Northern California’s elite Police K9 Units arrive at an abandoned warehouse after a high-speed chase and apprehend two killers after they have fled a grisly murder scene. This barely scratches the surface of a bloody trail from a prolific serial killer that leads to unlocking the insidious secrets of one family’s history, while tearing a police department apart.
Jack Davis, a top K9 cop with an unprecedented integrity, finds himself falling for a beautiful murder suspect and struggling with departmental codes. He and his loyal four-legged partner, Keno, are thrown into the clutches of lies and deception.
Megan O’Connell, a website designer recluse that suffers from agoraphobia and can’t leave the safety of her home, finds herself the prime suspect in her sister’s murder.
Everyone is a suspect. Everyone has a secret. Someone else must die to keep the truth buried forever. Silent Partner is a suspense ride along that will keep you guessing until the bitter end.
* * * * *
The rain stopped abruptly on the thirty-sixth consecutive day of torrential downpours. An intense humidity reeked from the undergrowth of the dense, twisted jungle foliage and saturated earth.
Sticky uniforms clung to the bodies of the weary soldiers and it reflected a constant reminder of the unbearable weather. Fond memories of living at home in the United States kept them company on their forward journey.
Each difficult breath compressed heavily inward. Exhalation helped to alleviate some of the anxiety and fatigue.
The men trudged onward.
The U.S. Army Platoon of the 26th Infantry found themselves deep inside the harsh world of Vietnam fighting a war they didn’t completely understand. Many of the men, barely eighteen years old, had lived at home with their parents. Drafted from small towns in places like Iowa, Delaware, and Georgia. They hiked with a moderate amount of stealth through the wild, overgrown vegetation.
Carrying his military weapon, poised, and eyeing every possible moving shadow around him that might resemble the enemy, Alec Weaver walked his point position as a combat tracker that assisted the platoon. His nineteenth birthday neared, almost two weeks away.
The soldiers hunted rogue, enemy assassins. It wasn’t the choice spot for anyone in the military, but Alec thrived on it. His eyes dropped downward, the strength and skill of his teammate instilled security.
A regal German shepherd dutifully guided the men with his ears perked and alert, head low, with keen canine senses picking up everything around them as he led. A thick tail fell against a lean ninety-five pound body, an unwavering navigation system. The mugginess didn’t bother him in the least as it did most of the men. Oblivious to the discomforts of the jungle, he had a job to do and did it well.
Alec’s combat tracking squad consisted of five men, including himself as the dog handler.
Butch reigned as the leader and had most of the combat experience in the group. Only two years older, it made a significant difference in battle maneuvers. From a tiny town in Indiana, one that most had never heard of in casual conversation, had unknowingly thrust Butch into the middle of a complicated war.
Tom acted as coverman with a clear-cut expertise in weapons. He never wasted any words, but always had your back.
Brett controlled the intense and essential job of visual tracker. Always the jokester of the group, he gave the entire platoon some much-needed comic relief from time to time.
Terry manned the RTO, radio-telephone operator. The most educated member with three semesters of college under his belt, and yet he was the most conservative of the group. He aspired to become a lawyer and if he survived the war, there’s no doubt that he would succeed.
Alec had spent several months training with Max in obedience class and then went on to the combat tracker dog handler course. Hand picked from a list of volunteers, he soon graduated with a sharp set of tracking skills.
Alec grew up with dogs at home in Los Angeles, but never trained in canine military operations. He knew exactly how to read the dog, every little twitch, hesitation, and snaps of the head were clear signals to him.
These specialized dogs trained vigorously to detect trip wires, snipers, and booby traps set to kill enemy soldiers through tortuous means. Max was an exceptional dog, intelligent, a proven, loyal, best friend in such dire conditions.
The agonizing nightmare reset new, arduous obstacles each day. With Max at his side, it made it a little more bearable for Alec. He recalled the motto ingrained in him from his superiors and dog trainers, “train hard, fight easy”.
Max stopped, staring straight ahead.
Alec had been reminiscing happy childhood memories to pass the time and had almost stepped on Max’s hind feet.
He abruptly stopped, reading the dog’s body language.
Raising his hand, Alec alerted the rest of the platoon to stop.
The dog didn’t move his position. His head held high, breathing turned shallow. He waited, deducing what hid from view up ahead and what it meant to their immediate safety.
Everyone halted in their tracks, not daring to move.
An eerie quiet filled the air, insects abruptly stopped. Animal sounds ceased. The flourishing balance of the jungle shifted.
The men scanned the area, expected the worst and asked themselves silently who would be the next fatality of their close group. A couple of the men flinched with worried anticipation.
Vines and overgrown leaves dripped with moisture and slowly closed in all around them. It practiced nature’s subtle alert to something unnatural. The flow of the existent world sterilized all of its physical plants and wildlife in one instant.
Max tweaked his right ear backward, assessed any subtle sound around the group.
Alec suffered an uncontrollable chill. Goosebumps pimpled his arms. He shuddered. Cold perspiration trickled down the back of his neck.
Edgy silence and tension elevated throughout the group.
Max sat down and kept his gaze forward. He firmly planted his chest on the ground and it was obvious that he wasn’t going to move an inch in any direction.
Alec knew too well what Max had caught wind of up ahead. He moved cautiously until he spotted a portion of the cleverly hidden trip wire underneath thick, mangled vines. He had witnessed what this type of booby trap could do to a man. In an instant, limbs, body pieces savagely torn off left behind a bloody mass of gristle. The only good aspect was that death was instantaneous. At least most of the time, but it also alerted the enemy that there were more possible victims nearby.
