogance of the immature adult surfaced. He started to push her off his lap. Sensing she was losing her opportunity, she grabbed his head and shoved his face back into her breasts.
“Better?” She pulled his face from her bosom, and the big smile had returned.
“Yes please.”
“Now, before I give you the grind-a-grind, we’ve got to get to know each other. What’s your name?”
“Ahm—” He paused. “Keevin. My name is Keevin.”
“Kevin? Okay, Kevin will work for now. My name is Bambi. What do you do, Kevin?”
“I do fine. Thank you, Bom-bi.”
Sherri cringed. This was painful. “What’s your job?”
“Oh, I train to be pilot.”
Interesting. She shifted herself on his lap and ran the fingers of her left hand along the buttons of his shirt. “Are you out at the Navy base?”
“Yes.” His eyes remained focused on her breasts.
“How long are you in town?”
“Two more weeks.”
Sherri thought for a moment. The two Saudis had already been in Pensacola for two weeks. Obviously, they weren’t students, and they weren’t flying with the Navy, but they were there to fly something.
“You must be really smart,” she said. “Not everybody gets to fly airplanes.”
“I am one of Allah’s warriors,” Alnami said, his voice rising. “Allahu Akbar.”
Sherri studied Alnami. “What is Allah having you do?” She bit her lower lip, realizing she might have pushed the conversation too far, too fast.
His eyes moved from her breasts back to her eyes. His nostrils flared as he bared his yellowing teeth. “No more talk of this!” Alnami shouted, unnoticed by the rest of the room. “I want grind-a-grind from you!” He pulled a fifty out of his pocket and waved it at her. Sherri sighed, realizing she would not get any more information unless she took it to the next level. That was not going to happen. She took the bill and stuck it in her bra.
She rose from his lap and posed in front of him, hands on her hips. He’s done talking. It’s time to get out of here. She slowly swayed back and forth, running her hands along the sides of her hips up to her breasts. The dancing must have been good, because she noticed his partner staring at her while still getting his lap dance.
Sherri leaned forward, nearly rubbing her breasts from his knees to his head, her body barely missing contact with his. She said in his ear, “How about you and me leave this place?”
Alnami’s smile grew bigger. “Yes, please!”
Pushing herself away from him, she moved behind his chair and ran hands down the front of his chest. “Okay, I’ve got to go clock out and change clothes. I’ll be back here in fifteen minutes. Don’t move.”
“I not move. Don’t change your clothes! You sexy momma!”
Sherri forced a weak smile. “Okay, baby. Whatever you want.”
She left the table and headed to the entryway with the dirty curtain.
She walked through the dark hallway, entered the dressing room, and pulled the door behind her, shielding her eyes from the steady light. As her eyes adjusted, she walked to her locker and gathered her things. Standing in front of one of the mirrors, she pulled off the blond wig, and her deep red hair fell to her shoulders. Pulling out a brush, she touched it up from where the wig had pressed it down or tangled it. She then grabbed her tan overcoat and slipped it over her shoulders. Retrieving her clothes from her locker, she knew making a quick exit was more important than comfort. A few of the other girls gazed at her with curiosity and envy.
“Sorry, ladies, I’m not cut out for this,” she said. She turned and walked out the back door of the strip club.
Reaching the exit, she glanced left and right as she walked out the door. The light by the back door was burned out, making the parking lot dark. She clutched her purse tightly and gripped the can of mace in her coat pocket as she walked to her rental car, a shiny new red Toyota Celica. She grabbed her keys and cell phone from her purse and climbed in. Kicking off the stiletto heels, she cranked the engine and pulled on to Highway 98, dialing on her cell phone as she drove.
The phone answered on the first ring. “Did you get it?” the voice asked.
“No, I didn’t get that far. Alnami was getting a little too friendly.”
“I told you this might happen. Did you find out anything?”
“They’re here two more weeks, and they’ll be flying next week, but I don’t know what and I don’t know why. Sorry, it’s the best I was willing to do under the circumstances.”
“Okay,” the voice replied. “Get back here tomorrow. I’ve got something else for you.”
“Like what?” She was more interested in getting some rest at this point.
“Our informant in New York wants to meet with you ASAP.”
“All right,” Sherri said begrudgingly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” As she hung up the phone, the car lurched forward. The phone slipped from her fingers, falling to the floorboard as her body slammed into her seat belt. She glanced in the rearview mirror as a car slid back and accelerated toward her again.
“What the hell?” she said, assessing the situation.
