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Authors: Lori G. Armstrong

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Murder Victims' Families, #Women Sleuths, #Suspense, #Thrillers, #Crimes against, #Women private investigators, #Indians of North America, #South Dakota

Blood Ties

BOOK: Blood Ties
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®

Gold Imprint

Medallion Press, Inc.

Florida, USA

Published 2005 by Medallion Press, Inc.

225 Seabreeze Ave.

Palm Beach, FL 33480

The MEDALLION PRESS LOGO

is a registered tradmark of Medallion Press, Inc.

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment from this “stripped book.”

Copyright © 2005 by Lori Armstrong

Cover Illustration by Adam Mock

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

Printed in the United States of America Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Armstrong, Lori, 1965-Blood ties / Lori Armstrong.

p. cm.

ISBN 1-932815-32-5

1. Women private investigators--South Dakota--Fiction. 2. Indians of North America--Crimes against--Fiction. 3. Murder victims’ families--Fiction.

4. South Dakota--Fiction. I. Title.

PS3601.R576B585 2005

813’.6--dc22

2004030265

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

Th

anks to everyone at Medallion Press for believing in this book.

Th

e authors who generously granted me their time, enthusiasm and expertise.

Th

e Rapid City Police Department, Pennington County Sheriff ’s Department, and the local FBI offi ce for keeping

suspicions to a minimum at my barrage of questions. Any technical/factual/procedural errors are mine alone.

To Brian Schnell, of Professional Investigative Resources, for sharing the details on making a living as a “real” PI in western South Dakota. Again, any procedural embellish-ments are purely fi ctional.

Daughters, Lauren, Haley and Tessa: Th

anks for remind-

ing me on a daily basis what’s really important in my life.

And for not complaining about popcorn for dinner (again) when I’m writing. You rock! Now, go clean your rooms.

Mom and Dad, for being proud of me, no matter what crazy stuff I attempt. Brett: You are the best brother and friend on the planet. PS– I got here fi rst, Bud.

My critique partners and members of my local writing group for their support.

Lastly, and most importantly, thanks to my husband, Erin, for not having me committed when a bumper sticker changed the course of my life. Love ya, babe.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: For those unfamiliar with South Dakota, I’ve taken a few liberties with the Black Hills. Although Bear Butte is a real landmark, Bear Butte County is entirely fi ctional.

“. . . a fascinating tale of intrigue that will sweep you into a world
of horror and suspense.”


Clive Cussler,

NY Times
Bestselling author

“Lori G. Armstrongʼs
BLOOD TIES
is a gripping debut mystery, vividly set in The Black Hills of South Dakota.”

— Kathleen Taylor,

Author of the
TORY BAUER MYSTERIES

“Hard as nails, a barroom brawler – and a chick! Lori Armstrongʼs creation is born of the Black Hills. Tough, sensitive
and smart, Julie Collins is a welcome addition to the private
eye genre. In
BLOOD TIES
she breaks all the rules.”

— Stephanie Kane,

Author of
SEEDS OF DOUBT

“I highly, highly recommend Ms. Armstrongʼs debut read. She
provides plenty of edge of your seat reading.”

— K. Ahlers,

Independent Reviewer

“Lori Armstrong writes a compelling story that will hold your
interest from the fi rst page. I was glued to my chair from the
prologue and couldnʼt stop reading until I fi nished it.
BLOOD

TIES
is a roller coaster ride of danger and excitement that
will have your heart pumping and your emotions twisting like
a wet dish rag. I loved this book, and if you like kick-butt heroines and a fast paced mystery, you will too.”

— C.Cody,

www.romancejunkies.com

Table of Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Death has nipped at my heels like a disobedient dog since I was fourteen.

A drunk driver killed my mother the autumn of that year. She was hit head on. Th

e extent of her injuries, in-

cluding massive head trauma, excluded the option of an open casket.

I felt cheated. I believed then, if I’d touched her hand or stroked her cheek one last time, acceptance of her death might have off ered me comfort or closure. It didn’t ease my pain that she didn’t suff er. It didn’t ease my sense of injustice that the drunk also died upon impact. And it didn’t ease my father’s rage that the man responsible was Lakota.

After my mother’s death, my father’s hatred of Indians deepened, spreading wide as the Missouri River which divides our state. He’d never hidden his prejudice, but in 2

the aftermath, the racial slurs fl ew from his mean mouth with regularity.
Prairie niggers
and
gut eaters
were fl ung out heedlessly. In those public moments I cringed against his harsh words. In private I fumed against him. I found it puzzling that a man with such a deep-seated loathing for an entire race had sired a son with the same blood.

Apparently my father believed he was absolved of his part in the creation of that life when he signed away paternal rights. Th

e child’s mother believed the boy would never know the truth about his white father.

Th

ey were both wrong.

My half-brother, Ben Standing Elk, arrived on our doorstep shortly after he’d turned nineteen.

