Authors: Joanne Jaytanie
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Excerpt from Chasing Victory
“Tristan.” He turned to find her right behind him. “Take this bottle with you. You can take two more pills in an hour if you aren’t any better.” Damn, he must look as bad has he felt.
“Thanks.” He opened the bedroom door and turned back, smiled at her and before she knew what was happening, leaned towards her and kissed her ever so lightly on her lips. “I’ll see you first thing in the morning. I’ll come back here and go with you to breakfast.” He headed straight for the hall door, leaving Victory frozen at the threshold of her bedroom. “Make sure you lock the door as soon as I leave,” he casually tossed over his shoulder.
“I will,” she stammered. Had sparks flashed from their lips?
Knowing full well that a lock wouldn’t stop Braxton or his people if they wanted to enter her room, Tristan walked out into the hall and waited for the click of the lock. He was bewildered by the electricity that sparked between them at the second his lips touched hers and wondered if she had felt the same sensation. He really needed a little down time if he was going to be any help to Victory.
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First eBook Edition –March 2013
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Thank you Shelia for introducing me to Ruth, she is a brilliant editor.
To my husband, Ralph, your unending love and support has always been my rock.
My Dobermans; Taisha, Misty, Dax, Kes, and Captain. You have all left this world behind,
and yet I feel your spirits beside me always.
A tear in the sound of the forest’s tapestry caught Victory’s attention. Victory’s ultra keen sense of hearing instantly noticed the void. Her ability to interpret the reactions of the animals stopped her in midstride. Ever so slowly she turned toward the silence and walked.
The silence shattered and she could hear voices; one was Jeffery. He didn’t say he’d be bringing others with him. His scream abruptly breached the cool morning air and flushed the birds from their perches. Victory dropped to her hands and knees, the tall sword ferns camouflaging her body. She froze.
“I told you I’d locate someone who could help with our problem,” Jeffery whimpered. Blood ran from the gash on his lip and right cheek. “This is an area of the research that I’m not an expert in.”
A big burly man, dressed in a neat black suit, lifted his massive hand to strike Jeffery again. “You were trying to run away.”
“No, no I wasn’t.” Jeffery fell to his knees in an attempt to put distance between himself and the burly man’s fist.
“Then why did you run to the forest?” A second man stepped from the shadow of the nearest evergreen tree. A shaft of sunlight shown directly behind him, making his image a dark silhouette. A tiny bright orange orb appeared as the man inhaled on a cigarette.
“I told you. I have a friend, she specializes in this area and I’m sure she could help me.” Tears started leaking down Jeffery’s cheeks, mixing with blood, and dripping onto his neatly pressed white shirt.
“Right. Out here. In the forest. With the birds and whatever. If you really were meeting someone you’d be having lunch or coffee. You’re not exactly the outdoors type, Jeff.”
“I know, I know, but she is. I thought meeting her here would put her at ease, I’d get more information and cooperation.” He moaned as he threw his hands in front of his face.
“He’s stalling,” grunted the burly man.
“No, I’m not,” Jeffery protested.
“You assured us that you were our man,” the man in the shadow said.
“That’s it,” Victory mumbled to herself. She knew she had heard his voice before. It was Detective Ken Howard. He was the homicide detective that led the investigation at Claremont when one of her colleagues, Lisa Evans, was found dead in the company’s parking garage. Victory dropped to her belly and slinked closer. She stopped barely short of the group’s sight, still hidden by the lush undergrowth.
“You’re wasting my time Jeffery.” Detective Howard spat as he stepped back into the ray of sunlight. “So where’s this woman of yours?” He nodded at the thug, who backslapped Jeffery.
“She’ll be here, she said that she would.” Wrapping his arms around himself, Jeffery fell to the forest floor like a child.
“I don’t believe you. Dr. Jeffery Maxwell, your services are no longer needed.” Detective Howard stepped back into the darkness at the same time the burly man pulled something black and shiny from inside his jacket.
