Click on image to enlarge.
by Susan Whitfield
Description: SBI Intern Logan Hunter tracks a murderer at Genesis Beach. When the lifeless body of millionaire Rick Teater is discovered, ready or not, Logan is thrust into a high-profile crime scene. The inexperienced intern for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, working alongside the local police, needs to prove herself, and she embarks on a quest for justice. During the investigation she befriends Pepper Ellis, the victim's chef and the two women form an unexpected emotional attachment. The search for Rick's killer is complicated by a hurricane, and Logan's battle with personal demons, including a recurring nightmare. Her investigation comes to a frustrating standstill, until her intense search for the prime suspect leads her to a new, shocking discovery.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2011 London, Texas
eBookwise Release Date: June 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [262 KB]
Reading time: 166-232 min.
"?a spine-tingling mystery?Add the Logan Hunter series to your reading list."--Lynette Hall Hampton, Echoes of Mercy "?engaging characters, a tight plot and a beautiful, yet unpredictable setting. Pack this one for the beach and enjoy the first book in a promising series."--Mary Fran Vesey, Murder at Treese Family Inn "?holds your interest to the very end."--Martha Cheves, Stir, Laugh, Repeat "Whitfield crafted an enjoyable mystery filled with vibrant character, capturing the essence of coastal North Carolina."--K.R. Jones, The Ghosts of Guantanamo Bay
Shit! Five minutes late. The chief would be pissed. I swung the office door open and greeted Maggie York, the dispatcher, with a big smile. I didn't see Charlie Weiss, the Genesis Beach Chief of Police, or Max Cash, his only officer.
"Good morning, Maggie. Sorry I'm late." I looked forward to hearing her respond in that wonderful Ocracoke brogue each day.
"Oh, don't worry abuit it Logan. Charlie's on tha phone in his office and Max is in there too. Some woman called auit of her wit about something roight before you came in, so don't get comfy. You'll be heading roight back auit tha door." She lifted a biscuit toward me. "Take this biscuit. You need some meat on your bone."
"Oh, I couldn't take your biscuit."
"Please. Do me a fava. Oi already ate one," she confessed.
"You're a doll, Maggie. Thanks." I seized the warm soft fluffy biscuit breakfast, wiping drool from my chin. As I took my first bite, Charlie's door burst open and he walked toward the door with Max following close behind.
"Let's go, Logan," the chief bellowed in a troubled voice. I gave Maggie a glance and shrugged as I took off after them, still clinging to the biscuit. Charlie looked over his shoulder as I rushed in the direction of his cruiser. Apparently I'd have to wait to find out what was going on.
"Follow us in your car, Logan. I'll fill you in when we get there."
Without a word I ran to my ten-year-old BMW and jumped in, hoping it would start so I could catch the speeding police car.
Grunt. Grind. Sputter.
Without thinking about the biscuit in my hand, I banged my fist on the dashboard. "Come on, you piece of shit! This is no time to let me down!" I uncurled my fist at the mess I'd made of my breakfast, snatched a napkin out of my console, and wiped cheese from between my fingers.
"Come on, damn it!" The old car obliged after all and I spurted off, not having enough information to know exactly where Charlie and Max went.
As I raced past TideLand, the only mansion on the beach, I saw cruiser lights at the top of the hill. I slammed on brakes and did a doughnut, kicking up sand as I swished the edge of pavement with my tires.
TideLand was the estate of pool and spa mogul Rick Teater, a North Carolina boy who'd built his empire from scratch, and I'd heard rumors about how he chose to spend his fortune. Somebody had probably tried to rob him. The private estate perched above the Atlantic Ocean a considerable distance from any other developed property could be a lucrative target for thieves.
Charlie and Max headed through a side entrance while I screeched up and hopped out. Charlie said Teater's maid called, screaming hysterically that she'd found Rick Teater unresponsive in the hot tub. As we entered the mansion, I began looking for details of a suspicious nature. I scanned floors and walls for any sign of blood even though I had no idea what happened. We passed several rooms, including a colossal kitchen, where I slowed my pace momentarily, then caught up with Charlie and Max who had arrived at the hub of activity in a large, completely enclosed room. An in-home spa, I supposed.