She put both hands on the wheel, and her foot pressed the accelerator as the car made contact with the red Celica a second time. As she reached the Pensacola Bay Bridge, the vehicle behind her changed lanes. She struggled as it maneuvered to strike her car in the left rear fender in an attempt to spin the car. She accelerated again, making the assailant miss his mark. Traffic was light this time of night, but there were enough vehicles to put between her and her attacker.
The mystery car pulled behind her, two car lengths back. She managed to accelerate away from it, but still had a good two miles to go on the bridge. Every time she passed a vehicle, the car followed her. Who the hell was attacking her? Could it be Alnami? No, she hadn’t been gone long enough. He would still be waiting for her inside the strip club, probably constructing ridiculous fantasies in his head.
It was a dark, starless night, and the rise in the bridge was a half mile away. This hump in the bridge allowed larger boats to enter and exit Pensacola Bay from the Gulf. Once on the other side, she would be in civilization again.
Vinyl and glass shards flew everywhere inside the vehicle as bullets pierced the back window of her car and hit the passenger side of the dashboard. She screamed and let go of the steering wheel, her foot coming off the gas for an instant.
“Holy shit!”
Her eyes darted back and forth as her car veered toward the rail to her right. Grabbing the steering wheel, she pressed the accelerator once again as she jerked her car away from the side rail.
“Oh, God,” she said, “why the hell are they shooting at me?”
She swerved to put another car between them, then pushed the accelerator to the floor. The innocent car she just passed bumped into the guardrail, sending sparks flying. It spun around as the assailant hit the car from the rear, then continued on. The dark sedan accelerated and closed the distance between them. She felt trapped as her Celica could not gain any more speed.
Another burst of machine-gun fire. Sherri screamed as the bullets struck the rear of her vehicle. At the bottom of the hump, she checked her rearview mirror. Shattered glass and bullet holes in the rear window were all she could see. There was no sign of the vehicle chasing her. Her heart raced as she hoped they’d stopped their pursuit. Based on the lights in the distance, she estimated she’d reach the end of the bridge in less than a minute.
With a quarter mile to go until she reached the end of the bridge, the car shuddered. Sherri’s gaze shifted to the front of her car, and her shoulders slumped. She beat her fist against the steering wheel as smoke rose from under the hood and the car started decelerating.
The speedometer read 80 mph at this point, but the car no longer responded to her foot pressing the accelerator. She pushed it all the way to the floor, but nothing. In her rearview mirror, she noticed the assailant closing in behind her. The car had closed within three car lengths when another round of bullets hit her vehicle.
Her heart raced as she reached the end of the bridge and the Celica slowed to 55 mph.
“Shit! If I break down on this bridge, I’m done,” she said as she pumped the accelerator. “Who the hell are these guys?”
The Celica slowed to 25 mph now, and other cars quickly caught and passed her.
Searching for her assailant in the mirror, she saw the dark-colored sedan make a U-turn at the end of the bridge and head toward Pensacola.
In front of her, red-and-blue lights danced on top of a parked car. Sherri had driven into a speed trap, and her assailants had turned and run.
“Yeah!” she shrieked. “Take that, asshole! You’d better run!”
A faint nervous smile eased across her face as she glided the unpowered vehicle into the right lane and onto the side of the road. The car came to a stop, and as soon as she put it in park, her body began shaking as the adrenaline faded. Leaning forward on the steering wheel, she started sobbing. She had almost been killed. A myriad of thoughts raced through her head as the police car pulled in behind her. The officer walked up and tapped on the window with his flashlight. Her finger pushed the button aft, lowering the window, and she covered her eyes as he shined the light in her face.
“Driver’s license and registration,” he said.
“No problem,” she replied. Automatically, she dug in her purse for her driver’s license. When she reached into the glove box for the rental agreement, she glanced in the passenger’s side mirror and saw the dark outline of the officer’s partner approaching the other side of her vehicle. You think he’d say something about the smoke coming from under the hood, she thought, or the blown-out back window.
She stopped digging and glanced back at the officer who spoke to her. Is he wearing jeans? With a quick glance back to the passenger-side mirror, she saw his partner approaching the vehicle was wearing—shorts? Wait, how could this guy not have noticed the bullet holes?
“Hey, what agency are you guys with?” she said as she turned back to the cop. Before she could react, he jammed a long stick through the window and pressed it into her neck. The electric shock was fast and intense, then—blackness.

