I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
A lifetime ago, a young naval aviator took the Oath. Tom McGuire, now a San Francisco PD Homicide Inspector, hadn’t thought about the Oath in years. That was all about to change.
A famous San Francisco newspaper columnist has been murdered. Some would say “executed”. Shot through the head, her arms tied behind her, knotted together from shoulder to wrist.
McGuire feels an eerie chill of recognition. After being shot down over North Vietnam, he suffered seven years as a Prisoner of War in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, enduring rope torture many times – his arms tied in exactly the same way.
A lifetime ago, another young naval aviator took that Oath. He also was shot down over North Vietnam, and joined McGuire as a POW in Hanoi. Almost forty years later, their lives were about to intersect once again.
This time with explosive consequences.
"Dennis Koller's mystery-thriller debut is a strong one. The novel has it all; intrigue, politics, murder and romance. Combined with characters and dialogue that are ultimately believable, The Oath is a real page-turner."
The Irish Herald Book Review
Other books in this genre:
AFRICA. Where corruption often rules and human life can be the most worthless commodity. Read the story of Sierra Leone and its people in this bloody, harrowing, and heart breaking suspense thriller.
This is a work of fiction, except for the parts that really happened.
Vast deposits of diamonds and oil are found in land overlapping both Sierra Leone and Liberia. A scramble ensues to secure the mining and drilling rights of both commodities. Leading the race is the Mining Earth & Ocean Corp. (MEO).
To amass and control this wealth, the creation of an illegal state called Salonga is proposed. The nominated ruler, backed and supported by the MEO, is a former RUF commander - General Icechi Walker, known as 'Body Chop' - a suspected mass murderer involved in countless atrocities.
As the battle for control of the land unravels, stories spread of horrific bloody massacres and mutilations in towns and villages, many of them by child soldiers. The capital, Freetown, is threatened by a full-blown mindless rebellion led by the RUF.
To secure power, Body Chop, with the help of the MEO, engages the protection of a private mercenary army. But control will not be handed to him so easily.
Disgraced, virtually bankrupt, ex-Sgt. Alex Dalloway, is a major part of the mercenary brigade. He has a personal quest to locate the Army officer who tortured him and killed his men years ago in the jungles of Sierra Leone. He begins to suspect the former RUF commander's involvement.
His personal life in shambles, Dalloway and his troop goes against Body Chop and his supporters, to avenge the death of his men and all the innocent lives lost at the hands of the RUF.
Friday, November 23rd 1888
Doctor J. Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:
Here, as requested, is the first of my journal entries made last evening, detailing the events and our involvement in what must surely be our most grisly case yet. I believe at least one of the dailies is running with the headline 'Jack the Ripper', which I think is mere sensationalism, however, history will demand the truth...
Having been brought up to date in the brougham by the effervescent Sherlock Holmes, he and I made our way to Whitechapel. I began to list some aspects of the crimes reported via our friend Lestrade, Mr Lungcutter the police surgeon and constables Armstrong & Miller (first on the scene at the most recent murder). There have so far been five murders - including the two last night - and various items were found at each murder scene. These items include:
A bucket and spade left near the corpse
A quantity of porridge in the victim's breast pocket
A lock of hair tied round the victim's ring finger
The words - yore neckst - written in porridge across the victim's chest.
Several incisions have been made to the bodies of all the victims, leading Lestrade to believe the murders may have been committed by a crazed doctor. In fact, Lestrade even questioned me, albeit briefly, as to my whereabouts on the dates in question and is satisfied (thank God) that I am not a suspect. He is currently questioning several hundred Doctors to ascertain their movements.
We arrived at Jones the Butchers Yard and were able to inspect the murder scene. Holmes spent several minutes lying prostrate on the ground, examining the cobbles for evidence. Though the police claimed to have been quite thorough, Holmes discovered a quantity of what he suspected might be French tobacco and two cigar stubs bearing a royal crest.
My old war wound is playing up, so I shall continue this narrative in due course.
