DISAPPEARING THE MESSENGER

You’ve heard of Shooting the Messenger? This is a tale that begins with a messenger – a whistle-blowing messenger – who wants to upend a multi-billion dollar, international scam that is dumping phony medicines and medical equipment into the stockpiles of governments and companies through the world. In this case, people don’t want to shoot the messenger, they want to delete her from record.

Disappearing the Messenger is a post-COVID-19 novel. Amanda Clegge claims that her former employer is running the world’s biggest healthcare scam – filling pandemic stockpiles around the world with counterfeit drugs and medical supplies. But those to whom she is blowing her whistle can’t find a record of her working at the company. Is it Amanda who is the fraud? Or is Amanda the messenger that others are trying desperately to ‘disappear’.

Can PI Mike Raleigh save her credibility – and her life?

Behind a thrilling yarn is a very real question. Can such a fraud happen in real life? Is such a fraud happening already? What’s in the stockpiles the world will depend on in the next pandemic?

DISAPPEARING THE MESSENGER

CHAPTER ONE

She was exhausted, worn down by a huge weight pressing on her soul. She would have a tall, trim body, like a competitive swimmer or marathoner except for the sag of her wide shoulders. Her walk was slow, close to shambling. Her face was, at distance, that of a strong, wilful woman in her mid-30s, but nearer, lined with eyes underscored with black circles and a mouth drooping at both sides. She was the very definition of defeated and how she made it to the doorway of my office baffled me.

She was not only eroded of spirit, she was bitter. I could see it as she squinted at me as though she was disgusted just by my existence. It was evident in her mouth, tightened into a thin line, as she stepped into my modest space. It was there in her hissing voice – gas seeping from a broken valve.

“Mr. Raleigh? I don’t have an appointment…” She made it sound like an accusation as though I was guilty of criminally imposing a sense of order.

“That’s alright, Miss?” I smiled and rose from my desk chair. The seat of the chair rose a couple of inches with a rattle reminding me, yet again, that its incomprehensible mechanisms needed adjustment.

“Clegge. My name is Amanda Clegge. And it’s Ms.” She pronounced ‘mizz’ through lips pursed even more as though describing Satanic acts while biting a lemon. “I have a problem and was told you might help.” She ran out of energy as her sentence went on. Or was she giving up her last hope as she studied me with her pale blue, bloodshot eyes.

What she was looking at was a dark-haired, six-foot-tall man with a craggy face and lean frame that some describe as gaunt, dressed in jeans, a blue Ralph Lauren shirt and dark blue sports jacket. I was standing behind my desk so she couldn’t see my black Nike track shoes or black sports socks but a full view probably wouldn’t have improved things. She made me share her depression with her expression and voice.

“You are a detective, aren’t you? A private detective?”

“Yes,” I answered. “Yes, I’m a P.I.” realizing I was matching her whisper. I raised my volume. “Would you like to sit?” I pointed to the chair in front of my desk.

Amanda Clegge eyed the elderly chair for a minute as though she was counting the microbes crawling across the leather seat and its wooden arms. I thought the chair was quite appropriate for clients; I often sat in it myself while taking a break from my mechanical bull, desk chair. After realizing I wasn’t going to have the offending chair deep-cleaned before she sat in it, she moved to it, dropped her Coach bag on the floor and lowered her body onto the seat. It was like watching a geriatric being lowered into a hot bath. I felt a twinge of pain just from the sight.

“Can I get you something to drink?” I was thinking of pure adrenaline.

She shook her head and even that small movement sapped much of her remaining energy.

“Are you sick?” I wasn’t being considerate. I was afraid the woman was going to drop dead of fatigue while sitting in my best chair just before I went for lunch.

“No. But I should be. Maybe that would solve all my problems….” She paused. I waited. “If I got sick, I could die.”

I waited again but there was nothing else.

“I’m sorry but I don’t have a clue why you’re here, Miss Clegge. I can’t help if you won’t tell me what you’re talking about.” I sat down and the seat of my chair sank to its former height. I was annoyed at the chair but Miss Clegge was running a close second.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Raleigh…”

“Michael. But Mike is fine.”

“Okay, Michael.” Her head bowed and I was afraid she was expiring. Her head rose again and I sighed in relief. “I really don’t want to talk about my problem.” She ended with a little chuckle.

“Well, I can’t be of much …” I prepared to stand up again, to usher the woman out of the office so I could grab a pastrami on rye with a sparkling water from the fast food place in the basement of the building.

“No,” she said quickly. “I will tell you, of course. But it’s very painful for me.”

I understood that part. She was the embodiment of pain; it radiated from every part of her and made me wince just to see her slumping in the visitor’s chair.

“I’m a whistle-blower.” Her statement came out in a different voice. Instead of her tremulous whisper, the sentence was delivered in a strong tone that challenged me to disagree.

I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. Here I was, only a couple of months after the vaccinated end of the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to recover from the worst year I’ve ever had and one of the first cases in my recovery period was a woman with a beef against her employer or someone else who bothered her. In my jaundiced mood, I classified it as a ‘he said, she said’ situation that hardly ever turned out well. As a client, Miss Clegge was about as ideal as someone fighting a ticket for jaywalking.

“I doubt that I can help you, Miss Clegge. My practice deals mostly with criminal matters – investigating for people accused of serious offences, stock market fraud, searches for hit-and-run drivers…”

She held up her hand. “Yes. I know what you do, Mike, and that’s why I came to you.” Her voice was reduced again to a whisper but there was a little more force to it. Maybe she wasn’t quite on her deathbed.

She took a deep breath. “I work… worked for a company that imports medicines from Asia. It is contracted to deliver these medicines to hospitals through the U.S. and health providers in Canada.”

“And that’s what you blew the whistle on?” I was listening but was becoming impatient. Among the subjects in which I have little interest, healthcare is high on the list. I’ve worked for clients in the field and found them to be heavy on impenetrable information and light on payment for my services. And I have to confess I know nothing about medications that isn’t printed on their labels.

Her story came out in an emotional rush. Her voice rose from the barely audible hiss to what I assumed was a normal range for Amanda Clegge. It was a much more pleasing, husky tone.

Ms. Clegge was a 36-year-old CA, a chartered accountant. She spent seven years of her career as an assistant to the treasurer of a chain of long-term care homes and another three years as controller of a pharmaceutical company that produced several highly specific medications.

Like me, she knew very little about the making of drugs; she didn’t have to. She counted beans, not containers of medicines. What she did know about was how products were ordered, bought, shipped and sold. She had to know the processes so she could watch the costs of each part of the process. And she knew the price of product inspection down to the last nickel.

She was hired away from the pharmaceutical company by Logica Biologica Inc., an import-expert firm specializing in bringing into North America lines of drugs and other healthcare supplies from Asia and delivering these products to end users. The money she was paid was half again as much as her last employer and the work involved foreign travel. For a CA bound to a desk in an office, the lure of travel abroad was too great to refuse. She worked at LBI for three years.

During the time at LBI, Amanda took three lengthy trips, to India, Pakistan and China. Each was not only a departure from routine, it was an eye-opening, life-changing adventure far more absorbing than anything else she had ever experienced. While she was able to spend much of the travel time on tourism, each trip included working visits to large factories. Each of these excursions made her wonder even more about what the hell she had gotten into.

At the end of this recitation, Amanda came to the point. “The people in all LBI areas were careless about security. They lied to me repeatedly but I’m not an idiot. With what I saw during my trips and here, at my workplace,” she told me in a voice that was growing weaker by the word, “I became convinced LBI is a gigantic scam raking in tens of millions of dollars by supplying drugs and other things that are not only useless but often highly dangerous.”

Once she completed her long sentence, she lapsed back to her bone-weary state. But I was now intrigued.

“Do you have a lawyer?” I wanted to get to my problems before I began to deal with hers. Lawyers were some of my best clients – at least in pre-COVID days – but they also could be my worst enemies. Lawyers are as territorial as hippopotami. They want to run the show in which they have any part. If Miss Clegge was already represented by one or more lawyers, there would be less room for me. At some point, a lawyer will not only suck up all the air in the room, he or she will take every last breath in the whole house.

“I have a lawyer who helped me buy a home but he says he can’t help us with this matter. Maybe you could recommend someone.” Her voice trailed off again.

“I could do that,” I said, but I wasn’t going to rush into sharing this case with anyone until I worked out my part in it. “But, I’m a private investigator, Miss Clegge. What do you think I can do for you?”

She raised her head to take a closer look at me but the effort almost drained her last resources. “I think I need a bodyguard,” she said before her head lowered again.

THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT

The crash of a giant U.S. cargo airplane on Ellesmere Island in Canada’s far northern extreme has the Canadian government scrambling to get a rescue and recovery team up to the crash site. The team will have to work out of tiny Alert, a research station that is the most northern permanent settlement in the world. It’s a job for Major Daniel T. Court. Court’s problem is that he hasn’t a clue of why he was selected for the challenging task. He’s a new guy in Global Affairs of the government after a military career. He is also one of the few people, it seems, who wants to get to the site to help any survivors. Everyone else, it appears, is bent on making sure there are no witnesses to the event. Why is there such a cloak of mystery over the crash? Why are American mercenaries and Russian troops the only other people on the way to the site? What – or who – was aboard the crashed plane and are they alive to explain the whole mess?  

THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT

CHAPTER ONE

Why me? I didn’t do more than mouth the words silently as I stared at the smartphone in my hand. I should have asked it in an outraged shout. It was the obvious response given the short tenure in my new job and its low position on the hierarchy totem pole. Instead I fell back on the usual way I received orders when I was Major Daniel T. Court in a Canadian military intelligence unit.

“Let me see if I understand you. A U.S. military transport plane has gone down in the Arctic and you want me involved in the recovery. Is that the bottom line?”

There was a brief grunt from the Deputy Minister. “Briefing room. Five minutes.” The phone icon on my phone greened out. I reached for my beret only to touch the bare top of my desk. I was no longer in uniform unless you count a dark gray suit, white shirt, tie and shined shoes as the uniform of the day for workers on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada. No beret. Still, an order was an order and I rushed out the door of my small office to get to the briefing on time.

Let’s get back to the question. Why me? I retired from the Canadian Armed Forces only six months ago and immediately was tapped by a contact in the federal government to fill a newly-created position in the offices of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. My first day in this job was five months ago, on Monday of the first work week in February.

My title was Special Security Advisor to the Minister. At the time, it was carefully explained to me. There already was a National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister. I was not, in any way, the equal of this person or even in her league. I was attached to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a very important person but not the PM. The ‘special’ in my title, in other words, didn’t mean I was ‘special’ good or ‘special’ valuable. I was ‘special’ because I was not particularly valued. I was special like a trailer hitch is special to a car.  Good to have around in case you want something done that doesn’t fit into a tailored cubbyhole.

