Excerpt From “Crescendo” by Deborah J Ledford

cres_137x212One murdered woman.
A missing child.
The diabolic father who will do anything to get his son back.
The female cop who risks everything to keep the boy safe.

CRESCENDO– Redemption with a bullet

As the only female Native American officer on the Bryson City, North Carolina police force, Inola Walela, must always play her A game. All bets are off when during a routine traffic stop the passenger insists her son has been kidnapped but is struck by a car before Inola can glean any hard facts. An altercation ensues and Inola’s partner is felled by a bullet—possibly from her gun. On administrative leave, fraught with guilt for allegedly killing her partner, and obsessed with the possibility of a missing child out there somewhere, she defies the force and her fiancé, Sheriff Steven Hawk. Inola sets off on her own journey to find the missing boy.

EXCERPT:

Breath catching in her throat, Inola rose to her knees. She winced as more tires screeched. Metal scraping metal added to the cacophony of noise and confusion. “Jesus,” she muttered, taking in the scene: the woman face down on the highway, arms and legs splayed, blonde hair covering her face.

“Inola!” Cody screamed.

She whirled to see her partner struggling with the driver. One handcuff was secured to the offender’s wrist, but the other swayed loose. The two men battled for Cody’s weapon.

A single gunshot split the air.

Inola jumped to her feet, drew her pistol, took a Weaver’s stance and fired. The driver’s mouth opened and closed as he uttered a deep guttural moan.

Inola ran, feeling as though she glided above the roadway. She kept her Glock trained on the driver. He shuddered. Gasped. His body went limp and dropped to a sitting position against the cruiser’s bumper. She kicked Cody’s gun from the driver’s hand and holstered her weapon.

Hand to his neck, Cody grinned shakily and croaked, “Nice shot, partner.” A trail of blood fell downward. Crimson puddled on the white line of the road. Cody emitted an odd gurgle and slid down the cruiser’s grille to plop beside the driver.

It took a moment for Inola to realize the blood wasn’t coming from the prisoner. Thick claret seeped through Cody’s fingers, staining the neck of his uniform and T-shirt, dropping to his hands in his lap.

Fingers shaking, Inola fumbled for the mic on her shoulder. “Officer down! Officer down! This is unit five-one-eleven. Three down. I need three busses.” She strangled a sob. Fury and terror took over all capacity of reasoning. “My partner’s been shot! Officer eleven-seven-four is down. Please…please help me!”

She dropped to her knees and reached out to stanch the flow streaming from Cody’s neck. “Hold on, partner. Medics are on the way.”

“Gave…up,” Cody stuttered. His eyes locked on Inola’s and then he lowered his head.

She followed his gaze to something clenched in his hand. Cody waved a credit card-sized piece of plastic between his fingers.

“Gave…up…”

Inola’s stomach lurched as she took the slick, sticky card. Cody coughed and frothy blood bubbled from his lips. She gathered her partner in her arms and rocked him. “No, Cody. Dammit, don’t give up. Please! Please. Don’t give up.”

Hot wetness soaked the front of her uniform. She clamped a hand over his pulsating wound. His blood oozed between her fingers. Praying for the ambulance and backup to arrive, she glanced around. Her body convulsed as she took in the accident scene that resembled a disaster movie more than a real-life scenario. Cars were parked in a line along the exit ramp to her right. Gridlocked vehicles clogged each lane of traffic, stunned citizens stood a safe distance away. The ashen atmosphere muted every color as fat snowflakes fluttered from the sky.

The sound of footfalls alerted her that danger still loomed. She eased Cody to the ground, slid her Glock from its holster, pivoted toward shuffling steps.

A man approached, a woman’s limp body draped in his arms, blonde hair streaming downward, the hem of her flowered dress skimming the pavement.

Inola assessed the situation—Cody, the lifeless driver, the woman, the stranger. She was about to yell out to put the woman down. Didn’t he realize he had just tainted the scene by moving her? But the look of horror on his face stopped her protest.

“I didn’t mean to hit her.” He lowered to his knees and laid the woman at Inola’s feet. “Please, can you help her? I think she’s dying.”

Inola eased her hand out and carefully swept aside the veil of hair. Her stomach lurched at the sight of the right side of the victim’s head, flatter than it should be. She placed a shaking hand to the white as porcelain neck. No beat pulsated under her fingertips. “I’m sorry,” she told the man.