If Mark Wilkerson had to listen to any more of that morbid organ music, he was going to throw up. A migraine beat against his temples and tears rolled down his cheeks as he stood propped against his crutches, his dislocated shoulder aching. Through bleary eyes, he viewed the three closed coffins at the front of the viewing parlor. Gold glitter on white satin ribbons across the caskets read, “Devoted Father,” “Loving Mother,” and “Baby Sister – Sabrina.” She was only six.
Ornate floral arrangements surrounded the closed caskets, their florist shop fragrance adding to Mark’s migraine. He ran his hand across the smooth surface of his mother’s coffin; fingered the satin ribbon. She was in there, at least what was left of her, but he would never see her again. Never again would he feel the warm touch of her lips on his cheek when she kissed him good night.
His weepy eyes abruptly gushed with tears. What happened? He still wondered, shaking his head. Even though he’d somehow survived the accident, he still didn’t know anything about it. All he knew was what the County Sheriff’s deputy and the doctor at the hospital had told him; that he and his family had been in a tragic, fiery accident on the Carquinez Bridge on Christmas Eve.
The doctor also told him his memory would probably return, but it could take some time. He’d called it “dissociative amnesia," whatever that was. He said it was often caused by severe emotional trauma.
Mark’s grandmother, Emily Wilkerson, told him he’d performed with the family at a rest home earlier that night, but he couldn’t remember that either. He felt, more than remembered his father had been angry about something. Then there was Amanda Bonfili. What happened on their date? Or did they have a date? He just couldn’t remember.
Mark moved to his father’s casket. How could he live without him? His dad had been his greatest inspiration, his best friend. He looked down at the casket as his tears rolled. How could he live with the guilt of knowing their last words may have been spoken in anger? He’d never even had a chance to say I’m sorry, if he’d done something wrong or even good-bye. Somehow, he felt he might have been at least partly responsible for the accident. “Forgive me, dad.” His cries escaped his lips in a whisper, “for whatever I did. I’m sorry.” Tears stung his eyes and he wiped them on his sports jacket sleeve.
He wished he could see his family just one last time, but the undertaker had told him their bodies were too charred. The thought horrified him and Mark agreed it would be better to remember them as he’d last seen them alive.
At least his sister, Amy, was being spared the funeral ordeal. But she was still in a coma and her condition was serious. The doctors said she could have brain damage if she survived. That sounded worse than his amnesia.
The accident had only been three days ago and tomorrow, after the funeral, the coffins would be lowered into the cold ground. Is that all there is to life? Mark wondered, To live your life then be discarded like some trash. Hanging his head, he wished he could have died in their place, or at least with them. How Amy and he had survived was a mystery.
Moving to Sabrina’s casket, he laid his forehead against her tiny coffin. “Dear God! Please make this go away. Make them come back.” But even as he prayed, he knew God couldn’t make that happen, assuming He was even real. After all, why would an all-powerful, loving God take away the people he loved most; his parents and his six-year-old sister who had so much to live for, the family Amy and he needed?
Why? The question kept repeating over in his mind, as he wiped his eyes again. Why did his parents have to die and of all people little Sabrina?
SABRINA! Mark wanted to shout, as if it would bring her back.
He missed his baby sister every bit as much as he missed his mother and father.
“Sabrina,” he whispered.
He would never see her again. Tears rolled down his cheeks as Mark thought of her charred little body inside the tiny coffin and the pain she must have endured in the fire. She didn’t deserve to die.
Mark felt a warm hand on his shoulder. Straightening with his crutches, he leaned into his grandmother’s arms. “Go ahead and cry,” she said. “It’s good to let it out.”
Mark leaned down and laid his cheek in the hollow of her neck. He could smell her sweet, old ladies perfume. “Why?” he asked. “Why didn’t God protect them? Why did He let Sabrina die and not me? She didn’t even get a chance to live her life.” He turned away and tightened his fists on the crutch’s handgrip.
He felt his grandmother’s warm fingers turn his chin. “Mark, I know this is hard for you. It’s hard for me too and it will be hard on Amy when she comes home.” His grandmother choked on her words then blotted her eyes with her hankie, “if she does. Son, we don’t always understand why He allows things like this to happen, but my mother always told me, ‘what we see today as a tragedy, we may look back at tomorrow as a blessing.’” Emily hugged him tighter and stroked his hair.
