Plain Danger (Military Investigations)

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9780373677320: Plain Danger (Military Investigations)

Coming soon! Plain Danger by Debby Giusti will be available Feb 2, 2016.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

 Debby Giusti is a medical technologist who loves working with test tubes and petri dishes almost as much as she loves to write. Growing up as an Army Brat, Debby met and married her husband--then a Captain in the Army--at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Together they traveled the world, raised three wonderful Army Brats of their own and have now settled in Atlanta, Georgia, where Debby spins tales of suspense that touch the heart and soul.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Bailey's plaintive howl snapped Carrie York awake with a start. The Irish setter had whined at the door earlier. After letting him out, she must have fallen back to sleep.

Raking her hand through her hair, Carrie rose from the guest room bed and peered out the window into the night. Streams of moonlight cascaded over the field behind her father's house and draped the freestanding kitchen house, barn and chicken coop in shadows. In the distance, she spotted the dog, seemingly agitated as he sniffed at something hidden in the tall grass.

"Hush," she moaned as his wail continued. The neighbors on each side of her father's property—one Amish, the other a military guy from nearby Fort Rickman—wouldn't appreciate having their slumber disturbed by a rambunctious pup who was too inquisitive for his own good.

Still groggy with sleep, she pulled on her clothes, stumbled into the kitchen and flicked on the overhead light. Her coat hung on a hook in the anteroom. Slipping it on, she opened the back door and stepped into the cold night.

"Bailey, come here, boy."

Black clouds rolled overhead, blocking the light from the moon. Narrowing her eyes, she squinted into the darkness and started off through the thick grass, following the sound of the dog's howls.

She'd have to hire someone to mow the field and care for the few head of cattle her dad raised, along with his chickens. Too much for one person to maintain, especially a woman who knew nothing about farming.

Again the dog's cry cut through the night.

Anxiety tingled her neck. "Come, boy. Now."

The dog sniffed at something that lay at his feet. A dead animal perhaps? Maybe a deer?

"Bailey, come."

The dog glanced at her, then turned back to the downed prey.

A stiff breeze blew across the field. She shivered and wrapped the coat tightly around her neck, feeling vulnerable and exposed, as if someone were watching...and waiting.

Letting out a deep breath to ease her anxiety, she slapped her leg and called to the dog, "Come, boy. We need to go inside."

Reluctantly, Bailey trotted back to where she stood.

"Good dog." She patted his head and scratched under his neck. Feeling his wet fur, she raised her hand and stared at the tacky substance that darkened her fingers.

She gasped. Even with the lack of adequate light, the stain looked like blood.

"Are you hurt?"

The dog barked twice.

Bending down, she wiped her hand on the dew-damp grass, then stepped closer to inspect the carcass of the fallen animal.

A gust of wind whipped through the clearing and tangled her hair across her eyes so she couldn't see. Using her unsoiled hand, she shoved the wayward strands back from her face, and holding her breath to ward off the cloying odor, she stared down at the pile of fabric that lay at Bailey's feet.

Her heart pounded in her chest. A deafening roar sounded in her ears. She whimpered, wanting to run. Instead she held her gaze.

Not a deer.

But a man.

She stepped closer, seeing combat boots and a digital-patterned uniform covering long legs and a muscular trunk.

Goose bumps pimpled her arms as she glanced higher. For half a heartbeat, her mind refused to accept what her eyes saw.

A scream caught in her throat. She turned away, unable to process the ghastly sight, and ran toward the house, needing the protection of four walls and locked doors.

The setter followed behind her, barking. Between his yelps, she heard a branch snap, then another. Straining, she recognized a different sound. Her chest tightened.

Footfalls.

Heart skittering in her chest, she increased her pace, all too aware that someone, other than Bailey, was running after her.

Coming closer.

She sprinted for the house and slipped on the slick grass as she rounded the corner. Catching herself, she climbed the kitchen steps and pushed open the door. Pulse pounding, gasping for air, she slammed it closed after Bailey scooted in behind her. Her hands shook as she fumbled with the lock. The dead bolt slipped into place.

She ran into the family room. Drawing the curtains with one hand, she grabbed the phone with the other and punched in 911.

Listening, she expected to hear footsteps on the porch and pounding at the door. The only sound was the phone ringing in her ear.

Grateful when the operator answered, she rattled off her father's address. "I found someone...in the back pasture. Military uniform. Looks like he's army."