His shoulders slumped as he mumbled a few words Inola could not decipher.

She wrenched away and hurried back to Cody, pulled him to her lap and resumed clutching his neck. Although the blood had slowed, it continued a thick path and she worried he would bleed out right there in her arms.

“Cody, open your eyes, partner. I need you to stay awake until the medics get here.”

He didn’t stir. Sirens wailed, growing louder with each beat of Inola’s racing heart. Feeling every bystander’s eyes on her, she settled her gaze on the only person who could possibly understand the magnitude of what had occurred—who, too, would suffer the consequences of this unforeseen catastrophe—the man who had also killed someone that day.

***

Deborah_J_Ledford-114x160Deborah J Ledford’s latest novel of suspense, CRESCENDO, is book three of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series. Other novels include SNARE, Finalist for The Hillerman Sky Award and the NM-AZ Book Awards, and the classical-music themed STACCATO. Deborah is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and her award-winning short stories appear in numerous print publications as well as literary and mystery anthologies. Part Eastern Band Cherokee, she spent her summers growing up in western North Carolina where her novels are set. Deborah invites you to visit her website: www.DeborahJLedford.com  

Advertisements

The Pirate’s Bastard by Laura S. Wharton

The Pirate’s Bastard by Laura S. Wharton took six years to research and write. Laura deftly weaves fiction into fact, blurring the lines between the two for this story. It is a rollicking ride through colonial North Carolina and beyond with Edward Marshall, illegitimate son of infamous pirate Stede Bonnet, as he tries hard to separate his past from his future. He’s doing well with his plans, until his father’s former right hand shows up with secrets to tell and blackmail in mind.


Excerpt:

The rest of the evening Jenkins and Edward got along well. Edward learned that Thaddeus Jenkins, his wife Isabel, and their daughter Sarah moved to Wilmington just a few years earlier from Annapolis, Maryland.  Jenkins was successful in Annapolis as a merchant.  He said that competition from other businesses in town was getting stiff as Annapolis’ popularity grew, so he decided he would do well by being one of the first merchants in Wilmington.  Isabel, he told Edward, was not keen on the idea of moving to “the backwoods,” knowing that Wilmington lacked culture and fashion and the grand parties for which Annapolis was famous.  But she soon grew to like the idea of being one of the grand dames of Wilmington’s burgeoning society, and within a few years, was as busy as ever with activities that helped make the town a more delightful place to live – and a more profitable town for her husband, Jenkins winked.   

Jenkins was not as forthcoming about his daughter as Edward would have hoped over supper, but he did not discourage Edward, either.  By the end of the evening, Edward was at least sure that Sarah was not betrothed to anyone.  He escorted Jenkins back to the wharf and to his schooner.  A dim light could be seen hanging on deck, and one down below glowed through a porthole.  Aboard were two men, one man in a pale shirt and tattered pants working on repairing the torn sail. The other lounged against an oak barrel.  His wide-brimmed hat was tilted on his bowed head, and his arms were crossed over his burley chest.  He offered no help to his companion, and despite his apparent advancing years, his physique was that of a strong man.

“Many thanks to you Edward, for the meal.  We shall set sail with the tide, which the man there tells me is at dawn,” Jenkins pointed to the man who rested against the barrel. “Surely you know the tides here better than I do, so I will expect you to join us early to guide us up the river.”

“I assume your man knows these waters well.  I will be here to offer any assistance I can,” Edward said, bowing slightly.  “King Moore’s plantation is off the main river and the passage is narrow.  It is an easy sail from here.  I will see you at dawn.”

Edward watched Jenkins totter up the wooden ramp to his schooner, and then board with a little help from the man in the wide hat.  Edward then headed back toward home.  From the looks of the man Jenkins suggested was the captain, Edward was more settled in his answer as to why Jenkins thought better to not bring Sarah along.

***

Laura S. Wharton has been a freelance writer since 1990. She has published over 500 magazine feature articles, CD-Roms for the travel industry featuring fictitious characters who help tell the stories of historic coastal cities such as Charleston, New Orleans, St. Augustine, and Savannah, and numerous articles and columns for newspapers. Her debut novel, The Pirate’s Bastard is published by Second Wind Publishing. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and son. Visit her blog,  http://laurawharton.blogspot.com/, for more information. 


Click here to buy: The Pirate’s Bastard