“A blessing? How can losing almost my entire family ever be a blessing?” Mark huffed and pulled away. His head throbbed even more. Then looking back at his grandmother, he said, “If I ever find out who caused the accident, I swear… I’ll… I’ll kill him…. I promise that.”
“No, Mark. Don’t think like that. It was just that, an accident. You need to forgive them.”
“I can’t, Grandma. I just can’t.”
By the time Savvas arrived at the copse in Filothei, the police had already cordoned off the area. Two ministers, the High-up Chief and the Press Secretary of the Government were waiting at the crime scene. The head rookie bypassed the representatives of the Intelligence Service and grasped the hand of colleague Jacob Oldman.
“What do you mean, good morning?” queried Oldman.
With greying hair, thick moustache, squared shoulders and serious expression, the taciturn Oldman was the most senior officer in Homicide. “Come see,” he said in a fatherly tone, pointing at the victim’s Rover. Gus Black, the President of the party in power, was slumped at the wheel, with two contact shots in the head. Three hours earlier he had dismissed his bodyguard and driver. Black’s door was closed, the rear door was not. The gun used to shoot him had not been found, and neither had the revolver he kept in the glove compartment or his personal belongings.
“How do you feel about robbery after murder?” whispered Whitebrow, who had crept up as quietly as a cat.
“It’s likely,” said the senior officer.
The Chief pulled Savvas aside.
“What do you think?” he asked.
“Did the Honourables remove his personal belongings?”
“You know the answer to that.”
“They thought they would round off the crime scene, eh?” chuckled the head rookie and swore at the “good for nothings” for tampering with the investigation.
In his opinion, the passenger door had been broken into by an amateur; someone who must have known how long Black would be unaccompanied. If it was someone the victim knew, it was likely they would sit beside him. Otherwise, the threat of a weapon would have been enough to get them into the car. The perpetrators had preferred to break in and hide behind the driver, leaving mud smears with DNA. And as it hadn’t rained for days, it was probably transferred from a garden.
“Black must have been followed by at least two people,” said Stretch. “When they saw him head towards his vehicle, one hid in the back. We’re looking for a thin, short and flexible person, who jumped up as soon as the politician turned the key. He didn’t let him drive far due to the increased police presence in the area, killed him and hopped onto his accomplice’s motorbike. This was indicated by the narrow tire tracks behind the Rover. The victim must have been at one of the villas nearby. It smells like a political crime committed by an amateur.”
“We’ll get caught up with professional liars. Zeus, take note. Your theories are for my ears only. Oldman is in command of the investigation, I’ll explain your role to you in private,” said the Chief, and returned to the huddled VIPs.
Officially he was in charge, unofficially…
“Clearly one coroner won’t suffice,” murmured Oldman, motioning to the Crime Scene Investigators to stop snickering, as no less than three coroners pulled up.
While they were waiting for Black’s driver and bodyguard, Savvas decided to consult with the representatives from local police station, certain they would be aware of the quirks of their citizens, many of whom were involved in politics, be it front and centre or behind the scenes. It turned out to be no secret that the victim often visited Claire Vane, who lived 200 metres from the scene of the crime and another 200 from his own villa. Although she was Black’s closest associate, they had not been instructed to inform her of his death.
The head rookie updated Oldman, who requested Savvas handle Vane.
:: Warm-blooded Constituent
In the meantime, the police had blocked off the roads leading to Black’s residence. Savvas asked the patrol car to pass by the house first. Arriving there, he saw the victim’s wife in a red convertible waiting for the garage door to open. It was 4.55 am. The patrolmen had some very interesting gossip about the “brand-new widow” Lola Black and the Vanes. Among other things, the latter’s husband, former MP Vane, had moved to the city centre “to serve his female constituents better”.
His “official wife” was sleeping. Her house was like a bungalow with large uncovered windows, which offered the perfect view into the sitting room. The head rookie walked through the unlocked gate and rounded the garden. There were puddles in a few areas from a recent watering. He requested that Forensics take a sample of the mud for comparison with the trace found in the Rover and to search for footprints and other evidence. Ringing the doorbell, he heard Claire Vane’s voice a few seconds later.