Why me? Why would the people far above want to reach down to get me involved in such a situation? Maybe, it was because I am ex-military. At retirement, I held the rank of major with the PPCLI, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, one of the most storied units of the Canadian Armed Forces. Also, I was a former member of JTF2, Joint Task Force 2, the premier special forces brigade. I was trained in Arctic warfare. All that gave me some validity, I suppose, but I had no training in search and rescue, none as a paramedic and knew very little about military aircraft except having flown in a lot of them.

“We want you on this, because you are the only person we have in the ministry with any background in what we’re facing. And we sincerely want to have a presence going forward.” These were the first things the Deputy Minister told me after I took a seat at the table in a briefing room in the minister’s office suite in the West Block of Parliament Hill. I guess that answered my question but not well.

Without getting into all the arcane details, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Canada is top dog in the Department of Global Affairs, a sprawling creature with many offices and buildings away from Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa and abroad. I have no idea why my minister is not named Minister of Global Affairs so don’t ask.

I work for the minister herself who sometimes hangs out in her Hill suite along with other alpha members of the federal government. She was busy so I often ended up taking direction from her Deputy Minister. Both of them wanted to be represented in the recovery of a huge U.S. military plane that had come down on our soil – or tundra or ice or whatever it landed on in Ellesmere Island, our northern-most region. Enough said.

I did wince at the term ‘going forward,’ which is a particularly dumb, fairly recent addition to one of our official languages. Sylvester Archambault, the deputy minister, was speaking in English to the dozen people around the table. At any moment, however, he would switch into French. The bilingual ability of virtually everyone on Parliament Hill, if not Ottawa, has always impressed me. Everywhere you go on The Hill and the city around, you hear conversations switch smoothly from one language to the other and back again. It is one of the things that makes Canada seem more European than American. Of course, in many parts of Europe, citizens switch fluently through four or five languages but we do our part in this multi-lingual world. Except for that ‘going forward’ blather.

The deputy’s eyes shifted from me to the rest of the group. “Here is what we know. The plane is a C-5M Super Galaxy, made by Lockheed Martin. It is huge, the biggest military transport in use by the US Air Force. The thing is big enough to carry five helicopters or six armoured cars. It crashed but there are survivors. How many, we don’t know.”

“Jesus.” The interjection came from one of the Assistant Deputy Ministers, the one responsible for the ministry’s budget. “How the hell are we going to carry all that stuff out…”

“Mr. Baxter. I wish you would hold all your questions for later,” the Deputy said with evident exasperation. Baxter’s lips clamped shut and his face flushed.

“But, just to keep you happy,” the Deputy added, “There is apparently no cargo aboard this plane. Washington tells us it was carrying just people. There are infantry soldiers aboard, apparently hitching a ride home from training duties near or in Ukraine, along with a small number of civilian passengers.”

There were frowns on the foreheads of more than half the people at the table. “Yes, I know,” Archambault added as he noted the consternation. “That’s a lot of plane just to carry a relative handful of passengers. But if the Americans want to waste fuel, that’s their problem. Right now, we have to worry about finding this plane, rescuing survivors and recovering bodies.”

A small woman sitting to the right of the deputy minister looked down at her notepad and up at the deputy. She whispered. He listened and said to the group, “Ah, yes. Our sources of information. We’re getting everything from Washington.”

One of the other women at the table raised her hand and the deputy nodded. Virginia Gault, the minister’s personal assistant, spoke in her typical, clipped manner. “Are we getting any intel from people on the plane?”

“Nothing directly. Washington says not much is getting through,” came the response from Archambault. “Our embassy is dealing with the Pentagon … a brigadier general named Parks. He told our military attaché in Washington that the pilot, co-pilot and navigator are dead.” There were gasps from around the table. “The cockpit apparently is crushed. What communications they are getting are via a satphone used by survivors. So, someone is alive back there even though the plane obviously crashed. But the communications are broken up. Something to do with the Arctic ionosphere. I don’t really understand…” The Deputy threw up his hands in a very Gallic shrug.

Ms. Gault, still holding the floor, turned her sharp eyes away from Archambault. They swivelled to me and I felt like I was caught by the blinding headlights of an oncoming truck.

“What’s Major Court doing here?” She didn’t like the creation of my job and her competitive streak was showing.

When all the eyes turned toward me, I wished I had brushed my short-cut, medium brown hair and straightened my dark blue tie. I immediately sat more erect to make the most of my five-foot-eleven-inch lean frame. Then I was embarrassed by my vanity.

The Deputy Minister had been speaking in his normal tone, level-headed and straight-forward. Now, his voice became curt. I had seen him annoyed only once before in the half dozen times I had been in his meetings. I was seeing it again.

“He is here because I invited him. We’ll be running operations out of Alert on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut. For those who haven’t met him, Major Court is the only person in the ministry that I know of that has experience in the Arctic, in the military and in intelligence. He’s familiar with communications as well.”  I’m not sure where Archambault got that tidbit of background; what I knew about communications was about 10 percent more than the average 17-year-old but I wasn’t about to argue. The man was defending me. “He will be our representative on the ground.” I was glad he didn’t say ‘man on the ground’; that would have sent Virginia into a frenzy.

Well, now it was official. I tried to remember if I had taken my really-cold-weather gear with me when I packed up my belongings at my last posting. I had hit my retirement date while on secondment to Germany as an intelligence officer with NATO. Packing-up had been a slapdash affair and largely handled by a lance corporal assigned to the Officer’s Quarters on base. I still hadn’t unpacked all the boxes that had been delivered to my condo storage unit in Ottawa. I would have to rummage through my locker before heading to the farthest north part of the country.

“Why,” asked Virginia Gault, “would we send anyone to that crash site? Why not let the Americans handle their own crisis?” The question made a great deal of sense. The big, U.S.  Thule air base was only about 500 miles south of Alert on the west side of Greenland. The Strategic Command there could send aircraft into next-door Ellesmere Island with our permission.

Ms. Gault had done me a favour although she certainly hadn’t meant to. In effect, she posed my first question. Why me?  Inwardly, I cheered for her. Yeah, why the hell are we sending anyone to the Arctic crash site of an American plane?

Mr. Archambault brushed the question aside and motioned Gault to relinquish the floor. With a harrumph, she did so. As she sat back in her chair, the deputy simply said. “It’s our territory. Our people are going and we are in charge. Major Court will see to that. We’ll tell Thule when we locate the crash. Last thing we want at this time is American planes flying over our territory.”

I thought the deputy was being disingenuous; U.S. flights share our air space all the time. There was something going on in our cross-border relationship that was not only new and strange, it was scary.

The meeting wrapped up minutes later without much more information being imparted. I was still in my seat, trying to understand my role, when the deputy minister spoke. “Mr. Court. Come with me.”

MY DARK SOUL

Do you believe in reincarnation? Marty has dreams in which he robs, kills and buries five men…  before he was born? Now, decades later, bodies are found. Are Marty’s dreams coincidences or are they real, passed from the darkest of souls?

My Dark Soul is a story of crime and reincarnation, of questions with no easy answers. What can you believe? Thrilling. Chilling.

MY DARK SOUL

A STORY OF CRIME AND REINCARNATION

CHAPTER ONE

The sound of the shovel biting into earth. The ache in my shoulders as the dirt is lifted. The pelting noise of the clods thrown on the ground to the side of the grave. After a while, the sounds and efforts become routine. It is the first grave to be dug in the thicket by the river in the west end of the city. There are four more to come; five graves for five dead bodies.

I drive my car to the grave site although it is only a ten-minute walk from my home. One can’t carry a body over a shoulder through the streets of this quiet, upscale neighbourhood in the borough of Etobicoke in the city of Toronto. A resident might complain.

It’s risky enough to park my dark blue coupe in the tiny lot at the entrance to the park and its patches of urban forest. The cops patrol the general area most nights, even though they usually pass the lot without a glance. But, one never knows when a stalwart officer will take advantage of the out-of-the-way place to stop his or her marked car for an hour’s nap.

I’m taking the risk of staying local because I run a bigger one driving kilometres into the countryside to bury the bodies. A lone car on Ontario’s backroads – even my boring two-year-old Ford Tempo – in the middle of the night, would be a bright beacon to the Ontario Provincial Police or local cops trying to overcome the boredom of the night shift with traffic stops. 

I open the trunk of my vehicle and yank the body over the bumper. I loaded the body feet out, so, in the removal, the head of the dead man falls on the gravelled lot with a sickening thud. I care only that no one hears the noise. The body is wrapped in a plastic tarpaulin I bought at Canadian Tire for $49.95. It has brass grommets I use to bind the tarp with cheap rope, also from the box store.  

I drag the corpse off the gravel of the lot and through the forest. Being an urban woodlot, the signs of the dragging will be ignored by hikers, runners, dog-walkers, picnickers, fishers and others who use the park. There are lots of similar marks in the woods and few people go off the beaten paths to explore a few metres of unexciting underbrush. Besides, this close to the Humber River, the ground is often wet and muddy. 

I pull the corpse only twenty metres or so off the lot to the prepared grave and topple the wrapped corpse in. I spend the next while shovelling the earth over my former confederate. I toss the extra dirt into the forest and kick dead leaves and sticks over the site. In the end, it is a classic shallow grave that I figure no one will bother to explore.

I return to my SUV without a look back and drive home. I live in a small apartment on top of a separate garage at the end of the driveway of a large, single-family house. The home is on a street of large homes, some of them true mansions. The garage is as secluded as it could be in the city borough, a reason why I like living here. I am allowed sole use of the garage as well and that was where I store the wrappings for the dead men. 

I groan. I have already brought the bodies from the north to my quarters in several trips. Now I will have to do a similar thing four more times, wrapping and carting bodies from the garage one at a time, at night, to the wood by the river. The five dead men will lie in five graves in one clearing in the grove. The new and hidden graveyard is only a block away from a very large, prestigious cemetery that could have accommodated all five very nicely. And others would have done the hard slogging. I recognized the irony, but I can’t even consider a public cemetery. 

***

Marty Simcoe woke from his dream. He wasn’t frightened by the nightmare because it was a rerun. He couldn’t count the number of times he had been through the same dream. It was one in a series about a bank robbery and mass murder. Marty no longer tried to distinguish the dreams from reality. As far as he knew, he had committed the bank robbery with his confederates. He had seen them all killed in a dispute over the sharing of the loot. He buried the other five, one by one. He dreamed of doing all this at some time in the past but he didn’t know when. After all, he was only 19 years old now.

It wasn’t the dreams that scared Marty Simcoe. After every dream and awakening, Marty Simcoe was deathly afraid that the cops were coming for him. He had that feeling this morning as he ate breakfast in his home.

He lived in a rented apartment in a building next to a subway station, not in the top floor of a garage on another side street. Marty did live in Toronto but kilometres away from the home in his dreams and from the Humber River that flowed past the graves. He had never in his life seen the parking lot in which he had unloaded bodies in dream after dream after dream.