Chapter 2

April 15, 2001

A SMALL SLIVER of glistening sunlight cut through the dark hotel room, illuminating its small interior. Dust particles danced through the piercing beam like fireflies on a clear summer night. The light pried into his consciousness while the grinding gears of a construction vehicle outside ripped it open. Jason Conrad buried his face in a pillow and moaned as his head felt ready to explode. He recognized this place, barely. The hangover reminded him that his recent lifestyle choices had their consequences.
It didn’t take long for his body to tell him he needed to relieve himself. Sitting up, he swung his feet off the bed and glanced next to him, rubbing the sides of his throbbing temples with his fingertips. The blonde lay strewn out, nude on top of the sheets. She had every appearance of being attractive from here, but he struggled to remember her face. He definitely could not remember her name.
Jason tiptoed to the bathroom, as much to protect his pounding head as not to wake the blonde. After relieving himself, he washed his hands and face and brushed his teeth. When he left the bathroom, she was sitting up in the bed, watching him. She is pretty. Now, what is her name again?
“Good morning, sexy,” she said. She sounded much more awake than he did.
“Hi,” Jason said. She was too bubbly for early morning.
“I can’t believe you’re up,” she said in a strong Texas drawl.
“Yeah.”
“Am I still beautiful?”
Jason grinned. “Absolutely.”
“You’re quiet this morning. You wouldn’t stop talking last night.”
Vague memories of the night before pushed themselves into his consciousness. He crawled back into the bed, and she leaned over and kissed him.
“Oh, you brushed your teeth. I’ll be right back,” she said, climbing out of bed and walking to the bathroom.
Jason studied her figure. She had all the right equipment. He could see why he would have been talkative. Now he wished he didn’t drink as much. He realized this was a night he would have liked to remember.
Yesterday started off well. As flight lead of a four-ship of T-38s, they’d done a flyover for a Texas Rangers game. It was a great TDY, or temporary duty, to Dallas, with per diem. The flyover during the national anthem at the Ballpark in Arlington was uneventful, and they landed at Naval Air Station Fort Worth, formerly known Carswell Air Force Base, right afterward.
When they finished securing their jets, a limousine arrived to pick them up outside Base Operations. One of the Rangers’ owners provided the limo for their ride to the stadium. It contained a cooler full of beer and a tray of cheese and crackers to tide them over until they arrived at the stadium in Arlington.
It was a tight fit with eight sweaty, cocky T-38 instructors, but they didn’t care. They were amazed at the red carpet treatment and relished every minute of it. The pilots were treated like rock stars in the owners’ VIP suite, with all the food and alcohol they wanted. After the game, the limo drove them to the West End in Dallas. Jason and his buddies found themselves in Gators, a piano bar/restaurant with dueling white grand pianos and a rowdy crowd. He remembered meeting her at Gators. What is her name?
Jason rolled over on his back and stared at the ceiling. What have I become? Is this the life I want to live? The nameless faces of his women over the years skipped through his thoughts. He felt empty. Like every other one-night stand, she crept back into his head. What happened to the one who’d slipped away six years ago? Whatever happened to Kathy Delgato?
The door to the bathroom opened, and the blonde sauntered back into the room. She took the time to brush her hair and put on lipstick. Posing at the end of the bed, she riveted her eyes at him wantonly.
“Oh, good, you’re still awake.” She traipsed around the bed to the window and opened the curtain, standing nude in front of the window.
“I can’t help it,” she said with a wry smile, turning to face him. “I’m an exhibitionist.”
“Clearly.”
“What time do you fly back?” She posed seductively in front of the window.
Jason glanced at the clock. Red digital numbers displayed eight thirty-three. The pilots planned to leave the hotel at noon. “I need to be at the base at eleven,” he lied.
“Oh,” she said, sauntering toward him.
“Do I…” He paused. “Do I need to get you a ride home?” Jason couldn’t remember how they made it back to the hotel.
“No silly. I drove us, remember?”
No, and I can’t remember your name either, so please don’t ask.
“Well,” he said, glancing at the clock, “we have some time.”
The blonde smiled and crawled back onto the bed. Jason stopped hating himself as she wrapped her arms around him. Even drunk, he had done very well.