Bang, Bang. The sound was sickening and something Victory would never forget. Jeffery rolled on to his back, his chest a dark crimson. Victory gasped. The two men spun around, scanning their surroundings. They could not see her lying on the lush green forest floor. Tears streaming down her face Victory lay deadly still, as the birds and animals flushed themselves from the immediate area. The two men continued to scour the forest until all the commotion passed and the forest fell deathly silent.
“You hear something?” said the burly guy.
“I thought I did, but I don’t see anything,” answered Detective Howard. “Maybe one of us should take a walk, see if that girl is nearby,” he cajoled.
“I’m sure that I heard something. Stop being an ass, maybe it is that girl Jeff was rambling on about.”
“No girl would wander alone through the forest. I still say he was running. We’ve wasted enough time out here, let’s go,” said Detective Howard.
Victory had no idea how long she had stayed rooted to the same spot. The next thing she knew she was running. The trees and bushes tearing at her clothes and pulling at her hair, making the tears flow once again. She didn’t stop until she was safely locked inside her Jeep, and speeding down the mountain trail. She drove absently, replaying the scene over and over in her mind. She should call the police, she thought to herself. No, that was the police. She wouldn’t be safe with them; she wouldn’t know who to trust. She had to leave, get out, so that no one would associate her with Jeffery.
It had been a shock to hear from Jeffery after all this time. In college they were inseparable. Victory had been in love with him and thought he was in love with her. How could she not, they seemed to be the perfect match. They both majored in veterinary medicine, spending their days and nights trying to dream up how to save the animal world. They were planning to take on the future together. Then the week before graduation, Jeffery was approached by a corporate type with money to burn, and their dreams were dust. What a devastation it was to discover that Jeffery’s main priority was money.
Jeffery’s phone call to her had been cryptic, he hadn’t gone into any details. He only mentioned that he needed her help and insisted they meet today. Did he sound as if he missed her? She wasn’t sure; maybe all he needed was her professional advice. She closed her eyes for a brief second, replaying the cadence of the conversation in her mind. Jeffery had sounded upset. She would have helped him with whatever it was he needed. They may no longer have been lovers, they may not have stayed in touch, but she still felt a strong emotional bond to Jeffery. Now he was gone, Victory couldn’t believe what she had witnessed was real.
A half hour later Victory pulled into the parking lot of a shopping center. She turned off her Jeep and stared aimlessly out the window. After five long years Jeffery had called her and asked to meet her out at their old picnic area in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains. The two had spent one spring break together in her home town, and she was amazed that he still recalled the spot. A few short hours ago she was both nervous and a little giddy at the thought of seeing him again. Now, the only thing she knew for certain was that she had to disappear until she could figure out what was going on. She couldn’t leave a paper trail, she had no way to be certain that Jeffery had not mentioned her name. Looking into her purse she counted out her cash. If she was careful she could make it to her sister without using her debit card. It was going to be a long night and she would need coffee. She got out of her Jeep, locked the doors, and headed towards the coffee shop.
* * *
Victory drove most of the night, but finally she had to take a break. She was fighting off the urge to close her eyes, so she pulled off the interstate at the next rest area. She parked and grabbed a blanket out of the backseat. “I need a few hours rest,” she mumbled to herself and was asleep almost as she spoke the words.
BANG! Victory jolted out of sleep, shivering from the adrenaline rush caused by the replaying of the gunshot in her dreams. Panicked, her head swiveled wildly, expecting to see Detective Howard and the man that shot Jeffery. Neither was there. All that she saw was the ebb and flow of travelers stopping to take a quick break and stretch their legs.
She glanced down at her watch and saw that it was after eight in the morning. Reaching into her purse, she pulled out her phone and punched the redial button. The phone rang three times; she heard her sister’s voice telling her to leave a message. “Payton, its Victory. Change of plans, I’m on my way to meet you, I’ll fill you in when I see you.” She didn’t want to upset her sister with any details. She would wait to tell her what had happened in person. Disconnecting the phone, she started the Jeep’s engine.
Tristan was irritated. If he had been able to follow Jeffery as he planned, he wouldn’t be looking into the cold, dead eyes of his only lead. “Damn it, Wyatt.”