Her father—a man she hadn't known about until the lawyer's phone call—had died ten days earlier. Now a body had appeared on his property. Touching the curtain that covered the window, she shivered. The horrific sight played through her mind.

"Someone c...cut the soldier's throat." She pulled in a breath. "So much blood. I...I heard footsteps, coming after me. I'm afraid—"

Her hand trembled as she drew the phone closer. "I'm afraid he's going to kill me."

Working late at his home computer, Criminal Investigation Division special agent Tyler Zimmerman heard sirens and peered out the window of his rental house. A stream of police sedans raced along Amish Road, heading in his direction.

For an instant, he was that ten-year-old boy covered in blood and screaming for his father to open his eyes. The memory burned like fire.

He swallowed hard and took in the present-day scene that contrasted sharply with the tranquility of the rural Amish community where he had chosen to live specifically because of its peaceful setting.

Eleven years in the military, with the last six in the army's Criminal Investigation Division, had accustomed him to sirens and f lashing lights at the crime scenes he investigated, but when the caravan of police cruisers turned into the driveway next door, Tyler's mouth soured as thoughts from his youth returned. Once again, violence was striking too close to home.

Leaving his computer, he hurried into the kitchen, grabbed his SIG Sauer and law enforcement identification before he shrugged into his CID windbreaker and stepped outside. The cool night air swirled around him. He hustled across the grassy knoll that separated his modest three-bedroom ranch with the historic home next door.

The flashing lights from the lineup of police cars bathed the stately Greek revival in an eerie strobe effect. The house, with its columned porch and pedimental gable, dated from before the Civil War when life wasn't filled with shrill sounds and pulsating light.

Men in blue swarmed the front lawn. Others hustled toward the field behind the main house. A woman stood on the porch, next to one of the classical white columns. Her arms hung limp at her sides. She was tall and slender with chestnut hair that swept over her shoulders and down her back. Her eyes—caught in the glare—were wide with worry as she stared at the chaos unfolding before her.

Gauging from the number of law enforcement officials who had responded, something significant had gone down. For a moment, Tyler switched out of cop mode and considered the plight of the stoic figure on the porch. Whatever had happened tonight would surely affect her life, and not for the better. Ty was all too aware that everything could change in the blink of an eye. Or the swerve of an oncoming car.

Approaching a tall officer in his midthirties who seemed in charge, Ty held up his identification. "Special Agent Tyler Zimmerman. I'm with the CID at Fort Rickman."

The guy stuck out his hand. "You've saved me a phone call to post. Name's Brian Phillips."

He pointed to a second man who approached. "This is Officer Steve Inman."

Tyler extended his hand and then pointed to his house. "I live next door and saw your lights. I wondered if you needed any assistance."

"Appreciate your willingness to get involved," Inman said with a nod.

"You probably know that the owner of the house, a retired sergeant major named Jeffrey Harris, died ten days ago," Ty volunteered.

"I remember when the call came in about his body being found." Phillips pursed his lips. "Seems he lost his footing on a hill at the rear of his property and fell to his death. Terrible shame. Now this."

Tyler pointed to the forlorn figure on the porch. "Who's the woman?"

"Carrie York. Evidently she's the estranged daughter of the deceased home owner." The taller cop glanced down at a notepad he held. "Ms. York called 911 at twelve-thirty a.m. She had arrived at her father's house approximately six hours earlier after traveling from her home in Washington, DC. She was asleep when her father's dog alerted her to the body. Supposedly the deceased is in uniform."

"Army?"

"Camo of some sort. Could be a hunter for all we know. Some of my men secured the crime scene. I'm headed there now. You're welcome to join me."

"Thanks for the offer."

Phillips turned to Inman. "Get Reynolds and question Ms. York. See what you can find out."

"Will do." Inman motioned to another officer and the twosome hustled toward the porch, climbed the steps and approached the woman. She acknowledged them with a nod and then glanced at Tyler as he fell in step with Phillips and passed in front of the house.

In the glare of the pulsing lights, she looked pale and drawn. A stiff breeze tugged at her hair. She turned her face into the wind while her gaze remained locked on Tyler.

Warmth stirred within him, and a tightness hitched his chest. The woman's hollow stare struck a chord deep within him. Maybe it was the resignation on her face. Or fatigue, mixed with a hint of fear. Death was never pretty. Especially for a newcomer far from home and surrounded by strangers.

He dipped his chin in acknowledgment before he and Phillips rounded the corner of the house and headed toward the field of tall grass that stretched before them.

"How well did you know your neighbor?" Phillips fixed his gaze on the crime scene ahead.