SHERRI SHIVERED from the cool breeze as she lay on her back. Fading in and out of consciousness, she tossed her head from side to side. Various colors edged their way into her brain as she awoke. She writhed in place, and the ground shifted slightly. Her muscles ached, but the sun on her face was irritating. When she tried to open her eyes, her hand shielded them from the brightness. The smell of saltwater filled her nostrils as waves crashed onto the shore.
She was at the beach.
The sun glared as she struggled again to open her eyes. The sky was a bright blue, and seagulls called out to her as they bobbed and weaved ten feet overhead, floating rather than flying.
Her body ached. Rolling her head to the right, she saw nothing but white sand and sea oats. To the left was more of the same, but with a stinging sensation as she turned her head. Sherri managed to roll over on her left side and prop herself up on her elbow. Her joints were stiff and her skin covered with goose bumps. Her head hurt as she tried to figure out how she ended up here, wherever here turned out to be.
Shifting her weight, she managed to sit up on her knees and check herself out. Nothing was broken, and she didn’t notice any injuries other than the neck pain, stiff joints, and sore muscles. She realized she still wore the schoolgirl outfit from the strip club the night before. Checking her bra and panties, she found everything in place and Alnami’s fifty-dollar bill still tucked in her bra.
What the hell happened? Someone chased her on the bridge and shot up her car, but she managed to escape. The cop. He did something to her. When she placed her hand on the left side of her neck, the pain shot through her body again. The cop shocked her with something. Only he wasn’t a cop. Who were those guys? They had to be working together. She was an easy target and nobody is that bad of a shot to miss her for that long. Whoever it was, they were sending her a message. The thoughts made her head hurt as she shielded her eyes from the sun, which was inching its way above the horizon.
Sherri rose to her feet and realized she had no shoes. She inspected her clothes, what little she wore. Rolling off the white stockings, she tossed them in the sand and untied her white shirt to cover her belly. She buttoned up her shirt and felt a little more comfortable. She slowly brushed the sand off her thighs, waist, and arms. Placing her hands in her deep red hair, she desperately tried to shake out the sand. It would take days, she determined, if not weeks, to get all of the sand out. She searched around her immediate area: no purse, no phone, and no car keys.
When she started on this story, Sherri never realized she would experience something like this. She always enjoyed the sense of accomplishment from hard work. As an investigative reporter, she put herself in many compromising situations, but this had been the worst. Being shot at wasn’t something new, but being shot at with automatic weapons was a twist. Even in Sarajevo, she hadn’t faced such firepower. There she’d been dodging sniper fire.
Sherri tried to analyze the events, but her head ached, and she realized she was dehydrated. She scanned the beach. The closest people to her were an elderly couple using metal detectors a hundred yards to the east. To the west, more people in the distance, the silhouettes of condos and hotels, and the familiar water tower of Pensacola Beach. She guessed it was about three miles away. Leaving the solitude of the sea oats and sand dunes of this isolated portion of the beach, Sherri trudged toward the water, then west, toward civilization.

Author Bio:

Michael Byars LewisMichael Byars Lewis, is a former AC-130U ‘Spooky’ Gunship Evaluator Pilot with 18 years in Air Force Special Operations Command. A 25-year Air Force pilot, he has flown special operations combat missions in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. His first novel, SURLY BONDS, won three awards—2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards: Silver Medal Finalist 1st Novel (Over 80,000 words), 2013 Readers’ Favorites: Bronze Medal (Fiction-Intrigue), and the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Awards: Winner (Military Fiction). Michael has an extensive social media footprint on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest. Michael is currently a pilot for a major U.S. airline.

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May 022016
 

The Wages of Sin

by Nancy Allen

on Tour April 26 – May 11, 2016

The Wages of Sin by Nancy Allen“The Elsie Arnold series deserves to run and run.”— Alex Marwood, author of The Wicked Girls and The Killer Next Door

In rural McCown County, Missouri, a young pregnant woman is found beaten to death in a trailer park. The only witness to the murder is Ivy, her six-year-old daughter, who points to her mom’s boyfriend—father of the unborn child. County prosecutor Madeleine Thompson promises the community justice, and in the Ozarks, that can only mean one thing: a death sentence.

When Madeleine’s first choice for co-counsel declines to try a death penalty case, she is forced to turn to assistant prosecutor Elsie Arnold. Elsie is reluctant to join forces with her frosty boss, but the road to conviction seems smooth—until unexpected facts about the victim arise, and the testimony of the lone eyewitness Ivy becomes increasingly crucial. Against Elsie’s advice, Madeleine brings in the state attorney general’s office to assist them, while cutthroat trial attorney Claire O’Hara joins the defense.

Elsie will not let the power of prosecution—of seeking justice—be wrested from her without a fight. She wants to win the case, and to avenge the death of the mother and her unborn child. But as the trial nears, Elsie begins to harbor doubts about the death penalty itself. Meanwhile, the child Ivy is in greater danger than anyone knows.