The dread went with Marty as he left his rental unit and boarded the subway to get to the University of Toronto in the heart of the city. He had returned to school this week after months studying at home during the COVID-19 emergency that had locked down most of the world. Classes at the university had resumed, even though it was August, in an attempt to resuscitate the second term of the year. A third term would begin in late October with no break. The normal school year wouldn’t catch up until the following summer. 

Marty’s fear of arrest wasn’t dispelled until he walked into the classroom where his Economics course was being taught. 

GHOST IN THE WINGS

If you love ghost stories, this is a great read. If you like mysteries, this is a book you can spend happy time with. If you like mysteries with ghosts, get set for this one. Ghost in the Wings is set in downtown Toronto. There is an old, beloved theatre called Massey Hall that is currently undergoing a facelift. This story creates another, similar theatre which is scheduled for demolition. The developer who is going to rip down the landmark is murdered in his office. Shortly after, death strikes again at the demo and rebuilding site. Who is the killer and what does he/she want?

Inspector Cameron Rande, head of the Toronto Police homicide team, takes on the investigation. He is supposed to sit at his desk collecting stats and issuing orders to his detectives. Instead, Rande is working beside his best ‘Ds’ and playing host to his visiting daughter as she debates returning to ‘TO’ to attend university. He’s a busy man but can he find time to visit the tomb of the theatre’s first manager. Has he got the time to meet the manager? Has he got the imagination to consider the theatre’s ghosts as suspects?

Read Chapter One of Ghost in the Wings:

CHAPTER ONE

As head of the Homicide Unit of the Toronto Police Service, Rande worked out of Police Headquarters. The H.Q. was in Toronto’s downtown not far away from the crime scene but was a 12-floor, 50-metre-high building buried amid the newer skyscrapers towering over the area. Rande didn’t often get to the sixtieth storey of a new skyscraper, especially one where the CEO of a well-known company lay in a pool of blood soaking into the imported nylon carpet.

Rande knew the carpet was made of nylon because the office manager had gone on about the problems she would have cleaning it. Her reaction to the death of her boss had been tepid at best with the usual words of shock and horror delivered without emotion. Her comments about the effects on her were truly outraged.  

“You can’t clean that with cold water and salt,” Valerie Bauer complained in her high, strident voice. “I’ll have to get someone in. That’s a Danish rug, you know.” 

Rande didn’t understand the connection. Did Mrs. Bauer have to bring in a squad of carpet cleaners from Denmark? Was a nylon carpet from Denmark that special? It took the inspector less than 30 seconds to decide Mrs. Bauer was a waste of time as a witness. He told her she could go back to work and she huffed off with a determined stride, leaving Rande to inspect the body and the view through the windows. 

Rande stepped back as the forensic team entered the room. There were three of them but the forensic people, Rande, and his two detectives didn’t take up a fifth of the space in the grand office. The medical examiner and his assistants clustered around the body. One of them shot video of everything. She began taking pictures as they came through the door and she continued to fill up the memory of her digital camera as Rande moved well out of frame. Rande noted that the photographer took care to capture every yard of the carpeting from the door to the body and around the corpse. Like Rande and the others in the room, the forensic officers wore paper booties. But this trio also wore full, white, paper coveralls and hairnets as they worked. Rande knew they would blot and vacuum the pricey carpet before they finished processing the scene. 

“Bauer was in here when we arrived.” Detective Sergeant John Stanwood said as Rande turned to the two detectives who responded to the call from uniformed officers. The uniforms were first on the scene after a panicked call was taken by a 911 dispatcher at 7:52 a.m. DS Stanwood and Detective Constable Barbara Greene had responded to the call at 8:35 a.m. and had been in the office for less than 60 minutes, five of those spent with the office manager. 

Rande knew the sergeant was covering his butt. The office manager should not have been in the office at all since she might contaminate the scene – by accident or on purpose. But enforcing what people should do in a situation like this was impossible and ridiculous. The police couldn’t do anything about a witness being at the scene of a crime before they arrived. 

“Don’t worry about it, John,” Rande told his frowning detective. “If she found the boss spitting on the carpet she might have done him in. Otherwise…” The inspector smiled briefly and Stanwood looked relieved. The interaction reminded Rande of the man he had replaced as head of the homicide unit. That man had been old-school and dogmatic, the kind who would ream out any lower ranking officer for the most trivial infraction, real or imagined. Rande had tried hard for more than a year to let his detectives know he was a different breed of boss. Old habits die slowly, especially since the former homicide inspector, Walter Shoemaker, was still around and still intrusive as head of Human Resources.

“Neat holes.” 

“What does that mean?” Rande looked down at the speaker. Dr. Ben Rowan, the medical examiner, looked up with his trademark wide eyes and wrinkled brow and repeated himself. His voice was slightly muffled by the mask covering his mouth and nose but it was loud enough to be clear. “Little hole in his chest. One, not much bigger, in his back. Shot through the heart is my guess. Heart bled until it stopped pumping – maybe 30 seconds or so. A through-and-through so we’ll search the room to find the slug.”

Lawrence T. Kaiser, the late CEO of Kaiser Developments, was lying on his back when his corpse was discovered by his secretary who called 911 within a couple of minutes. The detectives would find out that this action by the secretary had drawn a sharp rebuke from Valerie Bauer. The office manager believed she should have been called first. She had been on the subway at that time but the secretary should have kept calling Bauer so she could approve the call to the cops. The secretary’s woeful tale went into Stanwood’s notebook. 

So far, the police work involved with such a death was going like clockwork. The uniforms and detectives arrived within minutes of being called, due to the fact they were coming on shift and working out of nearby offices in the dense downtown of North America’s fourth largest city. Rande couldn’t find anything wrong with procedure unless, of course, he considered his presence at the crime scene.

Rande shouldn’t be here. He should be at his desk at H.Q. working on budgets, equipment allocation, crime stats, scheduling of his several dozen detectives plus half that number of civilian staffers, and other duties that were slowly driving him insane. He had been promoted to head of homicide a little more than a year ago after an outstanding run as a detective sergeant in the drug unit and special assistant to the chief during a year-long crisis over illegal guns from the U.S. flooding the Canadian market. Since his promotion, Rande had been looking, for the first time, at early retirement or quitting to join another police force where he could get back to some useful activity. 

Rande felt a presence at his side. Detective Constable Greene was close to him, scribbling in her gray-covered notebook. She was recording Dr. Rowan’s description of the wound in Kaiser’s body. 

Rande had assigned himself, a few months ago, to a high-profile murder of a billionaire couple in Toronto’s west end. His success with that case made it difficult for the chief to insist Rande stay chained to his desk. But Rande didn’t want to overplay his new freedom. The chief could tighten the reins again. This murder scene, however, was one that was hard to resist. The killing of the top executive of a large property development company in one of the fastest-growing cities in the world was definitely high-profile but Rande would risk the ire of the chief by abandoning his deskwork. 

Dr. Rowan’s minions had opened Kaiser’s white dress shirt to disclose the bullet wound in his chest. The man’s chest had a sparse covering of brown hair that was now matted with blood. The shirt was also bloody well beyond the small bullet hole. Kaiser’s heart must have pumped desperately for the last minute of his life judging from the amount of blood that had made it onto the costly carpeting. 

The shooting probably happened early this morning, Rande thought. He noted the pin-striped, dark blue suit jacket draped over a visitor’s chair in front of the desk. It looked as though Kaiser had placed the jacket there after coming into the room. The man’s trousers retained a sharp crease as though he had put them on today instead of wearing them through the previous day. As well, the man’s tie was still knotted at his neck as though he put it on only a few hours ago. The forensic staffers had left the tie and collar button as they found them while opening the shirt lower down to expose the neat hole identified by Dr. Rowan. One turned the body on its side and pulled up the shirt back so Rowan could look at the exit hole but, once he had seen it, the aide lowered the body back to its original position. 

Rande pointed to the suit jacket on the chair. “You might want to note that, Barbara.” Rande used the woman’s first name instead of her rank. Rande made it a point to deal with his staffers as informally as possible unless they took advantage of the new freedoms in the unit. 

Greene hurriedly added a line to her notes. 

One of the forensic team members called to Dr. Rowan. The examiner stood and moved away from his inspection of the dead body. Rande moved carefully around the victim and his desk to where Rowan and his aide were now standing in front of a shelf of books. The books formed a background for the desk and chair of the dead executive. There were a number of volumes on the glass and metal shelves that rose from near the floor to within a foot of the 10-foot-high ceiling. Most of them had titles like Property Development & Investment and Real Estate Law. 

The three men were joined by a second photographer, a young man dressed in white coveralls, booties and hairnet but carrying a camera with attached lights. He hand-held the camera and took several pictures of the bookcases and, then, of a particular shelf. Finally, he changed a setting on his lens and took more shots of a single book. 

Rowan took the book off the shelf. Rande saw a hole in the spine of the book. It had taken a sharp eye to find the volume that had been hit by the bullet after it passed through Kaiser’s heart. 

“Nice work, Taylor,” said Rande. Taylor Sharpe nodded at Rande and the eyes above the mask showed the man was smiling. 

“Thanks, Inspector.”

Dr. Rowan handed the book to Sharpe. “You found it, Taylor. You do the honours.”

Sharpe carefully opened the book and began to turn pages, a few at a time. Halfway through the book, he found the prize. 

“That’s strange.” The quiet exclamation came from Dr. Rowan as he peered at the slug lying on a page of the book held open in Sharpe’s hands.

 “What do you see?” Rande squinted and leaned toward the book. 

Rowan stepped back to let Sharpe move to the desk where he laid the book on the glass top. Wearing cotton gloves, Taylor lifted the bullet and dropped it into an evidence envelope. He sealed the envelope and wrote a description on the label. 

“I could be wrong but I think that’s a .303 slug.” Rowan took the envelope from Sharpe.

“And…” Rande asked.

“I haven’t seen one in a very long time,” said Rowan as he peered through the envelope at its contents, but I think it’s a bullet that was used until the 50s, mostly by the military. It would have a cupro-nickel covering that looks like this. I think the tip inside is aluminum with lead and antimony farther down in the slug.”

“Jesus. You know your ammunition, Doc,” said an impressed Inspector Rande. 

Rowan chuckled. “My dad used to blab on for hours about this stuff. He had an old Lee-Enfield rifle that his grandfather used in the First World War. He had a .303 shell he kept under lock and key that he would haul out every so often to show to me. I couldn’t tell a cannonball from a bowling ball but I knew a .303 when I saw it. But I haven’t seen another one since my dad died in 1990 and I’ve seen a lot of bullets since.”

“So, it’s unique?” Rande took the envelope and studied the bullet inside. “That might help.”

“Don’t take my word. It will have to be checked by the ballistics people but it certainly would be unique. There can’t be more than a few millions of these things left in Canada.”

“Very funny, Ben,” muttered Rande, handing the envelope to Detective Greene who had joined the group around the desk. “Now, Taylor, get the book back to the shelf and make sure you fingerprint this surface after you take the book away.” Rande pointed at the glass desktop where the book rested. 