On hearing about Black’s death, she burst into sobs. However, she quickly regained her self-control and systematically asked for details. She then proceeded to make telephone call after telephone call. Her authoritarian words testified to her anger and antagonism. To Savvas she said that Black had also been a close friend of her father’s. The previous evening they had shared a bottle of wine, chatting easily. He must have been killed just a few minutes after leaving her house. Claire flatly rejected the possibility that it was an organised political crime, or that the perpetrator was a friend or colleague.
“Politicians kill with their words,” she stated. The only possible explanation was an entirely unpredictable action by a warm-blooded constituent. The “only possible explanation” was interrupted by the sound of her telephone.
“Yes, I know… an officer is here now… I don’t care… it’s your problem,” she said, hostilely.
Her husband, wondered Savvas. Was he asking for an alibi? He looked at her questioningly. She wasn’t going to enlighten him. He expressed his condolences and bid her goodnight.
“You are completely different from the woman who opened the door to me,” he said.
“Please explain, Mr Kallinis.”
“I met three Claires this evening. One opened the door, warm from her bed. Another expressed her deep grief on hearing about the murder of her closest friend. Now I’m bidding farewell to a disciplined, dynamic scientist. I won’t mention your political standing in case you misunderstand me.”
Before shutting the door behind him, Mrs Vane took his mobile number saying, “We will meet again.” There was no doubt in his mind that she was flirting with him.
When billionaire Virginia Ann "Peep" Holler dies, a battle for her estate begins. However, she leaves all of her wealth and Jodi’s Place – a popular Oklahoma ranch dedicated to helping wayward kids – to Abigail Brennan. Abby, a young single mother and favored protege, is elated. But her enthusiasm does not match her experience. After a few bad choices, the ranch becomes embroiled in financial turmoil causing some board members to vie for its ownership. In the meantime, Abby discovers a plot by a local oil baron who wants to seize control of Jodi’s Place, for its rich oil reserves, and end its usefulness to troubled youth. Just when she thinks the inevitable is about to happen, Abby meets an attractive newcomer in town who may hold the key to saving the ranch and helping her out of her dilemma...but not without a price. In spite of the cost, can Abby trust this newcomer to aid her in saving Jodi's Place? Or will Peep's fortune and good name be ruined by forces she cannot control or tame?
What most impressed Calder but also rankled the most was that these conspirators had chosen the weakest point in the electoral process. They were relying on the apathy and ignorance of normal citizens. At precisely the time when no one thought to look at what was going on—indeed when most thought the election was already settled—a small group had struck at the very heart of the process.
Fear ebbed slightly, as he was overwhelmed by indignation at the hubris of the criminals. Politics was a dirty pursuit, of course. Everyone knew that politicians twist the truth even when they’re not telling outright lies. But this wasn’t some cynical exchange of rhetoric and trumped up statistics to do with denying unemployment assistance in favor of funding something else; it wasn’t about gutting environmental law for private gain. Those debates, however full of trickery and spin, were nevertheless just that—debates—and they were more or less overt, carried out before the public and in the public’s name.
This plot, though, was covert, a nationally organized threat to the integrity of the office of the President. It was secret, precise in its economy, and deadly in pursuit of its goal. If the plot succeeded, the government would not legitimately derive its “just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Calder had spent more than twenty years studying and teaching about elections; and while his primary interest was academic, and despite his stated ambivalence about the “real world,” that theory and practice was underpinned by an abiding, visceral connection to what was it was all for—people: their rights, their lives and livelihoods; the just, lawful application and use of power. He found himself filled with outrage.
He wondered again about who the conspirators were. Calder couldn’t see the either party’s leadership doing something like this. It was too risky, far beyond the normal kinds of “dirty tricks” a party would be likely to countenance.
Did they know at the top level, like Watergate, and so would neither help nor hinder the conspirators? Or had some private, well-heeled and well-connected set of ideologues seen this dirty plot as a means to get their way, abetted by the confusion wealth in American politics affords?