“Unflinching and gritty.” — Library Journal

Book Details:

Genre: Legal Thriller, Crime
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: 04/26/2016
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0062438751 (9780062438751)
Series: An Ozarks Mystery, 3rd | Each is a Stand Alone Thriller
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads

Author Bio:

Nancy AllenNancy Allen practiced law for 15 years as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. She has tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and is now a law instructor at Missouri State University. Her first novel,The Code of the Hills, was published by HarperCollins in 2014. The Wages of Sin, is the third book in her Ozarks mystery series.

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Oh my God. Let this be over, Elsie thought, doodling on the page of a legal pad. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Elsie Arnold had been tied up in Judge Carter’s court for nearly two hours that morning, representing the State of Missouri in a preliminary hearing. The criminal defendant was charged with robbery in the first degree. Only Judge Carter, Elsie thought, would be coldhearted enough to subject her to a robbery prelim on the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend.

Public Defender Josh Nixon was grilling the bank president, Donna Hudson, in cross-examination.

“So you were present at the time of the alleged robbery?”

“Yes—I said so. In my office.”

“But isn’t it true that, if you were shut up in your office, you did not have occasion to hear whether the defendant threatened any harm?”

“The buzzer sounded. I heard it.” The woman sat stiff, with righteous indignation in every wrinkle of her face.

“The alarm, right? But you didn’t hear any statements made by the defendant, did you? Because you remained safely in the back of the bank.”

“I saw the bomb.”

A comical grin grew on the defense attorney’s face; Elsie closed her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see it.

“The bomb?” he repeated.

“The box. The box with the tape.”

The criminal complaint filed by the prosecution did not allege that the defendant had threatened the bank employee with a bomb. The criminal charge stated that the defendant threatened the use of what appeared to be a bomb.

“Describe this box, please.”

“It was a box, about this size,” she said, making a rectangle shape with her hands. “And it was covered with duct tape.”

“Did the defendant detonate this deadly bomb? This dangerous instrument you described?”

The banker eyed the defense attorney with resentment. “You know what happened.”

“Tell me. For the record.”

“The bank teller gave him the money. Everything in her drawer. He ran out, left that box on the counter.”

“Then what happened?”

“The bomb squad came and took over.”

“What did they do? If you know.”

“They exploded it.” The lines deepened around the woman’s mouth. “They blew it up. And the mess went everywhere.”

“Mess? What kind of mess?”

Elsie wanted to cover her ears to block out the answer that was coming.

“The chocolate, the cherries.”

Josh Nixon leaned on the empty jury box, nodding sagely. “So the bomb was not a bomb at all? It was—what did you say?”

“A box of candy. Chocolate-covered cherries. Wrapped in duct tape.”

“And for the record, Ms. Hudson: was the money recovered? The money from the bank teller’s drawer?”

“Yes, it was. But—”

Before she could complete her sentence, the defense attorney turned his back to her, cutting the witness off. “No further questions,” he said, and walked back to the counsel table. Nixon slid into his seat, stretching his long legs out in front of him and tucking his longish sun-streaked hair behind his ear. He hadn’t bothered to don a tie.

Judge Carter, a slim man in his forties with prematurely silver hair, peered at Elsie over his glasses. “Redirect?”

Elsie stood at the counsel table, looking at the bank president with an encouraging face. “But did it appear to be a bomb? When the defendant threatened the teller with it?”

“Objection,” Nixon said, sitting up straight. “The witness wasn’t present, has no way of knowing other than hearsay!”

Elsie barked back. “You’re the one who opened the door on this line of questioning. In your cross-examination.”

The bank president rose from her chair, the picture of aggrieved fury. “What I want to know,” she said, “is who is going to pay? For that mess? The cleaning of the bank lobby?”

Judge Carter slammed the gavel. The bank president jumped, startled, and hopped back onto her seat on the witness stand.

“Ms. Arnold—further questions?”

“No.”

“Any further witnesses on behalf of the defense?”

“No,” said Nixon.

The judge turned to his clerk. “The court finds probable cause. Defendant is bound over to Circuit Court on the charge of robbery in the first degree. Arraignment to be held Friday at 9:00 A.M.”

When the judge left the bench, Josh Nixon turned to whisper with his client, a long-haired young man with a bushy mustache. The president of Bank of the Hilltop, Donna Hudson, stormed off the witness stand and bore down on Elsie.

“How could I be treated this way in a court of law?”

“No one meant to mistreat you,” Elsie said in a soothing voice. “It was just cross-examination—the defense attorney gets to ask questions. I explained that to you before.”

“But I am the victim. My family owns the bank.”

