New Growth (Spook Hills Trilogy Book 2)

BOOK: New Growth (Spook Hills Trilogy Book 2)

New Growth


By Jayne Menard


New Growth

By Jayne Menard


Copyright 2016 © by Jayne Menard.
All rights reserved.
This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced
in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any
means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise – without the
express prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by United
States of America copyright law.


Standard Book Number


This is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, cases, places,
and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used in a
fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual
events is purely coincidental.


Also by Jayne Menard


The Spook Hills Trilogy, Book 1: Old
Growth & Ivy


My heartfelt appreciation to my niece, Cheryl, for her
enthusiastic consulting on the art of fused glass, which helped me to develop
the gentler side of one of the characters.
Cheryl runs Wits Ends Designs, a glass studio in eastern
Her work may
be found


My special gratitude to my three readers who encouraged
me through this process and contributed many inputs and edits that improved the
story -- Cindy Gelezinsky, Marilee
and Sandy Pfaff.

Author’s Note

New Growth
is the
second book of the Spook Hills Trilogy.
While the story stands alone, the roots of its characters and plot are
in the
Old Growth & Ivy
, the
first novel
the trilogy.
Over the course of the three books, the
stories of FBI agent extraordinaire, Steve Nielsen and his three top
are told as each one struggles to define
a new life for himself away from the FBI.
Although 60 years old, Steve meets the love of his life and continues to
transform himself into a broader man.
Steve’s story
in the first book
of the trilogy.

Mathew Heylen, Steve’s friend, best agent and now
business partner, also seeks to find his life-long love while founding a
vineyard in the Oregon wine country, which they jokingly dubbed Spook
This book,
New Growth,
is about Mathew and his desire to find someone to share
Even with his seductive laughing eyes, handsome Mathew finds his
childhood fear of rejection stands in his way.
old and new business with
the FBI
his life.
Even so, he finds himself drawn to his
neighbor’s niece who visits occasionally but is married and living in

Brian Tovey and Moll O’Leary are Steve’s other two lead
Like Mathew, they left the FBI
after Steve
hey founded a startup company to protect
banks from illicit money laundering schemes.
The third book of the trilogy,
, will explore Brian’s and Moll’s efforts to define new lives for
themselves, meet their individual expectations and keep up with the meteoric
growth in demand for their company’s services.
Even as they rise to these challenges, younger leaders in the underworld
organize to strike back after Brian and Moll uncover several money laundering
schemes leading to the arrests of several senior mobsters.

For now,
curl up with
your favorite tea, coffee, hot chocolate or a glass of wine and enjoy a good
read with
New Growth

Chapter 1

strode up the hill seeking a vantage point to view his property.
He smiled at the neat rows
his new vineyard in Dundee, Oregon.
A breeze lifted his
sandy hair, pushed it dust on his
hiking boots with each step he took.
He paused and inhaled deeply, enjoying the
morning full of August’s sunny summer promise.
Hiking uphill, he leaned on a long piece of English
hickory, topped
with a segment of antler.
The staff helped reduce the stress on his
left leg, shot twice almost two years before while he served with the FBI.

After reaching the top, he stopped and shrugged out of his
rucksack, taking out a small picnic blanket, a thermos of coffee, a sketch pad,
a ruler and several sharpened pencils.
Nestled against a hill down below him, a small ramshackle farmstead cozied
up to a scenic old barn.
Ever since he
first saw the property, the old buildings beckoned to him to design his home
around them.
Ideas came and went.
Today he wanted to capture on paper the image
that stuck with him.

His business partner and friend’s house
was built
into the bank on an adjacent knoll
overlooking the rows of grapevines contoured to the undulations of the
When they started this business
venture after completing challenging careers with the Bureau, they jokingly
called the enterprise ‘Spook Hills’ and the name stuck. The new house resembled
his friend Steve.
Even now at 62 he was
solid, imposing and austere.
surrounding yard and landscaping reflected his new wife, Ivy.
She filled their new home and gardens with
warmth and the glow of subtle colors in the same way she enhanced her husband’s

They worked on the farmland sporadically the prior year
while dodging bullets during their wrap-up of unfinished business for the
This year Mathew relished the
hard work of planting the remaining fields with dormant roots that now grew
green and healthy.