Hours later, Calder was no nearer figuring out who was doing the killing and manipulation than when he sat down.
Roger is stuck in detention forever and the only way to escape is by uncovering a deep dark secret about himself and the people around him. From drawing his teacher naked on the blackboard to sabotaging the school’s science fair, Roger finds himself spending more time in the school’s detention closet than he does at home. Before he knows it, his once “Ivy League” world becomes relegated to a small dark space, where the only human interaction he has is with the voice of a mysterious woman who talks to him from behind the wall. Steeped in humor and suspense, this psychological thriller takes the reader on a journey through the mind of a disturbed teen genius who struggles to fit in at school and at home. Can Roger escape the shackles of his mind or will the lady behind the wall remain a mystery? This is Detention Land.
It happened so fast. One minute she was swimming, the next the current was dragging her to the bottom. Seawater flooded her mouth. She fought, thrashed to the surface and tried to shout; a hoarse whisper was all that came. Her head went under and stayed under. Her lungs were on fire. With no warning it released her and she saw blue sky. Jennifer gulped shallow ragged breaths, shocked and scared, and started towards her family. She would never leave them again. But the decision was no longer hers. The force drew her back into a world without light or oxygen and this time it didn’t let go. Her arm broke free in a desperate attempt to escape. Tongues of spray pulled it down and Jennifer knew she was goingto drown. She’d dreamed of watching her daughter grow into a woman. That would never be. And Mark, poor Mark. How unfair to leave him. Her body rolled beneath the waves. She stopped struggling, closed her eyes and disappeared from sight. Seconds passed before Mark realised something wasn’t right. ‘Where’s mummy? Where’s your mummy?’ The baby sucked her thumb. ‘Where is she, Lily?’ At first he couldn’t move. Cold fear consumed him. A hundred yards away a group of boys played football; apart from them the beach was deserted. He yelled. They didn’t hear him. He threw the push-chair to the sand, yanked it open and sat Lily in it. His hands were shaking. The damned straps wouldn’t fasten. He spoke to himself. ‘Please god, no. Please god, no’ and raced into the sea. The water was freezing. What the hell had Jen been thinking? This was Scotland, for Christ sake. He swam to where he’d last seen her and went under. Mark was a good swimmer but it was dark. His frantic fingers searched until the pressure in his chest forced him to the surface. He took in as much air as he could and went back. Something bumped against him; he grabbed hold and dragged it up. Two boys ran into the water to help: the footballers. They hauled her body the last few yards and Mark fell to his knees. Jennifer wasn’t breathing. People appeared on the beach, silent witnesses to the nightmare the day had become. Where had they been when he needed them? He shouted, half in anger half in desperation. ‘Somebody call an ambulance!’ The crowd kept a respectful distance, believing what he believed, that he’d lost her. Jennifer’s face was white. Mark covered her mouth with his and breathed into her. His hands pressed against her chest demanding she come back to him. One of the boys took over with no better luck. Mark tried again, refusing to let her go. He pumped her heart, whimpering like a child, sobbing for himself as well as his wife. Jennifer’s eyes fluttered; she retched and vomited water. Mark turned her on her side and rubbed her back, whispering reassurance, blinded by tears, aware his prayers had been answered. A siren sounded in the distance. It was going to be all right. She was safe. They would be together again. The three of them. He raised his head and saw ambulance-men racing towards him across the sand. Mark jumped to his feet. They must have drifted... except the boat was there. His voice rose from a cry to a scream. ‘Lily. Lily!’ He spoke to the group who had offered nothing. ‘I left a baby here, somebody must’ve seen her.’ They stared, no idea what he was talking about. A new terror seized him. He ran a few steps up and down the beach, lost and afraid. The bag lay where Jennifer dropped it. But no push-chair. No sign his daughter had ever been there. Lily was gone.
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Welcome to this edition of Words For Thought , the blog on wordrefiner.com . Like many of the previous blogs we are looking at homophones.
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Periodically, ForeignCorrespondent participates in virtual book tours that allow authors to showcase their books to a broader audience. Today I am hosting fellow RRBC/RWISA author