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Person of Interest: Faith in the Face of Crime (Military Investigations) Kindle Edition
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Outside, wind tangled through the giant oaks. Branches creaked in the September night and scraped against the two-story brick quarters. The sound added to her unease as lightning flashed through the windows, followed by thunder that buffeted the house.
She closed the book that lay open on her lap and hesitated, listening for the baby's cry. Relieved that the little one hadn't awakened, she placed the textbook on the coffee table. How to Manage the Middle School Classroom was required reading for her teaching degree and had undoubtedly lulled her to sleep.
But what had awakened her?
Natalie had accepted the two-week nanny position caring for Lieutenant Wanda Jones's five-month-old daughter while Wanda was away for training, and she planned to use the time to catch up on her classwork.
As prior military, with six years on active duty under her belt, Natalie was usually unfazed by new circumstances. Tonight was different.
In hopes of calming her anxiety, she hurried into the foyer and insured the front door was locked before she stepped to the nearby window. Easing back the curtain, she stared for a long moment at the narrow, two-lane road that ran through the military housing area. A porch light from one of the duplexes across the street cast a yellow glow over the few cars parked at the curb.
Dropping the curtain, she flexed her shoulders to allay the tension in her neck and padded across the hardwood floor to the kitchen. The small, cozy room had seemed inviting this morning when she'd arrived. Wanda had coffee brewing and warm-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls to welcome her. The scent of the fresh brew and hot rolls had long since disappeared, leaving behind an emptiness that tugged at her heart. She and the baby were safe, yet something about the night was unsettling. Probably the darkness outside and the encroaching storm. Both caused her concern.
Opening the door to the attached one-car garage, she stared into the interior, seeing only her small sedan. Convinced her imagination was playing tricks on her, she shut the door and slipped the chain lock in place before she flipped off the kitchen light and retraced her steps into the main living-dining room combination.
She needed to check on Sofia. Natalie climbed the steep wooden stairway to the second floor and tiptoed into the nursery. The little one was asleep on her back, her cheeks plump and rosy.
Wanda had been concerned about leaving. With her husbandSofia's fatherdeployed to the Middle East, the female lieutenant had weighed accepting a twoweek school assignment at Fort Hood that was good for her military career but hard on a new mom forced to leave her infant daughter.
Natalie and Wanda had been stationed together in Germany and had reconnected after Natalie had moved to nearby Freemont. Natalie was happy to help, and the arrangement would be good for both of them. Wanda needed child care, and Natalie wanted time to study away from her cramped apartment and moody roommate.
Denise Lang had become increasingly irritable over the past two months. Natalie blamed her roommate's new boyfriend, who insisted Denise keep their relationship under wraps. The secrecy was taking a toll on her and impacted her relationship with Natalie.
Pulling the receiving blanket up around Sofia's shoulders, Natalie smiled at the precious child and returned to the hallway on her way to the guest room. The sound of raised voices from the adjoining quarters next door stopped her at the top of the stairs.
She should have asked Wanda about the neighbors. All she'd provided had been the woman's first name and her phone number. Natalie didn't even know the couple's last name. Surely the bickering wasn't a regular occurrence.
Thunder rolled overhead, and rain drummed against the roof. The voices grew louder as the storm intensified. Although the shared wall between the two sets of quarters prevented Natalie from understanding what was said, the harsh tones signaled escalating conflict.
A woman screamed.
Something crashed against the wall.
Natalie gasped and took a step back. Her pulse raced.
Another crash and a second scream were followed by a series of thumps as if somethingor someonehad fallen down the stairway.
Heart in her throat, Natalie checked again to be certain Sofia was asleep before she ran downstairs and opened the front door. The storm had unleashed its fury with strong winds and torrential rain. Her voice of reason told her to stay dry and mind her own business, but her need to help overrode the warning.
Ignoring the deluge, she raced next door and climbed the steps to the neighbor's porch. In her haste, she slipped, then steadied herself and pounded on the door.
"Is someone hurt?"