“That’s right, Donna. But the defense has the right to confront the witnesses against him.”

“Who gave that criminal the right to confront me? I am a taxpaying citizen.”

Elsie backed up a step, angling to make a getaway. “The US Constitution. Sixth Amendment.”

The banker’s eyes narrowed; Elsie sensed that the woman didn’t appreciate the finer points of the Bill of Rights.

“When will the court make him pay for the cleanup? The cleanup of the bank lobby?”

Edging closer to the door, Elsie shook her head. “Hard to say. You think this guy has any money?”

Mrs. Hudson’s unhappy expression showed that the conversation wasn’t over. But as she was about to speak again, Elsie’s friend and coworker, Breeon Johnson, hurried into the courtroom and grabbed Elsie’s arm.

“Downstairs,” Breeon said.

“Now? Right now?” Elsie asked.

“Just one darned minute,” Donna Hudson said. She opened a Louis Vuitton handbag and pulled out a Kleenex, rubbing furiously at her nose. Elsie eyed the bag with curiosity. It was probably the real article. Though as an employee of a rural county in the Ozarks, Elsie didn’t have sufficient acquaintance with designer goods to distinguish the genuine product from a knockoff.

Elsie gave Breeon an inquiring look. “Can you wait a sec?”

Breeon tugged at her arm. “Can’t wait. It’s an emergency.”

Elsie could see from Breeon’s face that she was deadly serious. “Okay,” she said. Looking back at the banker, Elsie spoke hastily. “The system is working, Mrs. Hudson. Your bank robber has been bound over; he’ll be arraigned in Circuit Court, and his case will be set for jury trial. I appreciate your cooperation, and your testimony. But I have to get downstairs.” She looked over to the door; Breeon had just vanished through it. “Something major is going on.”

“But will he pay?”

The woman’s voice rang in Elsie’s ears, and she was tired of hearing it. Turning away, she said, “Yeah. Yes, Mrs. Hudson. He’ll pay.”

“How?”

“The old-fashioned way, I expect. With his liberty.”

The banker protested, her voice shrill, but Elsie departed at a fast pace, and scrambled down the worn marble staircase of the McCown County Courthouse, catching up to Breeon at the back entrance to the Prosecutor’s Office.

“What?” Elsie demanded, as Breeon punched the security buttons to access the private entrance. “What is it?”

Breeon shook her head in disgust. “Another murder. They found the body in a trailer home, right outside the city limits. Can you believe it?”

“Again?” Murder cases were rare in rural McCown County, a small community nestled deep in the Ozark hills of southwest Missouri. Elsie had handled a murder case over the summer, prosecuting a juvenile for the death of a bus driver. A second homicide, occurring within such a short period of time, would shake the entire community.

“Yeah, another woman,” Breeon said, pushing the door open. “But a young one this time.”

“Aw, shit,” Elsie said.

Breeon gave her a look, righteous anger evident in her face. “She was eight months pregnant.”
The news stopped Elsie in her tracks. “A double murder,” she whispered.

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Apr 282016
 

The Ebola Game

by Glenn Shepard

on Tour April 2016

The Ebola Game by Glenn Shepard

ISIS terrorists are trying to start an Ebola epidemic in America.

Only Scott James is immune.

The Ebola Game just keeps coming at you and at you. Incredible.” -John Haslett

A BOMB

A bomb explodes at a local hospital.

A DOCTOR

Dr. Scott James must race through twists and turns to find a cure for a deadly biological weapon.

A PATHOGEN

A quarantined group of people await Dr. James’ help.

SANFIA, VODOUN BOKOR

Sanfia is the most powerful Vodoun priestess in Haiti. She may have the cure.

ELIZABETH, THE WILDCARD

Beautiful Elizabeth is one of the most notorious freelance operatives in the world. Scott James will need her unique genius to stop the epidemic.

“Scott, a biological weapon just exploded on your doorstep. We don’t know what we’re dealing with here.”

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Medical Fiction, Action & Adventure

Published by: Mystery House

Publication Date: Jan 2016

Number of Pages: 205

ISBN: 0997134917 (ISBN-13: 978-0997134919)

Series: The Dr. Scott James Thriller Series, 3rd (Each is a Stand Alone Novel)

Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Conference Room
Hospital Administrator’s Offices
9:30 a.m.

Dr. Reed called and said that he wanted to update hospital leaders on his team’s findings and give further instructions. I called the operator and had her contact the Executive Committee, a governing body comprised of the department heads, committee chairmen, and all the assistant hospital administrators quarantined in the hospital. The group assembled within fifteen minutes. The two from the CDC were the only ones in the room in hazmat suits and helmets.