When my father leveled a look of pure disgust upon the Indian darkening his door, I was horrifi ed, and demanded an explanation for things I didn’t have the ability to understand. His stony silence mocked me. I expected him to yell back. I expected to be grounded for showing disrespect. But the last thing I expected was the hard, stinging slap he delivered across my face.

We never spoke of that day. By some miracle, probably of my mother’s making, I forged a relationship with my brother.

Good old Dad was conspicuously absent whenever Ben came around. I’d gone beyond caring. I loved Ben without question. Without boundaries. And without clue to the consequences. With him I found the bond I’d been 3

lacking. A bond I counted on years later when the tenuous one with my father fi nally snapped.

Blood ties are strong. But the strands can easily be broken, whether tended with love or ripped apart by hatred.

My father chose his means, fate chose mine.

Fate and death seem to be intertwined in my life.

After recent events, I realize nothing about death ever of-fers closure, regardless if it is accidental or premeditated.

I still feel cheated. But I’m older now. Wiser. More determined that justice will be served, even if that justice is a brand of my own making. I won’t blindly give in to acceptance until I know the truth. Even then, I doubt it will bring me peace.

Ben helped me deal with my mother’s death. I grieve that there is no one to help me deal with his.

Th

e dog is quiet once again, sated somehow. But I know it won’t last. It never does.

Th

ree years later . . .

“Almost, just a little lower. Right there. Oh, God, yes, that’s it.”

I’d shamelessly splayed myself over the fi ling cabinet, but the warm masculine hands caressing my vertebrae froze.

“Knock it off , Julie. Sheriff hears you moaning like that, he’ll think we’re doing it on your desk.”

“Al.” I sighed lazily. “If I thought you could fi nd my G-spot as quickly as you zeroed in on that knotted muscle, we
would
be doing it on my desk.”

“Smart ass. Don’t know why we put up with you.”

I twisted, heard the satisfying crack and pop of my spinal column realigning itself. No more sex on the kitchen table for me.

“You put up with me because I fi le, but I’m not dedi-cated enough to devise my own system.”

My blond, waist-length hair curtained my face as I 5

slipped my heels back on.

“Besides my pseudo-effi

ciency, I look a damn sight

better manning the phones than Deputy John. Admit it, tiger,” I added with a snapping, sexy growl.

Al colored a mottled burgundy, a peculiar habit for a forty-fi ve-year-old deputy. He adjusted his gun in a self-conscious gesture, which made me wonder if he’d fi nger his manhood in front of me as easily. In law enforcement the size of your gun was closely related to the size of, well, your gun. Hmm. Was Al’s private stock an Uzi? Or a peashooter?

“Regardless,” he continued, unaware of my questioning gaze on his crotch. “If my wife heard me trash-talking with you I’d be sleeping in the den for a month.”

I set my hands on his face and slapped his reddened cheeks while I maneuvered around him.

“I’ve seen your den. And your wife . . . Wouldn’t be much of a hardship.”

Light spilled across the mud-crusted carpet when the steel front door blew open. All fi ve-foot-one inch of Missy Brewster, my 4:00 relief, sauntered in.

My tolerance level for Missy was lower than a stock dam during a drought. She embodied the skate-by-with-a-minimum-amount-of-eff ort civil servant attitude, versus the work ethic my father had literally pounded into me and which I couldn’t escape, no matter how menial the job. Lazy, whiny, and petty were Missy’s least annoying 6

characteristics.

I guessed she’d compiled her own list of my irritating quirks: punctuality, humanity, a stubbornness born of desperation.

Her crocheted handbag thumped on the fi ling cabinet.

She peeled off her NASCAR jacket, and slung the silver satin over the chair with a loving touch before adjusting her cleavage with a slow overhead stretch. A haughty look followed.

“Hey, Julie. Stud boy is waiting. Said something about you getting your ass out there pronto.”

I watched Al’s gaze linger on Missy’s mammoth breasts, crammed tightly into a pink t-shirt. My eyes followed his, but I refused to glance down at my own 36C

chest in comparison; there was none.

“Stud boy? You call him that and fl ash those boobs in his face?”

Her lips, the color and consistency of candied apples, turned mulish.

“I didn’t fl ash him.”

“But I’ll bet he looked.”

“Honey, they all look.” With a fake sigh of resignation, she squeezed her big butt in my chair and swiveled toward the computer to clock in.

She reached for a pencil, deigning to answer the phone on the fi fth ring.

“Bear Butte County Sheriff ’s offi

ce.” Her tone oozed

7

sweetness. “Hey, Gene.”

Yuck. I added disinfecting the receiver with Windex to my list of duties for tomorrow.

“Yeah, I just came on.”

Missy

fl icked an irritated glance my direction.

“No, she’s still here.” Pause. “He’s probably messing with his computer. Want me to ring him?” A minute of silence followed; her false eyelashes batted with apparent panic.

BOOK: Blood Ties
7.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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