"Not well. I'm new to the area. We exchanged pleasantries a few times. The sergeant major seemed like a nice guy, quiet, stayed to himself."

Tyler had spent the last month and a half focused on his job, leaving his house early each morning and returning after dark. Being new to post and getting acclimated into his assignment didn't leave time for socializing with the neighbors.

The cop glanced left and pointed to the Amish farm house on the adjoining property. "What about the other neighbors?"

"Isaac Lapp's a farmer. He and his wife and their eight-year-old son are visiting relatives in Florida."

"Probably for the best, especially so for the boy's sake. No kid should witness a violent death."

Tyler's chest constricted. Without bidding, the memory returned. His father's lifeless body, the mangled car, the stench of gasoline and spilled blood. He blew out a stiff breath and worked his way back to the present. Why were the memories returning tonight?

Two officers had already cordoned off an area near the rear of the field and stood aside as Ty and Phillips approached. Ducking under the crime scene tape, they headed to where battery-operated lights illuminated the body. The victim lay on his side, his back to them. No mistaking the digital pattern of the Army Combat Uniform or the desert boots spattered with blood.

Grass had been trampled down as if there'd been a struggle. The earth was saturated with blood. The acrid smell of copper and the stench of death filled the night.

Ty circled the body until he could see the guy's face and the gaping wound to his neck. He paused for a long moment, taking in the ghastly sight of man's inhumanity. What kind of person would slice another man's throat?

The victim's hands were scraped. His left index finger was bare, but then not all married guys wore rings. Blood had pooled around his head.

Ty hunched down to get a closer view. Fellows, the military name tag read. The 101st Airborne patch on his right sleeve indicated he had served with the Screaming Eagles in combat. The rank of corporal was velcroed on his chest. The patch on his left arm identified that he was currently assigned to the engineer battalion at Fort Rickman.

"Looks like he's one of ours." Tyler stood and glanced at Phillips. "I'll contact the CID on post as well as his unit."

Pulling his business card from his pocket, Tyler handed it to the cop. "Let me know what your crime scene folks find. I'd like a moment with Ms. York as soon as Officers Inman and Reynolds end their questioning."

"No problem. Tell them you talked to me." Phillips pocketed the business card. "I'll keep you abreast of what we find."

Tyler retraced his steps to the house, climbed to the porch and tapped lightly on the door before he turned the knob and stepped inside. A young officer glanced at the identification he held up and motioned him forward.

Inman and Reynolds stood near the fireplace in the living room. Ms. York sat, arms crossed, in a high-back chair.

Inman excused himself and quickly walked to where Tyler waited in the foyer. "Was the victim military?"

Tyler nodded. "From Fort Rickman. I'll notify his unit." He handed the cop his business card. "The CID's resources are at your disposal. Let me know what you need."

"Glad we can work together." Glancing into the living room, Inman kept his voice low as he added, "I presume you want to talk to her."

"Whenever you're done. Has she provided anything of value thus far?"

"Only that she works as a speechwriter for a US senator in DC. Probably a big-city girl, with big-city ideas." Inman smirked. "She asked whether the FBI would be notified."

"And you told her—"

"That we'd handle the initial investigation."

Noting the agitation in the cop's voice, Tyler was grateful for the good relationship between the Freemont Police Department and the Fort Rickman CID, which hadn't always been the case from the stories he'd heard around the office. Things could change again, but currently the two law enforcement agencies worked well together. A plus for Tyler. Getting in at the onset of a case made his job easier and pointed to a faster resolution, especially on a death investigation.

"Maybe there's a reason she requested the feds," he suggested. "If she works for a senator, there might be something she's not telling you."

"Could be. We can check it out. She claims to have heard footsteps as she ran back to the house."

"Did she get a visual?"

"Unfortunately, no. She didn't see anyone. Could be an overanxious imagination, especially after finding the body. Still, you never know. People have been known to fake grief and shock."

"Did you get her boss's name?"

Inman glanced down at his open notebook. "It's here somewhere."

Tyler turned his gaze to the living area, feeling an emotional pull deep within him. Usually he didn't allow his feelings to come into play during an investigation. This case seemed different. Perhaps because her father had been a neighbor. The close proximity might have triggered a familiarity of sorts. Or maybe because she'd lost her father. Tyler could relate. Still, he hadn't expected the ...

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Giusti, Debby
Published by Love Inspired (2016)
ISBN 10: 0373677324 ISBN 13: 9780373677320
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