Gerry Schmitt Excerpt: Shadow Girl

Shadow Girl by Gerry Schmitt is the second book in the Afton Tangler Thriller series, following the brutal murder of a business tycoon that leaves Afton Tangler and the Twin Cities reeling—but that's just the beginning of a gruesome crime spree (available August 1, 2017).

Leland Odin made his fortune launching a home shopping network, but his millions can’t save his life. On the list for a transplant, the ailing businessman sees all hope lost when the helicopter carrying his donor heart is shot out of the sky.

Now with two pilots dead and dozens injured, Afton Tangler, family liaison officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, is drawn into the case. As she and her partner investigate family members and business associates, whoever wants Leland dead strikes again—and succeeds—in a brazen hospital room attack.

The supposedly squeaky clean millionaire has crossed the wrong person—and she’s not finished exacting her revenge. The case explodes into an international conspiracy of unbridled greed and violence. And as Afton gets closer to unearthing the mastermind behind it, she gets closer to becoming collateral damage…

1

Mom Chao Cherry hunched forward in a broken wicker chair and stared anxiously across the Mississippi River toward the University of Minnesota campus. Almost unrecognizable as a wealthy khunying from Bangkok, she wore a polyester blouse and baggy pants, cheap rubber flip-flops, and carried an eight ball of cocaine in her handbag. Only her red lacquered nails, edged in twenty-four karat gold, hinted at her ridiculous wealth.

“Time?” Mom Chao Cherry asked in an accent that probably sounded Thai or Chinese to a Westerner, but to a linguist’s ear, clearly betrayed her American heritage.

“Paed nalika,” Narong replied. Eight o’clock.

The corners of Mom Chao Cherry’s mouth crinkled faintly, giving her aging face the appearance of a patient but ravenous crocodile. “Di yeiym,” she said. Most excellent.

She hadn’t been back to America in more than sixty years, ever since her missionary parents had dragged her off to Asia to bring the word of Jesus to the impoverished, war-ravaged people of China. But this homecoming felt incredibly sweet. Like sweet revenge. Now, relaxing slightly, she reached into her bag and pulled out a cigarette. Lit it with a hissing lighter and inhaled deeply. She would have preferred to imbibe her drug of choice, cocaine, but that would have to wait. Right now there was wild work to be done.

Narong, who was old beyond his years at twenty-four, lifted the PF-89 rocket launcher onto his right shoulder and braced himself. Two years of compulsory service in the Royal Thai Armed Forces and another two years in the private employ of Mom Chao Cherry had taught him to truly love all forms of weaponry. He was in awe of their cold precision and the impersonal way in which they delivered death. Narong, whose name literally meant “to make war,” hungered for the moment when he could sight a potential target in his crosshairs, gently squeeze the trigger, and feel the pulse-pounding rush of total destruction. For close-up work, he was an expert in awud mied,or Thai knife fighting.

They’d come to this third-floor room above the Huang Sheng Noodle Factory some two hours earlier, right after they’d received the call from their hospital contact. Entering through the back door, eyes downcast, they’d pushed past the cooks and dishwashers that toiled in the hot, humid, clattering kitchen where bean sprouts littered the floors and orders were barked out in greengrocer Cantonese.

Up to the top floor they’d been led by the nervous owner, and then down a long hallway lit with bare bulbs. They’d ghosted past small cramped dormitory rooms that held two and three sets of narrow bunk beds, finally emerging in this end room with a lumpy bed and the smell of rancid cooking oil and mouse droppings. A room with a single window that afforded the perfect prospect of the slow rolling Mississippi River and, beyond it, the University of Minnesota Medical Center complex.

The helicopter swept in from the north, decelerating to approximately five knots. Two pilots in a Bell 407 who’d made this run a hundred times before. They’d just dropped out of an indigo blue sky scattered with bright stars like jacks strewn haphazardly across a lush cashmere blanket. A mile to their right, Minneapolis skyscrapers twinkled in the night—the IDS tower, Capella Tower, and the Wells Fargo Center, as well as a dozen high-rise luxury condominiums. Closer still was the newly constructed football stadium, raking the skyline with its harsh, unforgiving wall of reflective glass.

The chief pilot, Captain Sam Buell, had his hands on the cyclic stick, his feet working the rudder pedals. He was carrying no emergency patients tonight, just medical cargo he’d picked up in Madison, Wisconsin. So, an easy run for Buell, who was looking forward to spending the night with his girlfriend, who lived in a nearby North Loop condo. She was an assistant producer at a TV station, a hot chick with a killer body and a healthy appetite for experimental sex. She had no clue that Buell had a pregnant wife waiting for him back home. Or if she’d figured it out, she didn’t much care.

Buell’s feet worked the pedals as he swung the helo around in a wide arc over the turgid Mississippi. He was preparing for their final approach. All he had to do now was coast in slowly and drop the skids. The landing zone, with its sixteen green perimeter lights, shone like a Christmas tree. No problem there.

“Looking good,” his copilot, Josh Ansel, said. “Ten-degree angle, LZ dead ahead. Almost there.” Ansel was young and unmarried, so he might be hitting the clubs tonight. First Avenue, where Soul Asylum and Prince had gotten their starts. Like that.

Buell hovered the Bell 407 over the dark ribbon of river as easily as if it were a giant bubble floating on a summer breeze. He was just about to throttle back and adjust his airspeed and pitch when a tiny flash, no bigger than a lightning bug, caught his eye.

Buell frowned, concerned that someone might be aiming a laser pointer directly at his windshield. There were dormitories close by, jammed right up to the edge of the towering riverbank, so there was always the chance some dumb-ass kid would pick him out as a target.

But dumb-ass kids were the least of Captain Buell’s problems at this moment. The rocket slammed into his helicopter with an angry hiss, piercing the metal skin, pulverizing the gearbox, sending the bird into a perilous and lethal spin. In the darkened cockpit, with the hydraulics gone, sensor gauges, warning lights, and control switches all went crazy. Ansel screamed in fear, or maybe it was pain from the raging inferno that suddenly engulfed them.

And when the big explosion came, a riotous event of incandescent shrapnel, Ansel was already gone, bones and flesh sizzled into an unrecognizable carcass. Buell had maybe a split-second longer, time for a fleeting regret about a baby he’d never see.

 

Copyright © 2017 Gerry Schmitt.

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunes

Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at Amazon

 

 


Gerry Schmitt is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty-five mysteries, including the Afton Tangler Thrillers, as well as the Tea Shop, Scrapbooking, and the Cackleberry Club mysteries, written under the pen name Laura Childs. She is the former CEO of her own marketing firm, has won dozens of TV and radio awards, produced two reality TV shows, and invests in small businesses. She and her professor husband enjoy collecting art, traveling, and have two Shar-Peis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.