Howie Hurt, the county coroner, and an upset Asian maid stood over the body of Rick Teater still in the tub, on high speed, with white froth lapping out onto gold marble floor. White embroidered towels draped over the tub's heated bar hadn't been touched.
The maid walked away and sat on a nearby bench, wiping her tears. The tub began emitting a sound similar to an S-O-S. Charlie kneeled down and switched it off. Rick Teater, a good-looking man with a blond receding hairline, dark tan, and a pierced left nipple, was in great shape...for a dead man.
"Howie, it's been a long time." I stuck out a hand. He gave me the once over.
"Logan? Logan Hunter? I can't believe it. You're a police officer?"
"Better than that," Charlie responded, touching my arm. "She's SBI."
"Actually I'm interning."
"Man, that's great Logan. You can't be more than twelve." We all laughed.
"Mid-twenties, but thanks," I smiled. "How'd you get here so fast?"
"I live across the highway and two houses down. I heard the maid screaming in the yard and ran over. She's all to pieces. I've got to go back and get my kit. I haven't touched him."
"I have a PERK in the car. I'll get it too," I said. A Physical Evidence Recovery Kit is a mandate for every agent to keep at all times. Unfortunately the SBI didn't issue interns a state-owned car to go with it. In small towns, responsibility for gathering trace evidence usually fell to local police or the closest agent. At least we had a coroner and Howie had attended the same high school I did although six grades ahead of me.
I'd started my SBI internship at Genesis Beach Police Department by default. Just before my start date in Greenville, my mother--considerably older than all my friends' mothers--had a stroke. Rather than drop out of the program altogether, I requested assignment with Charlie at Genesis P.D. It made sense. I had to complete at minimum of four hundred hours of community service to get college credit, and Mother lived on the beach, an island shaped like a slingshot, off Carolina's Crystal Coast.
For two weeks there had been little to do at the station, so I reconnected with a few of my old high school buddies when I could, and spent as much time as possible with my mother at night. I found an old chum tending bar on the beach and gal pals who stayed around after graduation. Sue Hope taught school, Marcia Baker worked at a law enforcement office on the mainland, and Barbara Rivenbark opened her own tavern and grill called Tootsie's. They ribbed me about becoming an agent when I'd usually been the one to lead the pack into mischief in school.
My biggest assignment so far: riding up and down the beach a couple of times a day, checking doors on vacant homes and businesses, passing the marina to make sure all yachts and boats were secured, and going for pizza or subs for two policemen and Maggie, who ate constantly and was called Genesis Beach Carb Queen behind her back.
Mother recovered rapidly and decided to move to Wilmington permanently to be near an older best friend in a retirement home, leaving me with the old beach house. She moved few of the hundreds of oil paintings she'd accomplished over the years, taking her favorites to display on her small studio apartment walls. The rest of her collection stayed in the house along with many memories of my childhood with my parents. I'd taken Daddy's old fly rod off the wall my first night and polished it before placing it back on its hooks, and I'd wound his antique Atlantic Coastline Railroad depot clock. I enjoyed the quiet relaxed pace of the beach again, soothed by the clock's dependable tick-tock. That is, until this morning.
I brought in my PERK and got out gloves for Charlie, Max, and me. Charlie finished giving instructions to Max to get a complete statement from the maid. He turned to me, running his hand through his substantial hair. "On the surface this looks pretty cut and dried. But Howie looks puzzled, and I don't think he buys natural causes."
I moved around near the body and knelt beside it, not looking directly at Rick Teater's face. "Any ideas, Charlie?"
"No." He walked over and put his hand on my shoulder, motioning me out onto the adjacent patio away from the others. "Logan, I want this place searched from roof to basement. Yard, beach. Everything. Just in case he didn't die by himself. I'm in charge, of course, but you have the training to see things Max and I might miss. We're not very experienced with murder around here."
And I am?