He stared at his house site, wanting to make progress on its
The layout in his mind echoed a
New England farmhouse erected higgledy-piggledy over time, connecting to the
barn with a long enclosed breezeway.
envisioned an upright two story main structure with one wing, the existing
house, located on the left side as he faced it. On the right, an expansive
would connect the house to the

Since the summer day quickly warmed up, he pulled off his
light sweater, then he unscrewed the top from the thermos, poured a cup of
coffee, and scanned the ground for a flat spot to set it down.
He started drawing an outline of the house,
liking the way it fit against the contour of the land.
In his mind the
sloping up behind the house should be planted with grass,
inviting kids to roll down to the bottom with their giggles ringing out like
church bells or in the rare snowstorm, careen down on a saucer sled.
He sketched in a playhouse further up the
slope – a place where adults needed
to visit.

He sipped the Kona coffee and surveyed the farmland around
My home!
he was designing his prospective house.
Last year the case against certain drug lords called the Fuentes
brothers had curtailed his headway.
he centered his attention on this next phase of his life, even though his
search for a mate kept stumbling and stalling.

He continued sketching, adding details.
The house would have a traditional facade.
A cupola capped with a verdigris copper
weathervane, perhaps crowned by
a flying
ghost should be fitted at the peak of the garage.

With the front of the house roughed in, he finished the
coffee, stowed all except the pencils and the sketch book and got himself
His damaged muscles stiffened while
he sat and he did several stretches before walking
to another knoll
to assess the plot from a different angle.
He halted midway up, turned and considered
the aspect.

As he stood, his scalp prickled around his right ear and his
right side tightened reflexively in response to a menacing presence.
He whirled around in time to catch the crown
of a head disappear behind a nearby hummock.
Dropping his backpack, he grabbed his stick and gave chase.

“Stop!” he yelled running up the hill.

When he reached the crest, a man dressed in black
in advance of him down to the road.

“Hey you, stop, come back here!” he yelled again.

The man pelted on without even looking back.

Mathew skittered downhill.
Up ahead the man reached the road, turned left and ran up an
Relying on his thumbstick for
balance, Mathew scrambled to the road barely in time to see the man disappear
down the other side of the hill.

Mathew huffed up the road, cursing his slowness.
Up ahead a car started, ground its tires in
the gravel and let out a roar as it sped away.
Mathew reached the crest of the hill and paused.
The car disappeared in the distance.
He walked down the slope and went down to
examine where the car had been parked.
With his agent’s eyes, he noted the tire tracks in the dirt and where
the vehicle skidded away.
After taking
photos with his phone of one clear imprint of tire tread, he went over the
No other clues surfaced.

He walked back to scan the compressed vegetation where the
man lurked.
On the verdant hillside
right next to him lay a discarded cigarette butt.
His trained eye and years of habit made him
rummage in his rucksack for a plastic bag to pick it up.
He zipped the baggie shut and regarded it
with annoyance.
The intruder threw it
down carelessly in the
At the beginning of his career as an agent,
Mathew had made a study of tobacco products and memorized the brands around the
Reopening the bag, he sniffed in
a heady aroma of cloves and burnt tobacco.
Unfiltered and likely Turkish, it might be Djarum.
He put the bag in his pocket to be thrown
away later.

Looking around, Mathew found another smoked butt and plunked
it in the bag.
He took out his iPhone
and snapped photos.
All their business
for the FBI should have ended last year when two drug kingpins, the Fuentes
brothers, were killed during an arrest operation at their hideaway home near
Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Yet here
someone spied on him.
Who, why, and what threat did the man
The man’s physique was lean, not
too tall.
He wore his brown hair short
under a black baseball cap.
Judging by
his agile sprint downhill, he maintained a good level of fitness seemingly at
odds with his smoking.