Feeling exposed, she glanced over her shoulder, expecting to see the neighbors spilling from the quarters across the street. As loud as the woman's scream had been, they should have heard her, as well. Another clap of thunder made her realize the woman's cries had been masked by the storm.
Again, Natalie knocked and raised her voice. "Do you need help?"
The door remained closed.
Envisioning a tragic scene inside, she hurried back to the Joneses' quarters, wiped the rain from her face and reached for the phone. Her hands shook as she searched through the list of emergency numbers Wanda had left. Finding the military police, she tapped in the digits and waited impatiently for someone to answer, then explained the situation.
"I'll send a squad car," the MP said.
Everett Kohl shoved his travel toiletry kit into his duffel and zipped it shut with a smile. Tomorrow he'd be heading to North Georgia for two weeks of R&R and a chance to help Uncle Harry get his mountain cabin ready to put on the market to sell. Everett had half a notion to buy the place himself. But, first, he wanted to assess the structure and tend to the repairs that needed to be done.
Much as he loved his uncle, Harry's age and stubbornness could be a problem, especially since he was trading the North Georgia mountains for an assisted-living complex in the metro Atlanta area. The timing was right, but his uncle saw it as losing his independence and a way of life he had enjoyed for over eighty years. Everett hoped to soothe the transition and ease his uncle's concerns about the change.
Grateful the rain had stopped and the storm subsided, Everett whistled as he hurried to his SUV and threw his duffel in the rear. Nothing would delay him in the morning. He'd packed, filled his gas tank and was ready to lock up his bachelor officer's quarters and drive north.
Retracing his steps, he checked his watch. Almost midnight. He'd catch some shut-eye and rise before dawn to skirt the morning traffic in Atlanta, two hours north, on his way to the mountains.
He entered his BOQ apartment just as his cell rang. Glancing at the screen, he saw Special Agent Frank Gallagher's name displayed. The chief was out of town and Frank was in charge.
"I've already signed out on leave," Everett said in lieu of a greeting.
"We've got an incident that needs your finesse."
"You say the nicest things, but buttering me up won't work. The next trip I take will be out the front gate in the morning. I'll wave as I pass CID Headquarters on my way off post."
"The military police just called with a heads-up. Someone reported hearing a domestic squabble at Mason Yates's quarters."
Everett groaned inwardly and shoved the cell closer to his ear. Domestic violence was never pretty and especially troublesome when a fellow agent was involved. "I'm listening."
"A woman named Natalie Frazier heard arguing coming from the other side of her duplex and called in the report. I told the MP we'd check it out, but I can't believe Mason would hurt his wife. If it's bogus, we go home relieved that his name doesn't end up on the commanding general's desk tomorrow morning."
"We owe the MPs for contacting us."
"Exactly. Call me optimistic, but I'm hoping the neighbor's imagination was working overtime due to the storm. If it's a mistaken call, you'll be home sawing logs before you can say 'take care of our own' three times."
"Give me the address, I'll meet you there."
Frank provided the street and quarters number.
"Didn't Mason move into military housing a few weeks ago?" Everett remembered the newcomer talking about signing for quarters.
"Three weeks to be exact. As I recall, his wife stayed with his sister in Decatur, Georgia, until quarters were available."
Everett had arrived at Fort Rickman six months earlier, so he wasn't an old-timer on post. He and Frank had been stationed together years earlier, along with Special Agent Colby Voss, which had made his transition to Fort Rickman an easy one.
Mason reported to post eight weeks ago. Since then, he had seemed withdrawn and less than willing to join in the office camaraderie that often relieved the stress of working long hours on felony cases for the military. Probably a loner by nature or maybe a bit aloof. That he outranked the other special agents might have bearing on his attitude, especially if he hoped to step into the chief's shoes. Chief Agent-in-Charge Craig Wilson had led the CID office at Fort Rickman for nearly three years. Even if Uncle Sam considered him ready for a new assignment, no one wanted the chief to be reassigned.
Mason was an unknown, which gave Everett pause.
"I'm trusting this ends well," he said in closing.
"Agreed," Frank added. "I'll meet you there."