Alec gestured to the others, squatted down, and pulled back some leaves. A trip wire expertly hidden. One of many that they had encountered over the past several months.
Max stood, crept closer to the wire and stepped over it. The men followed the same action and continued their trek.
A branch snapped.
Max barked ferociously at the high, compact branches straight ahead.
Alec swung his weapon swiftly toward the faint noise and spotted an enemy sniper huddled in a tree. With a gun aimed at his head, if he blinked, he would have missed the camouflaged body pressed up against the trunk.
He opened fire, riddled bullets through the dense trees and plant life, almost cutting the tropical forest in half.
The rest of the platoon fired at the trees in unison.
The enemy soldier finally fell to the ground with a quiet thud, never to move again.
Max quickly went back to his point position and continued to lead the group deeper into the wild jungle of Vietnam.
* * * * *
Jack Davis pumped his skinny eight-year-old legs faster as his bike zoomed down a dirt road just before the O’Connell’s farm. Summer radiated brightly and nothing could stand in his way to be outside, free from chores, and at his favorite fishing hole. In his opinion, it represented the greatest time of the year. School hid in the past and not even a slight thought for the near future. His best friend Pete was meeting him at their secret fishing spot with some new glowworms that he’d stolen from his older brother.
Two police cars, followed by a tan four-door sedan, sped past Jack with their lights flashing. No sirens.
Jack pulled his bike over to the side of the road, next to a broken barbwire fence and watched as the emergency vehicles turned down the O’Connell’s long, dirt driveway.
Dust plumed up into the air with a massive beige cloud making it difficult to see the farmhouse. Less than a minute later, a white van approached at a much slower speed. It too disappeared down the driveway.
Something terrible had happened. Jack heard stories at school about the monster that lived at the O’Connell farm. At least that’s what they called him, but in reality Mr. O’Connell was a bad man.
Jack kept his eyes on the road and listened for more cars. When he felt confident that no more vehicles headed his way, he squeezed through the broken fence, pushed his bike, and then eased down toward the commotion.
He jumped back on the bicycle and coasted down the hill. The bumpy backroad jarred his bones, but his curiosity, as well as concern, got the better of him.
Jack watched as two sheriff deputies roughly escorted Mr. O’Connell from the house. Arms pinned behind his back, wrists secured in handcuffs. His head hung forward as he stared aimlessly at the ground. The monster’s lips moved slowly, but no one paid any attention to his inaudible babble. Barely dressed in a grubby white t-shirt and dark, stained blue jeans, he seemed to have forgotten a pair of shoes. It looked like he hadn’t shaved or bathed in a week as his greasy, dark brown hair matted against the back of his skull.
Grim expressions clouded the deputies’ faces as they put the man in the backseat of the patrol car and slammed the door shut. They had witnessed the pure evil of what one person could do to another.
Jack’s first thought was of the two sisters, Teresa who was eight and in his class, and Megan had just turned five. He had taken them fishing several times.
Where were they?
Were they okay?
He slowly rolled his bike as close as he dared to the scene, expecting to see Mrs. O’Connell any moment, but she never emerged through the front door. She had always been nice to Jack and the other children. From the recurring facial bruises and sensitive movements, it was clear that she suffered in silence from the abuse she had endured for so many years.
An unknown, tall, dark haired woman with hurried movements and quick, reassuring words led the two little girls from the house to her car.
Jack was relieved to see his friends were okay, but he didn’t see their mom. The woman took a few minutes to secure the girls safely in the back seat of the car.
Jack found himself pulled by an overwhelming force toward the scene. He didn’t know exactly why, but he just had to know. Call it intense curiosity, he felt a need to protect his friends from harm. A big burden for any eight year old to carry. He remembered hearing that they had wealthy grandparents somewhere in California and maybe the sisters would go live with them.
He slowed his bike next to the tan car, and planted his feet firmly on the ground. Teresa stared straight ahead, no expression or movement. She appeared to be in a trance trying desperately to block out the horrifying scene from the house.
Megan slowly turned her petite face to look at Jack, intense, dark eyes searched his face for an explanation.
What’s going to happen to us?
She blinked a couple of times, tears streamed down her cheeks. It wasn’t immediately apparent, but she was emotionally tortured by what she had endured in her short life and by what she had witnessed inside her house of horrors.
Jack froze, his eyes remained locked on Megan’s unyielding stare.
One of the deputies spotted him next to the car and rushed to shield him from the unspeakable crime scene. The police officer tried to use his body to block the view inside the front door.
For the first time, Jack turned his attention inside the main entrance of the farmhouse. A plain white sheet spotted with bright red smears covered a body that was no doubt Mrs. O’Connell. Blood, infused with bone and brain matter, splattered on the walls. Several shotgun blasts had recently fired inside the house.
His throat tightened, stomach soured. A sick nausea churned inside body. Dizziness. He barely comprehended what he had seen, but the sight stirred something deep within him. Something awakened. This experience would shape some of his choices later in his life.
A deputy took hold of Jack’s arm, gently steered him away from the area. He kept his eyes on Megan. Her gaze followed him as he left the property.
His heart weighed heavy in his chest. He wanted to help her, but there was nothing he could do. Jack could only imagine what she was going through, how everything had changed for her. What Megan knew about life and the people she trusted had been blown to bits.
Copyright© Jennifer Chase. All rights reserved.