Inspector Cameron Rande looked down at the body lying on the expensive carpeting in front of the ultra-modern carbon-fibre and glass desk. He lifted his head and looked, again, at the view through the huge windows that made up two entire walls of the corner office suite. He felt a twinge of acrophobia but shrugged it off as his eyes took in the cluster of buildings leading to the dominant CN Tower and beyond to the blue waters of Lake Ontario. 

GULLIVER’S GHOST

Three treasure hunters travel from New York to Nova Scotia in a search for the treasure of a lesser-known Pirate named Gulliver. Two of them are found murdered and the only suspects the Royal Canadian Mounted Police can find are ghosts of the pirate and his descendants.

Inspector Matthew Lasalle, head of the Special Investigations Unit of the Mounties who provide much of the policing in the Atlantic province, is faced with the challenge of finding the third treasure hunter and saving his life from the mysterious assailants. At the same time, the surviving treasure hunter, Frank Mallory, can’t remember what happened to him before waking in a motel room in a Nova Scotian town.

This is a tale of intrigue, suspense and mystery that spans three hundred years from the marauding of a 16th century pirate to a modern-day hunt for victims, killers and ghosts. It’s another chiller-thriller from G. .R. Daniels, available at #AmazonBooks and other ebook sites. Read The Prologue:

­­­­­­­­­­GULLIVER’S GHOST

PROLOGUE

1718

 Southwind was two days out of the island of St. Vincent when the lookout saw the sails on the horizon.

“Ahoy, Cap’n. Ship ahoy,” came the call from the bow of the pirate vessel. It was too hot to put someone in the crow’s nest atop the main mast. Besides, that area of sea dotted by the Grenadines was an out-of-the-way region where sails were as rare as cold ale. It was unlikely to be a Royal Navy man-o-war or a French frigate so Captain Gulliver had no concerns. He had only greed and murder in his mind.

“What course?” Gulliver shouted back to the lookout. When he received his reply, Gulliver gave an intersecting course to the helmsman. He handed his cutlass to his first mate, Billy Smithers, to be sharpened on the grindstone that was being brought on deck.

The Southwind’s sails were filled by the Caribbean breeze and the sloop’s hull hissed through the water. Although the 85-foot-long ship was built as a cargo vessel, it was fast enough to run down most of the small ships that made up Gulliver’s preferred prey. It had carried the pirate and his crew across the Atlantic, to the Caribbean Sea two years before and had captured and sunk at least a dozen coastal freighters running cargo between the many Caribbean Islands.

Gulliver had kept Southwind away from islands since they ran to the Grenadines from Barbados with the British navy on his tail. The captain, with the colorful nickname ‘Cut-Throat’ was a pirate in the true sense of the word. He would attack any ship or land settlement regardless of nationality. He once had a Letter of Marque issued by the British; that designated him as a privateer who could raid and pillage the property and people of any enemy of Britain or even neutral nations. He gave up British protection when he attacked British property and citizens, unwilling to ignore any chance of plunder.  Now, Cut-Throat Gulliver and his crewmen were subject to immediate hanging when captured. His crew was becoming rebellious after being denied the luxuries of a few days ashore. Gulliver needed an easy victory to keep his dozen men happy.

The ship he was chasing turned out to be a large sloop. It flew no colours and looked as though it was heading toward open sea rather than an island port. It raised Gulliver’s suspicion; if the sloop was another pirate vessel, it might carry loot from its own thievery.

Apparently, the captain of the sloop thought Southwind was a cargo ship. He turned his vessel toward the Southwind and the two ships drew closer together with neither being the pursued or pursuer. And both captains proved stubborn.

Gulliver was a seasoned pirate and his crew were veteran sailors as well as sea wolves. Southwind mounted six canons behind gun ports that had been cut into the hull and camouflaged. Three of those canons were rolled out, loaded and, as the ships came within 20 yards of each other, pushed through the suddenly opened gun ports. Gulliver’s guns fired a broadside that startled the other captain and raked his deck with grapeshot. Three sailors died in the barrage and two others were hurt. That left only one young man on the deck along with the captain and helmsman at the wheel just in front of the stern cabin.

Southwind drew up to the side of the crippled sloop and Billy led in throwing grappling irons across the gap. The irons bit into the rails of the sloop and held the ships together as Gulliver’s crew leapt from one to the other. The fighting lasted only a few minutes and was more a killing of one pirate crew by another than a battle.  Gulliver and his men offered no quarter and simply cut down the three men left on the sloop.

When Gulliver broke open the flimsy door to the stern cabin, he was amazed by what he found. A black woman was seated behind a small desk in the captain’s cabin. She was dressed in men’s clothing – a seaman’s plaid shirt and blousy trousers in grey wool. She had her leather boots on the desk. She stared at Gulliver but there was no fear or even anxiety in her large brown eyes. In fact, she was smiling in a beguiling way.

“Who in hell are you, wench?” Gulliver’s voice was high, giving away his surprise. Her smile became even wider. He was embarrassed and it was a strange feeling.

Gulliver fought to bring his voice under control. “I asked,” he said slowly and in a deeper tone, “…who are you?” There was no answer.

Gulliver waved his bloodstained cutlass at the woman and took a step forward. He had meant to stab her as she sat, to remove that smirking smile from her face. But he was stopped by the beauty of that face. The woman’s skin was black, almost ebony and it was wondrously shaped. Her lips were red. Her nose was straight, cheekbones high and chin strong, sloping to a long, slender neck. Her body looked trim and firm. Her long fingers were on the surface of the desk.

After a few seconds spent studying the entrancing woman, Gulliver sheathed his sword. He gestured at the woman. “Follow me. You will come to my ship.” He turned and left the cabin, too confused to speak more.

Gulliver didn’t look behind him until he stood at the rail of the captured sloop ready to climb up to the deck of Southwind. When he glanced behind, he saw the woman had come out of the cabin and was striding across the deck. She looked like she, not Gulliver, was in charge of the battleground. Billy and several other crewmen watched the woman but no one moved to challenge her.

One of the observers was a former slave named Mkombo. He was overwhelmed at the sight of the black woman. She was a prize, just like the rest of the plunder that Gulliver’s men were tracking down in every corner of the captured sloop, but she acted as a victor and not as a prisoner. 

Within half an hour, Southwind was under sail again, leaving behind the blazing sloop and its crew of corpses. It had been a typical taking by Gulliver the pirate except for the black woman who now was creating a nest of her own in the hold below Southwind’s deck. No one dared to chain her or even to tell her where to go aboard the ship.

There was something about the woman that defied any attempt to control her. Where she came from, no one knew. What she would become, no one knew. Southwind sailed on, avoiding islands but heavier now with plunder. Gulliver was thinking of leaving the Caribbean altogether. He told the helmsman to set a new course and the bow swung northward. In the meantime, the presence of the beautiful black woman on Southwind was enough to keep the crew quiet.

WHO KILLED THE BILLIONAIRES?

A billionaire couple are found murdered in the backyard of their mansion in Toronto’s tony Kingsway area. The husband and wife were thought to be pillars of the community, public benefactors who endowed many charities with their fabulous resources. Who would want such paragons dead and posed so bizarrely in death? That the question Inspector Cameron Rande must try to answer after using his clout as head of the Toronto Police Service Homicide Division to force himself into the investigation. Rande might have been smarter to ride his desk while his minions sought answers.

So, Who did kill the billionaires? Some police departments, including Toronto’s, has been asking that question. Does Rande get farther than the real-life sleuths?

Here’s Chapter One of the thriller by G. R. Daniels, available at #AmazonBooks and other ebook sites.

WHO KILLED THE BILLIONAIRES

CHAPTER ONE

Phil Bender looked across the polished surface of the table dominating the conference room into the pale blue eyes of the man who was doing his best to bankrupt Phil’s company and to ruin the future of his family.

Elgin Weatherbee seemed so benign, friendly even. Beside Weatherbee was Frank Liederman, his pit bull, and the soft-featured Weatherbee left it to the hatchet-faced, gray-haired lawyer to rip out Bender’s throat.

The plumber, Bender, had his own lawyer but Bender couldn’t resist. “Come on, there couldn’t have been crap on your floor. Maybe some water but…” He came to a sputtering stop as Sally Starr held up her hand.

“Let me handle it, Phil.” Starr turned to Liederman across the table. “I think that’s hyperbole, Frank,” she said mildly. “I wish you would stick to the facts.”

“Those are the facts, Sally,” said Liederman gruffly. My client, Mr. Weatherbee, states that the toilet overflowed and that human waste flooded his bathroom. He will have to have the entire floor – and it’s a marble floor – replaced at a heavy cost. There is no way Mr. Weatherbee should have to pay this cost. It is up to Mr. Bender to redress his negligence, incompetence and breach of contract.”

“You are asking that my client pays more than two million dollars to your client,” groused Starr, “so Mr. Weatherbee can bring in another plumber to put in a new toilet. That’s what all this amounts to, Frank. And your client knows it. A new toilet worth less than a thousand dollars. And you want two mil.”

Weatherbee smiled across the table and maintained his warm gaze into Phil Bender’s brown and very angry eyes.

Elgin Weatherbee appeared so understanding. Bender knew that Weatherbee understood. The pudgy-faced Weatherbee understood that he was ruining a simple, reputable plumbing company whose owner had made the simple mistake of working for the Weatherbee’s home contractor.

Weatherbee knew what he was doing but didn’t care. He enjoyed using his wealth and the law against lesser beings. The courts were a tool to hammer down anyone he encountered, like nails into wood. It didn’t matter whether these nails were working for him or arranged against him, they were there to be pounded down. They were there to hold the Weatherbee power in place above the hoi polloi. If he let people like Phil Bender move upward on his dollar, the whole floor could move and Elgin Weatherbee could be standing on an infirm platform.

In this case, the platform was Elgin’s $10 million home, a house he had bought three years ago and had been renovating ever since. Today was the deposition of Phil Bender, his telling of his side of the story in a pre-trial exploration of the ‘facts’ of the case being pressed by the Weatherbees, Elgin and his wife. The couple’s ‘facts’ were told in a Statement of Claim:

“Elgin Weatherbee and Virginia Weatherbee, own and occupy a luxury, detached house in Toronto in the area of Etobicoke and on the western bank of the Humber River. They allege that the renovation has been hampered by six major construction defects. One claim is that the toilet in the master bedroom’s ensuite bathroom was installed incorrectly through the incompetence of the plumbing firm, the negligence of the plumber’s employee and in breach of the contract between the plumbing company, P. J. Bender Inc., and the Contractor, Dreamy Homes Inc., both of Toronto. The incorrect installation of the toilet caused an overflowing of human waste and water that flooded the bathroom, the adjoining bedroom and areas beneath the bathroom.”

The Weatherbees claim went on to encompass the work not only of P. J. Bender Inc. but the renovation contractor, engineers and even the realtor who sold them the house three years before.