The housing area wasn't far, and Everett was the first to arrive. He pulled to the curb and spotted headlights in his rearview mirror, then stepped out and waited for Frank.
"The report came from that side of the duplex," Frank pointed to Quarters A. "Let's talk to Mason before we question the neighbor." Frank was the lead on this call, with Everett along as another set of eyes if need be.
Both agents climbed the front steps. Frank knocked on the door. "Special Agent Frank Gallagher, CID." He glanced at Everett before adding. "Mason, it's Frank. Everett's with me. Everything okay?"
He tapped the door again.
Everett glanced at the duplex across the street. A light went on in an upstairs window.
"I'll check the rear." Starting down the steps, he heard a door creak open and turned to find the neighbor in Quarters A standing backlit in her doorway.
Long, shoulder-length black hair, slender build. Probably 110 to 115 pounds and five-four or five-five.
She stepped onto the porch. Oval face, big eyes drawn with concern, her mouth angled downward in a frown.
"We're with the CID, ma'am. I'm Special Agent Kohl," he said as introduction. "You called in the report?"
She glanced at her watch. "About fifteen minutes ago. I haven't heard anything since then."
"What did you hear earlier?"
"Raised voices and two screams, followed by thumping, as if someone had fallen down the stairs."
Everett nodded. "Wait inside, ma'am. I'll need more information after we make contact with the residents."
Walking through the wet grass, he rounded the house, flicking his gaze over the large side yard and the rear access road. Headlights signaled an approaching vehicle. A dark blue sedan screeched to a stop.
Mason lunged from the car, wearing running shorts and a gray Army T-shirt damp with sweat. Eyes wide, he glanced at Everett, then turned his focus to his quarters.
"It's Tammy, isn't it? What happened? Is she hurt?" Breathless, he raced to the back door.
"A neighbor heard screams." Everett hated being the bearer of bad news.
"She called me, distraught. I heard a voice in the background." Mason pushed open the door and charged into the kitchen.
Everett followed. Unwashed dishes sat in the sink.
"Tammy, where are you?" Mason ran through the living room, then rounded the corner into the foyer. Stopping short, he staggered to brace himself against the wall.
Everett's gut tightened. A woman lay sprawled at the foot of the stairs, her face contorted in death. Blood pooled under her head.
He felt her neck, knowing instinctively he wouldn't find a pulse.
Mason fell to the floor and reached for his wife, a scream keening from deep within him.
"Don't touch" Everett couldn't warn Mason fast enough.
The husband's broken sobs echoed in the quarters.
Everett had been at too many crime scenes, but none as wrenching as Mason holding his wife's lifeless body.
He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and opened the front door. Frank stepped inside, face tight and eyes brimming with the same emotion Everett felt as they shook their heads with regret. Both special agents were aware of the significance of Mason's arrival on-site. If he hadn't been home, then someone else had argued with his wife. Someone who may have pushed or shoved or thrown Tammy Yates down the stairs to her death.
Everett raised his cell and called CID Headquarters. "Notify the military police. We'll need a crime-scene investigation team, ambulance and the medical examiner."
Frank patted Mason's shoulder. "Come on, buddy. Let's get you into the other room. The MPs are on the way along with the ME."
Mason shook off the attempt to comfort him.
"Tammy," he moaned, pulling his wife even closer into his arms.
"You need to step away from your wife. Remember, we have to preserve evidence if we're going to catch this guy. Come on, buddy. Let's head into the other room."
Mason shrugged out of Frank's hold and glanced at the open doorway. His face twisted in rage.
"What's she doing here?"
Everett turned to see the neighbor cover her mouth and muffle a cry of disbelief. Fear flared from her eyes.
"Ma'am, I asked you to remain in your quarters."
She pointed a finger at Mason, the distraught husband holding his wife's bloodied body, and screamed. --This text refers to the digital edition.
- File Size : 654 KB
- Publication Date : August 1, 2015
- Print Length : 224 pages
- Publisher : Love Inspired Suspense; Original Edition (August 1, 2015)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B00TDZTFWM
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Lending : Not Enabled
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