With Ivy and Steve away touring Steve’s familial homeland of
Norway, being on his own concerned Mathew.
Even more worrisome, the young man working on the vineyard, Fred,
returned from a short holiday the next morning.
No way did he want him or his family in peril again, as they had been
the year before.
Even though he was not
yet 21, Fred was his
crew supervisor,
they enjoyed a lighter hearted working relationship than Mathew was accustomed
to in his prior career.

A half hour later, Mathew sat in his room at Steve’s house
debating with himself what the next steps should be.
The two cigarette butts lay sealed in a
zipped bag in front of him.
He needed to
talk to someone and yet he would not call Steve on vacation over such a small
Spook Hills was his to run.
He still leaned on Steve, and probably always
would, yet he needed to take command.

With his friends and former agents, Brian and Moll,
centering their attention on their startup company, he searched for a number
and dialed a retired agent named Lenny
who had operated with them before.

“Lenny,” the man answered in his
voice, more brusque than tough, like an old handsaw bouncing
across an oak log.

“Heylen here,” Mathew said.
“Enjoying retirement?”

“Doing nothing all day will put me into an early grave.
I’m surfing the web for something to do with
my time.”

“Want to work with us at Spook Hills again?
You’ll be in charge of security. If you want,
you can work
the vineyard too.”

“What’s happening?”

After Mathew
the situation, Lenny asked, “You still keep fire power?”

“Roscoes locked in the safe room along with submachine
Steve stuffed an old Uzi and
rocket launcher in there with ammo and explosives.”

Good man
, Steve.
Get your
Lock up the house and stay put.
Turn on the alarm system.
Ivy’s corgi dogs with you?”

As watchful
and noisy as ever.
The cat
is here too.”

Those corgis
will sound an alarm if anyone appears.
Too bad they can only bite as high as the ankle.
I’ll fly up this afternoon and rent a car at
the airport.
Call you when I’m on my
Let’s try it and see what
You might convert this city
slicker into a farmer.”

Even for Mathew as an accomplished agent, protecting Spook
Hills was a challenge by himself, making him relieved Lenny would soon be
While he tended to be a little
trigger-happy in a sting, he was skilled and focused, proficient from his years
on FBI SWAT teams.


Up above the small village of Botaya, Spain, the man who knew
himself to be Cruze Fuentes, took
a last
pull on his unfiltered Camel before stubbing it out and heading to the long
shed where he had built a glass working shop.
At first glance, Cruze looked like an average Spaniard, dark waved hair,
parted neatly on one side, green-brown eyes, and slightly tanned skin. A pale
scar in the shape of a check mark sat above his left eye.
He appeared faded in his worn chambray shirt
and well-washed
but his eyes were
sharp and intensely aware of every movement around him as he walked across the
dry yard.

Once at the workshop, he rolled up two of the four
double-wide rolling doors and peered with satisfaction inside.
His work bench
for cutting and designing,
sheets of glass and other materials sat in an
orderly arrangement in the first bay.
The middle section housed the kiln and a long counter for finishing
One day he hoped to install a
glass blowing center with big ovens for molten glass in the third
while he earmarked the fourth
for storing and displaying completed

Working with glass soothed him.
He slid open windows around the
studio allowing a breeze to flow through,
making his experimental wind chimes jingle overhead.
He devised them with small geometric bits
adhering to each of the long, skinny rectangles.
The carillons glistened in the blues,
and grays of the sea and sometimes he
added a bright aqua or deep azure.

Passing under the wind chimes, he reached up to caress the
smoothed textures with his fingers.
surface of the finished product brought
to mind brocaded silk.
He suspended the
glass rectangles with a sturdy nickel wire from a triple fused rod of rosy pink
and gold like a sunset.
His favorite was
fashioned from a cut-down version of a silver LED light string run by
He hung the lighted chimes on
his porch to watch them twinkle at dusk when he sat outside having his dinner
in the twilight.
Even though making
chimes was a simple project from a fusing perspective, he was learning as he
went along, using the Internet and his glass-working books as instructional

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