“No need to yell bro, I hear you loud and clear.”
Wyatt was miles away, yet Tristan heard his brother’s voice clearly in his mind, as if he were standing next to him. “Yeah, and if you didn’t take so many damn liberties with your telepathic link, you wouldn’t have heard me yell.”
“I also wouldn’t know what was going on, either.”
“That’s why they made phones,” Tristan snapped.
“Right, and we both know how good you are about using those.”
“Don’t give me that. I would contact you as soon as I finished surveying the scene. You are too damned impatient, that’s all. You have been that way since birth, practically talked my ear off the whole way through the birth canal.” His mood had lightened slightly as he chuckled at his own joke. Wyatt always had a way of lifting Tristan’s spirits. Turning back towards Jeffery’s body, he became somber once again. “If I hadn’t been sidetracked following up on your lead, I might have been able to save Jeffery.” Tristan spoke aloud, upset with himself and his brother.
“Someone was out to get him. I know this is difficult for you to admit Tristan, but you can’t save everyone.”
“Yeah, well there goes our only real lead.” Tristan hissed while taking in his surroundings, trying to get a read on what had taken place. “There it is again.”
“Shhh,” Tristan responded. “I’m not talking to you.” Flaring his nostrils widely to fill his lungs with the odors surrounding him, Tristan took in several deep breaths, each time filling his lungs more deeply. He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing. The scent from a person will travel in the wind forming a scent cone; these scents are picked up by bloodhounds, and Tristan. He had caught that same scent while tracking Jeffery through the forest. He knew Jeffery’s scent and that wasn’t the only scent cone he was detecting.
Old Spice and sweat, accompanied with the distinct odor of cigarette smoke still lingered, along with scents that were uniquely human: stress and testosterone. These stenches littered the area, and underneath them all, the strong scent of cordite given off by the gun and the blood soaked ground. It was highly possible that those were the scents of Jeffery’s killers. He turned slightly to his right and picked up another scent cone. It was weak, but it was there. Without thinking he moved with his eyes still closed, off towards the right. Lavender and chamomile. Someone else was here, a woman. By the weakness of her fragrance, Tristan surmised that she could not have been as close to the action. He stood motionless, letting the odors of the ghastly scene penetrate his every pore. He opened his eyes and continued walking, the lavender and chamomile growing stronger with each step. He walked about sixty feet, when he found a patch of bent and broken ferns. It was a small depression, but the lavender-and-chamomile woman had definitely been lying among the ferns. Crouching down into the depression, Tristan looked back to where Jeffery laid. He could barely see Jeffery and he was sure whoever had been laying here could not have heard or seen anything, except the gunshot that had ended Jeffery’s life.
“Tristan…what did you find?”
Tristan felt Wyatt’s voice pushing into his mind. “Someone else was here, but she was a good distance away from the action. I don’t think she was a part of it.”
“She. Are you sure?”
“I’m positive, looks like we have a new lead after all. With any luck the two guys that killed Jeffery, aren’t even aware that she was here.”
“Luck, we certainly could use that. If she was as far away as you say, then the odds are in our favor,”
“I’m going to head back down the mountain. I’ll catch a ferry back to Seattle and go to Jeffery’s condo and search it.”
“Okay, I’ll notify the police, anonymously of course, and I’ll send one of the guys to stake out the lab and search Jeffery’s office.”
* * *
As the sun slipped behind the tree tops, Tristan quietly lifted open the bedroom window at the back of Jeffery’s condo and slid inside. The room he entered was as neat as a model house and nearly as sparse of personal belongings. There were no papers lying around, no clothes, no coffee cups or other dishes, and the bed was neatly made. Tristan walked down the hall, scanning the bathroom noticing the towels were carefully hung. He passed the office, living room, and kitchen, each room as pristine as the last. This didn’t look like a guy’s place. After the initial once-over he began a detailed search, looking through drawers, closets, cabinets, all the while being careful to remain invisible to any passersby.