While Bender’s company was being sued for $2 million, the total claims of the Weatherbees amounted to $12 million or $2 million more than the couple paid for the home originally. It was a typical legal action brought by Elgin Weatherbee, the benign, soft-looking, almost palsy man in the rumpled checked sports jacket and cheap pants sitting at the conference table.

The Weatherbees owned a large, prosperous, technology company based in Toronto and were worth an estimated $2 billion.

 Elgin Weatherbee sat silently while his lawyer eviscerated Phil Bender. Eventually, the billionaire strolled out of the conference room, said a quick goodbye, but gave no thanks to his attorney, and went to his second appointment of the day.

The ballroom at the hotel on Bloor Street was full of people milling about, some with drinks in their hands. It was coming up to 11 a.m. and most of the crowd expected to be out of the room in time for lunch. They applauded loudly as Elgin Weatherbee entered. He was the man they expected, the paunchy, rumpled, very rich philanthropist who never met a charity he didn’t endow.

Elgin’s wife, Virginia, was the first one to go to Elgin who was standing just inside the ballroom with a bemused look on his chubby face. He wasn’t wearing his horn-rimmed spectacles and his eyes were wide as he looked around. He smiled as Virginia took his arm.

“Hello, darling. You’re just in time. How did the morning go?” She studied him closely with her violet eyes. He was ten years older and she constantly assessed his physical and mental health as though he would fall apart and start babbling any minute. So far, he had held up well. She had too, thanks to expensive cosmetics, the occasional nip and tuck and a general lack of stress.

“Fine,” Elgin answered with a smirk. Quickly, he lost the conceit, trading it for modest appreciation of the applause. Virginia led him to the podium on the other side of the room as the crowd parted like the Red Sea.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Virginia said in a loud voice. Her commanding tone carried to every corner of the room over the loudspeaker system. Everyone stopped their chatter and turned to her. Every person there smiled in welcome and respect for the golden couple.

“I want to thank you for coming here today. This is my husband, Elgin…” The mere mention of his name brought a thunderous ovation from the adoring audience. A few sports fans began to chant ‘Elgin, Elgin’ until Virginia held up her long fingers laden with three rings of solid gold and diamonds. “… who is joining me in announcing today a gift of one million dollars to Nurses Beyond Borders.” There was more applause.

Virginia went on to describe what NBB was doing abroad and what the organization could do with the cheque she was now waving above her head. While she repeated several times that her husband was helping to announce the gift, he said not a word. He stood beside his well-preserved wife and smiled just as he had done when facing Phil Bender an hour previously.

The gift-giving ceremony ended abruptly at 11:30 a.m. when Virginia handed the cheque to the executive director of NBB giving the flustered woman no opportunity to speak to the crowd. Clutching the cheque in her hand, the director was escorted from the stage by a security guard and was swallowed in the throng. By the time the last clapping died, Virginia and Elgin had left. It had been a perfect occasion and everyone was in time for lunch elsewhere. The Weatherbees were such wonderful people and generous to a fault.

Virginia Weatherbee had a lunch date with one of her friends from Toronto’s Rosedale. The two were going shopping after their meal and that would take the rest of the day.

Elgin’s limo was waiting curbside when he left the hotel. The driver of the vehicle, Lanny Meldrum, was one of three people who worked for the Weatherbees. One of the others was a housekeeper and the last was a gardener. The Weatherbees tolerated these three who put up with the strange habits and customs of the billionaire couple. They had driven off the others who had served their personal and household needs. Now, the Weatherbees hired temps whenever they wanted something beyond their capabilities.

“The office, sir?” Meldrum was used to Elgin’s routine. He should be used to it since Elgin was the definition of a creature of habit. Elgin stepped into the back seat of the car without a word and Meldrum closed the door behind him. He returned to the driver’s seat and drove away from the hotel, heading for the headquarters of Weatherbee Technologies.

Elgin had a corned beef sandwich with a cola while sitting behind the big, ornate desk in his office. His office was surprisingly old-fashioned for the CEO of a large technology company. The truth was that Elgin, who had an engineering degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, didn’t care much for advanced technology. He knew about it, certainly. It just didn’t fill him with enthusiasm. He enjoyed other things more, like suing people or giving small amounts like a million dollars away to causes that sounded good in print.

UNDERCOVER CRISIS

Smart, attractive Black-Canadian Mariah Belo ditches her cushy job as head of PR at a Toronto military software company to join a startup civilian firm with an H.Q. ‘up north’ in cottage country. She’s going undercover, working against her new employer to steal its products. Oh, she’s also risking her life. Has Mariah bitten off more than her fair share of danger?

The fifth and last novel of the Crisis Series by G. R. Daniels. Read: The Russian Crisis, Crisis in the Cold, Devil’s Chair, Doubled Down Deadly, and Undercover Crisis. Twists, turns, suspense, intrigue – this series has it all along with a cast of strong and fascinating characters. It’s set in the sleek cities and rough-hewn outback of Canada, the world’s second largest and most interesting country.

UNDERCOVER CRISIS

CHAPTER ONE

Graham Carde ran across the open field expecting to feel the impact of a bullet with every step he took. The shooter had missed twice. One shot blasted out the window of his SUV as he stepped out of it, missing his head by a couple of inches. The second bullet had whizzed by close enough for him to hear the soft hum of its passing.

He was heading for a small grove of trees but it was about 50 meters away across this barren field. His feet pounded on the snow-covered ground; it was mid-March but spring had yet to take hold in this area of Ontario. The winter had been one of the harshest in memory, even in Canada where harsh winters were routine. At least the windblown field wasn’t covered in foot- deep snow or slush.

Another shot. Another miss. Carde heard the sound of the firing but not of the bullet. Finally, he reached the trees and took shelter behind a mature maple. He put his hands on his knees and tried to get his breath. A run like this would have been easy for Carde in warmer weather with lighter clothes but, now, he was laden down with his Canada Goose jacket, Baffin boots and thick Roots pants. He had lost his baseball cap on his run but had kept his gloves.

Carde peered around the tree. He didn’t see anyone but it was twilight and shadows were deep in the distance. Through the trees, he could see another open field ahead, to the south. To the east, the grove ended just short of Highway 400 and Carde saw no salvation there. The cars and trucks on that highway were whizzing past. He would be in more danger of being run over than being hit by gunfire. There were more trees to the west. That was the way Carde would go if he was pursued.

There was a spark of light from the far side of the field, near the parking lot where he had left his SUV. A moment later, he heard the pop. He was better able, now, to identify the sound. It was the firing of a handgun, not a rifle. ‘What the hell?’ A pistol bullet fired at this range was a waste of ammunition.

He realized the real purpose of the shot was to keep him from circling back. The proof came quickly. He saw a flame across the field and it grew rapidly. Carde bent low and began working his way back.

The fire was blazing as Carde took his phone out of the pocket of his bomber jacket. The phone was a special edition that had phenomenal functions but all Carde wanted was an answer when he tapped in 911. He got it. “What is your emergency?”

By the time Carde reached the edge of the parking lot, he heard sirens. He kept low and scuttled across the lot to his SUV. He had a gun in a locked cubbyhole below the rear seat. The door of the hideaway slid open as he put his thumb on the keypad. He took out the Glock and checked the load. He backed out of the truck and surveyed the area. Even though it was dark now, he had no trouble seeing in the glare of the fire that was burning in the partially built structure in front of him. There was no one in sight.

Carde tucked the Glock into the inside pocket of his jacket. He went to the entrance of the parking lot and moved into the middle of the road that led out to the highway as a police car and fire department pumper truck barrelled down the road. They slowed and he directed them; the police car into the lot and the pumper to the blaze. Three firefighters jumped out and rolled out a hose. Carde hurried to them and pointed out the hydrant that had been the first thing installed at his new headquarters building.

The fire truck was from Cookstown, the nearest community to the H.Q. which was being built on a tract that had been farmland. The cruiser belonged to the OPP, the Ontario Provincial Police, who patrolled provincial highways and many smaller communities in the province. As water was poured on the fire, Carde walked to the police car.

“Good evening, officers,” said Carde to the man and woman who were getting out of the cruiser.

“Hey, Carde. How the hell are you?” The male officer took a step forward and held out his hand.

“Evening Derick.” Carde shook and turned to the female officer. He didn’t know her.

“This is Constable Gayle Newland,” said the sergeant, Derick Pointer. “I’m training her.” He gave Gayle a wide smile. She returned a hint of a scowl. She was a tall, slim, attractive woman but her face was red in the cold. She stamped her feet. There was just an inch or less of snow cover on the ground and that would be gone in a day or two but Gayle seemed offended by it.

“Just shined these,” she grumbled. She looked at Graham Carde as she pulled a gray- covered notebook out of a side pocket of her heavy coat. “Name?” Her pen hovered over a page in the pad.

“Graham Carde, with an ‘e’. This is the headquarters of my new company,” he volunteered pointing at the structure behind them. The flames had been beaten down and smoke was pouring out of the remains as the firemen blasted them with water. As Carde pointed, the firemen turned off the hose and began to gather their equipment.

“Home address?” said the woman constable with a full-fledged frown.
“5005 Yonge Street, Suite 4602,” came the polite response.
“Aw, cut it out, Gayle,” said the sergeant in an exasperated tone. “I know Carde. He

didn’t set his own building on fire.”
“We don’t know that, Sergeant Pointer,” Gayle said in a stern voice. “Do we?”
Pointer glanced at Carde with a look of disbelief. “See what I have to deal with?” Carde gave the sergeant a small smile and a slight shrug. “Don’t know why you’re still

using paper,” he said. “I could set you up with recorders…”
“Is that an inducement of some sort?” Gayle’s pen was hovering again but she was staring

at Carde.”
“That’s enough, constable.” Pointer was angry now. “You are a trainee. I am your training

officer and I’ve had enough of Police 101. Go see the fire captain; do something worthwhile.” The two officers obviously were having differences that went well beyond the fire they were supposed to be investigating. Carde didn’t want to get in the middle of it. He turned to his

SUV and inspected the damaged window. He opened the driver’s door and looked at the opposite door. The armrest had absorbed the bullet that had broken the window. there was a hole in the hard rubber of the rest. Audi Service would get a chuckle out of this one, he thought.

Pointer moved to the SUV to stand beside Carde. “What broke the window?”
“A bullet.”
“What? A bullet. Was it one of yours?”
“Not likely,” said Carde. “By the way Derick,” he told the sergeant, “I’m armed. There is

a Glock in my pocket.” He patted his jacket.
“For Christ’s sake, don’t mention that to Grizelda the Ghastly.”

“Now, now, Derick.” Carde laughed and opened the back door of his truck. He took out his weapon and put it back in the gun safe under the rear seat. He locked the door of the safe and stood up. “All copesetic.”

“Tell me the story,” Pointer asked.

“Not much to tell,” said Carde. “As you will know, we’re building a headquarters here for our new company, CDSI. I came out about…” Carde checked the time on his watch, “… about two hours ago. My god, is that all it was?” He looked up at Pointer and shook his head. “I wanted to check the progress. The builder was just erecting the steel framing. What burned seems to have been construction lumber, tarps, some oil or tar for the parking lot – a bunch of stuff piled together.” He thought for a moment. “I doubt it was hot enough to hurt the steel they had put up. The contractor is on his way.”