Dr. Reed gave his report: “Ebola virus was definitively diagnosed by electron microscopy.”

Everyone groaned, even though they knew before this report came in that it was Ebola. Then, he gave what he called the “good news.” The vast majority of the patients who had been in the hospital at the time of the explosion, as well as most of the doctors, nurses, and people in maintenance and facilities, were not exposed and could be released from quarantine to return to their homes. I began to applaud and the other members of the executive committee followed.

Reed was resuming his talk when my telephone rang. I looked to see that the caller was the Mayor’s Office. I answered in a quiet voice, “Dr. James.”

It was Mayor LaShaun Washington. “I know you are in a meeting with Dr. Reed and your staff. I’m going to call back in a minute on Skype so I can teleconference with your entire group.”

I paused for a moment to comprehend his demand, and hung up. I opened Skype on my computer. The large screen at the end of conference room went from black to a picture of Mayor Washington and a group of people sitting at a conference table.

The Mayor spoke: “Dr. James, you will recognize everyone in my panel, the Jackson City City Council, and of course the City Attorney, Ms. Marks.

“Dr. James. This conference is called into emergency session. Now, let’s get right to the point: Dr. James, did you receive a message from a terrorist group that mentioned ‘Ebola?’”

“What?”

“Dr. James: Did you, or did you not, receive a message from a known terrorist organization in the last twenty-four hours? The Jackson City Police have the article in their possession. You are a terrorist. You affiliate with terrorists, you’ve been the center of multiple attacks, and why the FBI has allowed you to carry on, purely in the interest of having another informant—”

“I am not a terrorist, sir!”

“Dr. James—you are out of order here. This is an emergency meeting. Let’s get to the second point, of which this body has just been informed: You are immune to Ebola. Is that correct?”

“What?”

Reed stepped forward and said through his mask, “We have not informed Dr. James of that yet. We just got the results. Frankly I’m a little shocked that you know.”

“I assure you Dr. Reed, this body will be involved in every aspect of this ongoing tragedy. Dr. James, we find it all just a little too convenient that the epidemic you have created here in the United States is something that you also just happen to be immune to—”

“I didn’t create anything!” I screamed. “What are you talking about! It’s Omar Farok! He’s doing all this!”

“Dr. James! That’s enough! That is enough! That is enough! Now … The FBI will be taking you into custody shortly. We are cooperating thoroughly in their investigation. This body is going to make sure that the federal authorities do the right thing and indict you for conspiracy. You are directly responsible for a number of terrorist attacks and your connection with certain cults is well known. The City Council has passed a binding resolution that relieves you of your position at The Jackson City Hospital. Permanently. We are also considering civil action against you and your group.”

“Why don’t you just banish me from the city! You’re a dictator, right?”

“Dr. James.”

“Just throw me out of my own home! You are a dictator, right?”

“Dr. James. That’s enough.”

I turned and looked at the scornful stares of my hospital staff. Many of these doctors had been my friends for many years. I had grown up with so many of them. But no one spoke a word in my defense.

 

Author Bio:

Glenn Shepard - authorGlenn Shepard’s first novel, Surge, was written while he was still a surgical resident at Vanderbilt. In the following years he wrote The Hart Virus, a one-thousand-page epic about the AIDS crisis, as well as three other novels. In 2012, he created “Dr. Scott James,” his Fugitive-like action-hero, and began publishing a series. The first volume of the Dr. Scott James series was The Missile Game, followed shortly afterward by The Zombie Game. The third of the series, The Ebola Game, is due out in December, 2015. Though the books contain many of the same characters, they don’t have to be read in order. Each can be read as a stand-alone.

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Apr 182016
 

Deceived

by Ashlee Mallory

Book Blast on April 18, 2016

Deceived He took everything. Now it’s her turn…

Former foster kid Olivia Michaels is finally about to have it all. She’s recently engaged, and on the cusp of earning a big promotion at a job she loves. But her perfect life is ripped apart by accusations of insider trading and fraud, and ultimately the murder of her best friend. Faced with the possibility of life in prison—or worst, death—she accepts a deal. A plea of guilty for something she didn’t do, in exchange for three years in prison.

Olivia’s lost everything. The only thing she has left now is time. Time to remember what she’s lost. Time to realize who had the most to gain. Time to plan exactly how she’s going to exact her revenge. When she leaves those prison walls, she’ll have more than just a new family of friends who’ll have her back; she’ll have a plan. And he’ll never see her coming.