The two men walked toward the remains of the flammable materials on site. As they neared, they could smell gasoline along with the smoke.

“When I drove into the lot, I saw a figure. Nothing more than a shadow so I can’t give you a description.”

“Too bad,” said Pointer. “It would give Newland something to write down in her little book.” Carde looked ahead and saw Gayle talking to a fireman. He stopped and Pointer halted with him.

“Anyway. I honked the horn, thinking he might work for the builder. I wanted him to know I wasn’t trespassing. There’s irony for you. The person – man, I guess – took a shot at me just as I got out of the Audi. The bullet hit the window. It threw me…”

As Carde remembered his feeling of shock and surprise, Pointer nodded. “I guess it would have,” the cop said.

“I crouched down. Reflex. Then, I started to run.” Carde turned and pointed at the field past the parking lot. No cover but I didn’t have much choice. I didn’t know if the shooter had a rifle, handgun or an AR-15. Who knows these days, even in Canada?”

“I guess he didn’t have a rifle,” said Pointer staring out across the empty field.

“No. He did take another shot but obviously it missed too. I got to the trees and stopped. He shot once more and that was enough for me to know it was a handgun.”

“How the hell did you know that, Carde?”
“I heard enough of both kinds of weapons when I was in the army,” said Carde.
“Who with?” Pointer had gone into policing from the forces.
Carde hesitated before replying. Pointer was, after all, a cop, so Carde said, “JTF2,” he

gave the name of Canada’s elite special forces unit. A few tours in the Middle East and …” Carde stopped. Pointer was impressed. “I’ve known you for, what, three years and I never knew that. I thought you flew choppers.”

“Later, I flew,” said Carde with a grin. “That was fun. Until I crashed one.”

The men began walking again. “I came back when I realized the shooter had a handgun. By the time I got to the lot and got my gun, he was gone. I called 911 and here you are. Very quick, by the way.”

“We were patrolling the highway not far from here,” Pointer told Carde. “This gave me a good excuse to give her something better to do than bother me with questions. And opinions.” He glanced at Gayle who was walking toward them.

“Glad I could help,” Carde muttered with a grimace.

“Well, Mr. Carde with an ‘e’,” Gayle said as she came within a meter of the men and stopped. “We have a case of arson, here. Do you have insurance?”

Carde was familiar with every aspect of the new company. He was not only the CEO, he had been the only employee until three weeks ago. But, he had had enough from the young rookie. “I’ll have to check, constable. I’ll get back to the sergeant on that.”

Gayle Newland looked surprised. “Make sure you do,” she ordered him. Carde gave her a brief look before turning to Sergeant Pointer. “Do you need anything else from me, Derick? I think I’ve told you everything I can.”

“No other vehicles in the lot or on the road when you arrived?”
“No. None,” said Carde.
“By the way,” Newland asked, “what the hell does CDSI stand for?”
Carde’s answer was curt before he turned from her. “Civilian Defence and Security Incorporated.”


Pointer handed over a business card as Carde turned to walk away from the officer toward the wet pile. He heard a heated conversation behind him but a minute or two later the cruiser pulled out of the lot and was driven down the road toward Highway 400

DOUBLED DOWN DEADLY

Doubled Down Deadly offers even more action than the three previous Crisis Series novels!. Graham Carde comes close to death in the very first chapter of this thrilling novel. It’s one threat after another for Carde and his girlfriend, a tough member of Canada’s Mounties.

Why is a cottage country resort hotel being targeted by armed attackers? Why does a New York lawyer want to buy this place? And why is a Mexican cartel coming north to stake a claim on bayside property? Questions like these abound in this and other G.R. Daniels novels.

As readers will know, Crisis Series novels (this is # 4) are packed with action, twists and turns. It all began with Jackson Phillips, CEO of a military software company, and moved into books featuring his friend, Graham Carde, a former soldier, pilot, hunter and fishing guide and a strong cast of technical geniuses and cops. The series is set in Ontario, Canada and moves seamlessly between the big and stylish city of Toronto to the island cottages of Georgian Bay. Read the first chapter; then go to Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Kobo or other sites, to purchase a copy at a very reasonable price.

DOUBLED DOWN DEADLY

CHAPTER ONE

Graham Carde watched as the diver came to the surface of the ice-cold water and swam to a 24-foot SeaRay. He grabbed hold of a railing on the swim platform and pulled himself up. The diver in his black dry suit and hood looked like a seal but Graham knew this was no saltwater animal looking for fish. This was a man searching for two dead bodies and a couple of unique sniper rifles in Canada’s Georgian Bay.

The diver took something out of a small mesh bag and threw it onto the deck. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a rifle and certainly wasn’t a dead body. Graham moved his own Princecraft aluminum fishing boat slowly toward the other craft.

“Hello,” he yelled as he neared the 24-footer. The diver was removing his hood disclosing a mass of black hair. He turned toward Graham and Carde noted the man’s thin, hard face. He was still too far away from the cruiser to see details but Graham had a sense the man was fit and highly alert.

“Do you need any help?” Graham asked. He was now within about three metres of the diver’s boat.

The diver moved to the doorway of the forward cabin. He reached down and came erect again with a long gun in one hand. He held it loosely at his side but in plain sight.

“Why?”

“Because it looks like you’re diving alone. Did you lose your partner?”

“No, I’m good.” The diver’s voice was deep. He didn’t have to shout to be heard. He waited, motionless.

“If you’re looking for shipwrecks I can point you to a couple of interesting ones to dive on.” Graham held his boat in place with a few small adjustments of his outboard motor.

“No, man. I don’t need any help.” The man lifted the shotgun.

“That’s not friendly, pal,” Graham told the diver. Graham pegged the gun as a Mossberg SA-28, a very good shotgun.

“Don’t know you, pal,” the diver said with an edge to his voice.

“There was an accident here a while ago. Two men died and they’re still down there. Us locals are concerned about divers wanting souvenirs. Is that why you’re here?” Graham’s question was blunt and his voice was firm. “If you stay here, I’ll just call the cops and tell them the site is being jeopardized.”

The diver stared at Graham. He seemed to be making a decision. He suddenly trained the shotgun on Graham. Just as quickly, he dropped the gun to his side. Still holding the gun, he moved to the console and pressed the starter button. The MerCruiser roared into life. The diver grabbed the wheel as he put the shotgun on the deck. He wheeled the boat around and revved the engine. The 24-footer buried its stern in the still water and the craft took off like a Ferrari.

A wave of frigid water slammed into the side of Graham’s boat and he was inundated. A wake followed and rocked Graham’s boat. He dropped to the bottom and held onto the gunwales hoping the boat would not turn over. As it was, the open craft was almost swamped by the water kicked up by the diver’s sharp turn. 

“Son of a bitch.” As his boat steadied, Graham moved to the stern again and checked the Mercury 115 horsepower motor. He cranked up the throttle on the long tiller bar and turned toward the track of the diver’s boat, now half a kilometre away and throwing up a rooster tail as it sped across Georgian Bay toward the shore. For a moment, he considered chasing the cruiser and wrapping the shotgun around the guy’s neck. Then, he calmed himself; there was no way he could catch the SeaRay.

Graham shivered. He was wearing rain-proof coveralls and a life preserver but he had unzipped the front and his wool shirt was soaking. It was the end of April and unseasonably warm on the bay but the water was still around freezing. If he didn’t get to shore himself, Graham knew he was risking hypothermia. He took his boat to full speed and made his way to Shield Island, his home away from home.

Shield is one of the 30 Thousand Islands of Georgian Bay, a huge bay that probably should be counted as one of the Great Lakes. It spreads for 190 km north to south in Canada’s province of Ontario. Its average depth, near shore, is 150 feet.  

As Graham was only 50 or so metres from the boathouse and its slipway, there was the shrieking sound of a powerful engine driving a boat at maximum speed. Graham turned to the bow and saw the diver’s boat heading directly for him. He shoved the tiller of his own boat to turn away but the SeaRay matched his turn.

Graham waited for the impact but, instead, the SeaRay was brought to a stop with a reversing of its twin props, sending another wave of water against the side of the Princecraft. It rocked violently, throwing Graham into the open well of the boat. He scrambled to his hands and knees and looked at the SeaRay. Incredibly, the pilot of the SeaRay, the diver still in his drysuit, was leveling his shotgun at Graham.

Graham fell, face-first, onto the bottom of his boat and curled into a ball as the load of shot peppered the side of his boat. If it wasn’t for a thick box seat in his open boat, he would have been hit by several of the pellets. Graham had no choice but to press himself as close as possible to the boat bottom. He waited for the second blast.

The SeaRay’s engine revved to a roar again and Graham felt his Princecraft rock once more as the SeaRay swept away from the scene. Graham slowly raised his head over the side of his boat and watched the larger craft speed away. His own had come to a stop in the water as he had inadvertently cut the throttle in diving for cover. He turned to see the shore of Shield Island only a few metres away. 

Carde climbed back onto the seat at the stern and restarted the stalled outboard. He pulled the boat slowly into the alcove and brought it to a stop along the concrete pier. He pulled himself out of the craft and inspected the damage caused by the shotgun pellets. There were half a dozen holes punched in the aluminum. This was no birdshot, thought Graham. That shot was meant to kill.

He took a few minutes to open the garage-style door of the boathouse at the end of the short slipway and to pull the Princecraft onto and up the carbon fibre rails into the boathouse. He docked it behind the cottage’s SeaRay that shared the boathouse and closed the door to the bay.

In another few minutes, Carde entered the room he used as his office, den and sometimes bedroom in the luxurious cottage that stood at the end of the small island. The cottage belonged to his employer, Jackson Phillips, and Carde was, officially, the caretaker. He changed to dry clothes from the closet and put his wet shirt and jeans into a laundry bag. He bundled his coveralls into a second bag. He took the bags to the cottage mudroom and shoved the shirt and jeans into a dryer. He hung the coveralls on a wall hook. As he did, he heard a sound. A steel shotgun pellet had fallen onto the wood floor and was rolling across it. He saw a hole in the rubberized coveralls.

Carde picked up the pellet and studied it as he headed back to his den. It was 2-3/4-inch 00 buckshot. Getting hit with that would be the same as being shot with a 9 mm round from a Glock. ‘What the hell?’ Then he remembered he had threatened to call the cops on the mystery diver. Was the guy that paranoid?

DEVIL’S CHAIR

Devil’s Chair is the third in the Crisis Series by G. R. Daniels, available at Amazon Books, Kobo and other sites. In this novel, Graham Carde comes into his own. In The Russian Crisis and Crisis in the Cold, Carde is the caretaker of the Georgian Bay island property of Jackson Phillips, founder of a military software company in Toronto. He’s also a friend of Phillips. In this thriller, Carde witnesses a strange ritualistic drowning in the frigid waters of Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes. Bizarrely, he seems the only one really upset by the murder and determined to get justice for the victim. Before his probe is over, his life and others are threatened by the deadly mysteries hidden in the dark forest of northern Ontario.

Devil’s Chair exists; it is a tiny part of an island that looks like an eons-old volcano. I kayaked to it once and stepped out of my craft into the warm waters that cover the islet. One step, however, and you can slip into 30 feet of the coldest water you have ever felt. An amazing setting for an exciting novel by a favourite author. Hope you enjoy Chapter 1 of Devil’s Chair.

DEVIL’S CHAIR

CHAPTER ONE

The man was lifted by his arms from the canoe by two others who had paddled the craft until it grounded in the shallow water. His hands were bound behind him and he shuffled as the men pulled him toward the waiting group. There were two women and three more men standing in the shadow of the rough pinnacle that formed a side of the islet. One man was taller than the rest, his bald head gleaming in the August sun. He raised his arms as the prisoner was brought before him.

One of the captors spoke for perhaps a minute. The other then made a brief comment. The tall man raised his arms over his head and he shouted something unintelligible. The prisoner’s knees weakened and he would have collapsed but for the men who held him up. When the prisoner recovered enough to stand on his own, he was released. It looked like his legs were tied together too.

One of the women stepped forward with what looked like a tool belt in her hands. She fastened it around the prisoner with a buckle as the others held him still. The belt sagged heavily around the man’s waist as if it were weighted. She clipped or tied a rope to the belt and retained a loop of the rope.

The two women and four of the five men formed an arc while the bald man remained in his place. The human arc began to push the prisoner through the shallow water away from the rock pinnacle. The prisoner tried to struggle against his bonds and to resist those pushing him backward. Inexorably, he was forced across the islet.

The arc pushed until, suddenly, the prisoner, with a brief scream, disappeared as if he had dropped into a hole. The arc of people turned and walked slowly back through the shallow water to the bald man standing tall against the dark brown rock of the Devils’ Chair. The woman with the rope played it out behind her as it grew taut.

A half hour before the sinister scene played out, Graham Carde had lain on the ground just inside the tree line bordering a short stretch of sand beach on Lake Superior. He had rested the 300 mm lens of his Nikon D850 digital camera on a mini-tripod to wait for a cow moose and calf he had glimpsed earlier to come to drink the cold water from the lake. It was 3 p.m. and the sun was beginning to lose some of the heat it had been blasting down for most of the day. Anyone who thought Canada was a cold country should come north at the end of August, Carde thought to himself.

Movement to his left had caught his eye. There were three kayaks – a double and a single – and a canoe closing in on a small islet that was part of Devil’s Chair Island about a hundred metres across the water from his hide on the shore of Cape Gargantua.

Graham liked this spot because of the view of the unique island. The north end of Devil’s Chair Island rose from this largest of the Great Lakes like a tiny volcano. Separated from the forested part of the island by a strip of water, the top of this conical structure looked like a volcanic peak. It had been round and hollow eons ago but had eroded until only two sides of the cone remained above water.

The bottom of the cone was covered by water only a few centimetres deep. Although this feature of Devil’s Chair was bounded on several sides by the deep waters of the lake that remained frigid all year, the shallow water within the cone was heated by the sun to above body temperature. One could step out of a boat into a spa. ‘Indians’ had been doing this for thousands of years, leaving tobacco behind in a niche of the chair-like pinnacle of rock as offerings to spirits.

Carde had quickly considered his options after watching the scene begin to unfold. He had assumed, originally, that the kayaks and the canoe were occupied by tourists coming to see the unusual island. It was a publicized feature of Lake Superior Provincial Park, one of a number of large parks along the shores of the Great Lakes. There weren’t that many tourists since Devil’s Chair Island was far from any roads and accessible only with a boat in the remote northeastern region of the biggest Great Lake.

When Carde saw, through his long lens, the unfolding of the bizarre tableau, he thought of his gun, left a few metres away in the pup tent at his campsite. But, the firearm was a Mossberg Shockwave Raptor, a short shotgun carried only to frighten off aggressive bears. It was useless at long range and, if the people in those boats were armed, firing the shotgun would only bring attention and possibly death to Carde as well as to the hapless prisoner.

Carde knew what had happened to the man who had vanished. The arc of people had pushed him off the islet into at least ten metres of frigid water. He would drown in minutes in water that remained near freezing through the year. Carde had capsized his kayak in those waters several times and knew the agonizing burning of his skin as he was plunged into that unforgiving lake. His hands had not been bound and he hadn’t been wearing a weighted belt and escaped hyperthermia only by quick action in each case.

Carde had been taking photos as fast as he could and switched to video near the end of the episode. With his lens, he could fill the frame with the arc of killers and their bald leader in his rocky setting.

As he watched the people climb back into their respective craft, he noticed another boat. It was much farther away, in a passage called Tugboat Channel between the much larger Hursley Island and the mainland. It was a green bowrider moving at a good clip toward Devil’s Island. Carde hoped it was a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry patrol boat.

The motorboat approached the paddlers without hesitation, slowing to avoid rocking the kayaks and the canoe moving together just off the islet. Through his lens, Carde watched as two men in the bowrider waved to the bald man in the single person kayak. A woman in the rear seat

of a double kayak handed the end of the loop of rope to the passenger in the bowrider. Carde could only assume the other end was tied to the drowned man. The bowrider left the paddlers and headed away at slow speed. As Carde kept watch, the bowrider rounded the end of the island and made for the open lake beyond as the paddlers made their ways toward Tugboat Channel.

In a few minutes, Carde had the area to himself again. As he lay still, thinking about what he had witnessed, the cow moose and her calf wandered out of the forest only ten metres down the stretch of beach. They drank lake water. Carde took several shots with his Nikon as he struggled with his thoughts.

CRISIS IN THE COLD

The second novel in the Crisis Series, Crisis in the Cold, gets right into the action on Page One. While Jackson Phillips, the hero of The Russian Crisis, is still a featured player in this account, the reader delves much deeper into the life of Graham Carde, Phillips close friend and keeper of Phillips’ island property. Carde is younger by far but shares some of a rough background with Phillips – army life, flying helicopters and fighting forest fires.

Crisis in the Cold expands the list of enemies bent on stealing military software secrets and trying to eliminate Phillips and his team.

Crisis in the Cold picks up the story of the Phillips’ empire some months after resolution of The Russian Crisis. In that first book in the Crisis Series, two men were lost beneath the ice of Georgian Bay along with state-of-the art sniper rifles. Now, a mysterious diver is searching in the same spot in the open water. Carde investigates and comes close to dying himself, in the first chapter.

It’s another thriller and an absorbing tale in a fascinating setting.

Graham Carde watched as the diver came to the surface of the ice-cold water and swam to a 24-foot SeaRay. He grabbed hold of a railing on the swim platform and pulled himself up. The diver in his black dry suit and hood looked like a seal but Graham knew this was no saltwater animal looking for fish. This was a man searching for two dead bodies and a couple of unique sniper rifles in Canada’s Georgian Bay.

The diver took something out of a small backpack and threw it onto the deck. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a rifle and certainly wasn’t a dead body. Graham moved his own Princecraft aluminum fishing boat slowly toward the other craft.

“Hello,” he yelled as he neared the 24-footer. The diver was removing his hood disclosing a mass of black hair. He turned toward Graham and Carde noted the man’s thin, hard face. He was still too far away from the cruiser to see details but Graham had a sense the man was fit and highly alert.

“Do you need any help?” Graham asked. He was now within about three metres of the diver’s boat.

The diver moved to the doorway of the forward cabin. He reached down and came erect again with a long gun in one hand. He held it loosely at his side but in plain sight.

“Why?”

“Because it looks like you’re diving alone. Did you lose your partner?”

“No, I’m good.” The diver’s voice was deep. He didn’t have to shout to be heard. He waited, motionless.

“If you’re looking for shipwrecks I can point you to a couple of interesting ones to dive on.” Graham held his boat in place with a few small adjustments of his outboard motor.

“No, man. I don’t need any help.” The man lifted the shotgun.

“That’s not friendly, pal,” Graham told the diver. Graham pegged the gun as a Mossberg SA-28, a very good shotgun.

“Don’t know you, pal,” the diver said with an edge to his voice.

“There was an accident here a while ago. Two men died and they’re still down there. Us locals are concerned about divers wanting souvenirs. Is that why you’re here?” Graham’s question was blunt and his voice was firm. “If you stay here, I’ll just call the cops and tell them the site is being jeopardized.”

The diver stared at Graham. He seemed to be making a decision. He suddenly trained the shotgun on Graham. Just as quickly, he dropped the gun to his side. Still holding the gun, he moved to the console and pressed the starter button. The MerCruiser roared into life. The diver grabbed the wheel as he put the shotgun on the deck. He wheeled the boat around and revved the engine. The 24-footer buried its stern in the still water and the craft took off like a Ferrari.

A wave of frigid water slammed into the side of Graham’s boat and he was inundated. A wake followed and rocked Graham’s boat. He dropped to the bottom and held onto the gunwales hoping the boat would not turn over. As it was, the open craft was almost swamped by the water kicked up by the diver’s sharp turn. 

“Son of a bitch.” As his boat steadied, Graham moved to the stern again and checked the Mercury 115 horsepower motor. He cranked up the throttle on the long tiller bar and turned toward the track of the diver’s boat, now half a kilometre away and throwing up a rooster tail as it sped across Georgian Bay toward the shore. For a moment, he considered chasing the cruiser and wrapping the shotgun around the guy’s neck. Then, he calmed himself; there was no way he could catch the SeaRay.

Graham shivered. He was wearing rain-proof coveralls and a life preserver but he had unzipped the front and his wool shirt was soaking. It was the end of April and unseasonably warm on the bay but the water was still around freezing. If he didn’t get to shore himself, Graham knew he was risking hypothermia. He took his boat to full speed and made his way to Shield Island, his home away from home.

Shield is one of the 30 Thousand Islands of Georgian Bay, a huge bay that probably should be counted as one of the Great Lakes. It spreads for 190 km north to south in Canada’s province of Ontario. Its average depth, near shore, is 150 feet.  

As Graham was only 50 or so metres from the boathouse and its slipway, there was the shrieking sound of a powerful engine driving a boat at maximum speed. Graham turned to the bow and saw the diver’s boat heading directly for him. He shoved the tiller of his own boat to turn away but the SeaRay matched his turn.

Graham waited for the impact but, instead, the SeaRay was brought to a stop with a reversing of its twin props, sending another wave of water against the side of the Princecraft. It rocked violently, throwing Graham into the open well of the boat. He scrambled to his hands and knees and looked at the SeaRay. Incredibly, the pilot of the SeaRay, the diver still in his drysuit, was leveling his shotgun at Graham.

Graham fell, face-first, onto the bottom of his boat and curled into a ball as the load of shot peppered the side of his boat. If it wasn’t for a thick box seat in his open boat, he would have been hit by several of the pellets. Graham had no choice but to press himself as close as possible to the boat bottom. He waited for the second blast.