Grab hold for this fast-paced, high-stakes caper that won’t let go!

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: April 18, 2016
Number of Pages: 299
ISBN:
Series: A Final Justice Thriller, #1
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

The hammering pain in my head finally brought me into consciousness, although I couldn’t yet bring myself to open my eyes. I lay there, trying to remember what happened. Someone had struck me. But Charlotte had been next to me and the blow…

I was wet, cold, and there was a strange smell in the air, an earthier smell, like copper, like…

I opened my eyes and managed to turn my head.

Blood.

I sat up and winced as pain and nausea hit me over the sudden movement. Why was I wet? Why was there blood on my hands? My shirt? Had my head been bleeding? And where was Charlotte?

I couldn’t rise, not just yet, and came to my knees, crawling to the coffee table and my cell phone. This wasn’t right. Something was wrong.

Someone might still be here.

Where was Charlotte?

There was pounding again, only not from my head and voices called out. Police? Then there were officers swarming in.

Relieved, I sat back on the carpet, dropping my head to my hands. What had just happened? There was so much talking, someone asked me if I was okay, who I was, if anyone else was in the house. I shook my head as I tried to make sense of their questions.

“We have a body,” a female officer called out.

I turned to the officer, who was looking down at something behind the couch, already calling it in.

“What do you mean?” I stumbled to my feet, but wavered instantly. Before I could buckle back down, arms were around me.

“Olivia? Are you okay?” It was Ethan. He’d arrived and was holding me up. “Oh my God, what happened? Is that your blood? Are you bleeding?”

But I was barely listening. They’d said a body and I threw myself forward, trying to see something, anything.

Her feet were the first thing I spotted. She’d been wearing her black Jimmy Choos that we’d picked up on her birthday four months before, but one had fallen off and was next to her now bare foot.

Still, so still.

Another officer came over, stepping around the bod—around Charlotte. “I think we have a weapon.”

I’d reached the area where Charlotte was lying, her eyes glassy as they looked up, lifeless. Her pretty blonde hair streaked with fresh blood. The carpet underneath her deep crimson. Sure enough, by her side was something. The lamplight made the surface of the long scissors almost glisten—except where the dark color that could only be blood covered them.

The female officer squatted down along with the male officer to look at her, neither of them touching anything. The eggshell blouse she’d been wearing was now mostly red and it was apparent from the wound and the blood pooled underneath that she’d been stabbed in the throat.

I couldn’t stop the sob this time as I screamed her name. Over and over.

And then there was a prick in my arm and I was floating, adrift. And darkness again took me.

Author Bio:

Ashlee MalloryAshlee Mallory is a USA Today Bestselling author of Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, and Thrillers. A recovering attorney, she currently resides in Utah with her husband and two kids. She aspires to one day include running, hiking and traveling to exotic destinations in her list of things she enjoys, but currently settles for enjoying a good book and a glass of wine from the comfort of her couch.

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Apr 092016
 


CROOKED LITTLE LIES by Barbara Taylor Sissel
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: August 1, 2015
ISBN-10: 1503944840
ISBN-13: 978-1503944848
ASIN: B00TJ4XMJO
Pages: 391
Review Copy From: Personal purchase
Edition: Kindle
My Rating: 5

Synopsis: (via GR)
On a cool October morning, Lauren Wilder is shaken when she comes close to striking Bo Laughlin with her car as he’s walking along the road’s edge. A young man well known in their small town of Hardys Walk, Texas, Bo seems fine, even if Lauren’s intuition says otherwise. Since the accident two years ago that left her brain in a fragile state, she can’t trust her own instincts—and neither can her family. Then Bo vanishes, and as the search for him ensues, the police question whether she’s responsible. Lauren is terrified, not of what she remembers but of what she doesn’t.
Unable to trust herself and unwilling to trust anyone else, Lauren begins her own investigation into the mystery of Bo’s disappearance. But the truth can prove to be as shocking as any lie, and as Lauren exposes each one, from her family, from her friends, she isn’t the only one who will face heart-stopping repercussions.

My Thoughts and Opinion:
Another great read from Ms. Sissel!!
I will admit I have become a fan of her books, having read her previous novels, The Ninth Step, Safe Keeping, The Volunteer and Evidence of Life. And her latest book, Crooked Little Lies did not disappoint.
As in all of her books, she weaves and interweaves story lines and relatable characters to a climax that I still have yet to unfold on my own. She, once again, delivers a page turning experience for the reader.
I highly recommend Crooked Little Lies!

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