The SeaRay’s engine revved to a roar again and Graham felt his Princecraft rock once more as the SeaRay swept away from the scene. Graham slowly raised his head over the side of his boat and watched the larger craft speed away. His own had come to a stop in the water as he had inadvertently cut the throttle in diving for cover. He turned to see the shore of Shield Island only a few metres away. 

Carde climbed back onto the seat at the stern and restarted the stalled outboard. He pulled the boat slowly into the alcove and brought it to a stop along the concrete pier. He pulled himself out of the craft and inspected the damage caused by the shotgun pellets. There were half a dozen holes punched in the aluminum. This was no birdshot, thought Graham. That shot was meant to kill.

He took a few minutes to open the garage-style door of the boathouse at the end of the short slipway and to pull the Princecraft onto and up the carbon fibre rails into the boathouse. He docked it behind the cottage’s SeaRay that shared the boathouse and closed the door to the bay.

In another few minutes, Carde entered the room he used as his office, den and sometimes bedroom in the luxurious cottage that stood at the end of the small island. The cottage belonged to his employer, Jackson Phillips, and Carde was, officially, the caretaker. He changed to dry clothes from the closet and put his wet shirt and jeans into a laundry bag. He bundled his coveralls into a second bag. He took the bags to the cottage mudroom and shoved the shirt and jeans into a dryer. He hung the coveralls on a wall hook. As he did, he heard a sound. A steel shotgun pellet had fallen onto the wood floor and was rolling across it. He saw a hole in the rubberized coveralls.

Carde picked up the pellet and studied it as he headed back to his den. It was 2-3/4-inch 00 buckshot. Getting hit with that would be the same as being shot with a 9 mm round from a Glock. ‘What the hell?’ Then he remembered he had threatened to call the cops on the mystery diver. Was the guy that paranoid?

Read on to find more of the books in the Crisis Series. The action is unrelenting and more characters join the parade. The ebooks and print copies are listed at very reasonable prices at #amazonbooks .

LOOKS @ BOOKS

I enjoy reading thrillers, mysteries, suspense and other novels that make my nerve ends tingle. At the same time, I don’t want to waste my time reading books that don’t promise the same level of excitement to my brain cells. So, the way I want to spend my reading time is with books that thrill, chill and fulfill. My choices range over a number of authors but I have focused on a single author for a lot of my reading during these difficult times. The novels by G. R. Daniels offer the excitement I want while contributing to a brain that needs absorbing plots, interesting characters and fascinating locales.

THE RUSSIAN CRISIS

Jackson Phillips is a former soldier, spy and diplomat who founded his own military software company based in Toronto. He retired – or thought he did until old friends showed up at his private island in Georgian Bay.

He is called back to his company to rescue it from Russian espionage agents and street thugs. There is a lot of action in The Russian Crisis along with riveting details about Toronto and the so-called cottage country north of the fourth largest city in North America in the world’s second-largest nation.I like the book for its thrills, hi-tech, strong characters and the all-round exciting plot. The Russian Crisis is followed by Crisis in the Cold, Doubled Down Deadly, Devil’s Chair and Undercover Crisis.

The story moves along at a good pace without sacrificing intriguing descriptions of Russian spying and high-tech surveillance. There is also a good amount of interesting information on Canada, Georgian Bay, Toronto, high technology and Russian espionage. The hero is a tough, older character backed up by admirable staffers and friends.

The Russian Crisis is a great foundation for a series that kept me on a reading binge through quite a few days and nights. It also kept me glued to the settings; I found these engrossing – and I live in Toronto!

The Russian Crisis. It’s a good read and should be the start of a whole series of good reads. The novels – and more by G. R. Daniels – are available at #amazonbooks and Amazon Books Canada.

Here is Chapter One of The Russian Crisis.

CHAPTER ONE

The long, sleek, sea kayak glided the last few yards to the dock of Shield Island, a dot of land in the clear waters of Georgian Bay. Jackson Phillips pulled himself out of the cramped cockpit and onto the wood planked dock. He smiled. Not bad, after a couple of hours on the water, paddling five kilometres. He hauled the boat onto a small sand beach next to the dock.

It was the end of July and the sand was blazing hot as it soaked up the bright sun that bathed the huge inland bay in early afternoon brightness. Jackson hurried across broiling sand and boulders. Climbing the wood steps to the porch of his cabin, he paused for a moment and took in the sight.

Jackson Phillips bought the island ten years before to ease his way into retirement with the vision of the home he and his wife would build. Now, the vision was real; the words ‘cabin’ or even ‘cottage’ didn’t begin to describe the 4,000 square foot place. It was much larger than the cottages on nearby islands or the immediate mainland a couple of football fields away from his two-year-old home. 

He had earned all he had with twenty years as a military officer, twenty more in Canada’s intelligence service and more than fifteen years as founder and CEO of Jackson Phillips Incorporated. He grew the company to be the largest provider of specialized software to militaries through the world.

The cost of his career was high. Jackson’s wife Laurel had died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack at 58 when Jackson was away in the Middle East as a member of a joint Canadian, American, British team planning security against terrorist bombers in Middle East conflict zones. He lived since with twinges of guilt and remorse for being away at the time of her passing.

The cabin was built using plans roughly drawn by Laurel and Jackson just before Jackson left for the Middle East assignment. It was a memorial of sorts, full of light just as she was and to the exacting design she demanded.

As a soldier, Jackson had risen to the rank of Brigadier General in the Canadian Army but his true prowess came from his position as a senior officer in JTF2, Joint Task Force 2. Within special forces ranks, Jackson Phillips was still a legend even if he was an ex-soldier these days.

 ‘Double pension dipping’ and savings gave Phillips the money to create a company to develop and sell software for use in the world’s riskiest military environments. Appropriately, the company was named Jackson Phillips Incorporated.

Corporate employees were on his mind as Jackson made his way into the luxurious cottage on his island – one among the so-called Thirty Thousand Islands of Georgian Bay in Canada’s province of Ontario.  He still felt that he had let down his staff when he had sold his company for hundreds of millions. He had thought it was time to leave his company to younger and smarter leaders.

JPI had been sold to a private equity firm that specialized in the military sector.  Cleanleaf Private Equity, a niche, rich firm, preferred JPI run its own affairs with a small board of directors and existing executives who chose to remain. All did stay, in the beginning.

The seven men and women in his core leadership team had each received millions in bonuses from the sale money.  Still, that had left Jackson with plenty for himself and a host of charities. He missed them.

Jackson bypassed his office off the entrance hall and went into the living space, revelling in the view through the windows that made up most of the western wall of the open area. He could look out over a strip of sand and rock into the shimmering water beyond. Jackson wandered into the kitchen section.

As he opened the door of the refrigerator to see what he could make for supper some hours away, Jackson heard an irritating noise from outside. The noise made it through the thick windows of the cottage so it must be loud. He thought it might be a neighbor in an outboard running into the bay to fish for pike and pickerel or, god forbid, a neighbor’s kid on a new jet ski.  He grabbed a beer by its skinny neck and headed out.

A boat was pulling into the beach next to the wooden dock. It was an open rowboat with a small motor on its stern. With the brilliant backlight it was hard to see the boaters. There was a big guy manning the motor and a smaller man in the bow. Both were dressed in suits and each wore a dark, plain tie.  Jackson thought they looked like undertakers. ‘How did they get this address,’ he muttered as he walked to the small sand beach next to his dock. 

“If you fellows are selling something you’ve got the wrong…” Jackson stopped at the waters’ edge and peered at the men.  “Is that you, Payne?”

The small man stood up but sat down quickly as the small boat rocked.  “Come on Jackson, help us out,” he shouted.  The big man fumbled with the engine controls and the motor sputtered and died.  The boat coasted into the dock, causing both men to lurch forward.

“Why can’t you live in some place that’s civilized,” the man named Payne shouted.  Jackson stepped into the water to catch the bow of the rowboat and pull it into the sand next to his kayak.

“Aw, Payne, you afraid of a little water? Come ashore.”

The smaller man stood up, clutching both sides of the boat and made his way gingerly to the bow and over the side onto the sand.  “Gees, this beach is hotter than hell.  I can feel it through my shoes.”

Jackson still stood in shallow water, soaking his flipflops and cooling his feet. “Who’s your friend, Payne?”

The big man left the stern of the boat and stepped over the gunwales into a few inches of water. He walked to the shore. His shoes got wet as did the cuffs of his black suit pants. 

 “Brownley,” the man said. “Bill,” he held out a hand to Jackson. They shook and Jackson was impressed by Brownley’s strength.

“What are you doing here,” Jackson asked of the man who used to be his Chief Financial Officer and was still counted one of his best friends. “Not that I’m not thrilled to see you but…”

“Sure, you are,” Payne replied ruefully eyeing the beer Jackson had set on the sand before pulling the boat ashore.  “Interrupting your boozing? Sorry about that, Jackson, but the crap has hit the revolving thing.”

“The sand is frying your brain; let’s go to the cottage.” Jackson turned on his heel and walked toward the structure.

“Cottage?” Brownley stood just inside the vast living area and looked around. “This place is a palace.”

Payne had been to Jackson’s home before but still marvelled at its size and views.

Phillips halted a few steps into the living area and turned toward the other men.

Payne looked more closely at his friend. Jackson was six feet tall without hint of the stoop of so many elderly men. Jackson wore a black Tee and jean shorts on a body that had aged well. But, as he scanned Jackson’s face, Payne saw changes.

Jackson had gone several days without shaving and his light beard was white like the thinning hair on his head. His mouth had definite lines. There was a lack of his typical sparkle in the light blue eyes and Payne could count several furrows across Jackson’s brow where, before, his forehead had been smooth.  His friend was still as handsome as ever with a sharp-featured look that blended power and compassion but some of his magnetism had diminished and that saddened Payne.

“You look like you bit on a lemon,” Jackson said with some anxiety.  He looked at Payne with an arched eyebrow. “Want a drink.” He included Brownley with a nod of his head to the big man now standing behind Payne. 

“Yeah,” Brownley said in a rumbling voice. His fleshy face remained expressionless.  “Thanks for asking, sir.”

“So, you’re at JPI?” Jackson turned his full attention to Brownley.  His tone was flat. His hands were still against his sides.

“William Brownley. I’m head of internal security at Jack… your former company.”

“Where is Starke?” asked Jackson.

“Retired,” Brownley replied. “Months ago.  I came in from Regal Security Partners.” Jackson knew that firm; it was a good one.

Jackson turned toward the kitchen area.  “Drinks.”

A few minutes later, without further talk, the three men were seated in comfortable leather chairs in a conversation pit focused on the large windows of the rear of the living room.  “Looks like a Group of Seven,” commented Payne as he sipped from a glass of scotch, referring to Canada’s famed artists who painted many works based on the waters and forests of Georgian Bay and Algonquin Park not far away.

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