Tarnished Guardians | Verso.ink

Tarnished Guardians

Protectors or Predators

By Bill Joyce

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Chapter 1 - Crime Scene
Vacation Interrupted

Megs, Naval Lieutenant Commander Katharine Marie Callaghan of JSOC, carefully marked off the basement of the upscale residential home in the suburbs of Toms River, New Jersey. This was not her type of case but there was no questioning the orders received in the middle of the night. When ADM Alexander Peoples gets you out of bed, you jump however high he commands.

The crime scene was completely contaminated by the debris Megs found. State Police, Toms River detectives, and even two reporters destroyed the scene prior to Meg’s arrival.

The cement floor stained a dark rusty red by the dried and caked blood, affirmed the massacre. The six victims were tied to chairs and tortured, according to the reports for up to three days. They were then summarily executed by slitting their throats. Blood pools and the multiple cutting tools left scattered around the room, showed a complete lack of humanity by the perpetrator or perpetrators.

The scrap of a blueprint, evidence item number 638-21, had no scale of reference and was blown up beyond valid recognition. She made a mental note to inspect the original, muttering under her breath. With all the CSI TV shows, you’d think real crime scene investigators would have gotten the hint.

It did not matter. A scrap of blueprint woke up the Admiral Chief of Naval Operations along with fourteen other high-ranking officials in and around their five-sided labyrinth in Washington DC. The Department of Defense swung into action because a rookie detective, just released from his stint in the army, knew something his detective buddies did not.

Training Remembered

Detective Benjamin Collingsworth served with distinction and began his second career in his hometown of Toms River. Still on the short end of rookie jokes and coffee runs, he carefully logged in every piece of evidence until he handled the scrap of blueprint. Calling for someone to take his place at the table, he carefully picked up the evidence bag and found better light for his inspection. Then, shouting to the ranking officer on scene, he broke procedure running across the crime scene and up the stairs, evidence in hand.

Reaching the detective in charge, Emily Burke-Hansen, he demanded her attention most likely ending his career.

“Detective Hansen!” getting her to stop and turn. “This is national security and top priority.”

Emily paused, making sure she gained eye contact, then took three steps bringing her within inches of the new detective; her smoldering rage curiously enhanced by her Channel perfume. She held her silence to make the first words uttered emanate from the quaking voice of the condemned.

Benjamin had stood in front of terrifying drill sergeants and thunderous commanders without withering. His shoulders straightened and his gaze hardened. “Ma’am.”

Eternities passed and finally the chief of detectives broke. “What is so important that you would risk your career?”

“This scrap came from a military blueprint and, unless I’m mistaken, it is top secret and highly dangerous in the wrong hands. You need to stop everything and call the Department of Defense and Homeland Security.”

“Can you give me one sane reason why this scrap of paper is so important?”

“Sure can.” He moved to the detective’s side and brought the evidence bag into the proper light.

“See that ignition switch right there,” using a pencil to direct her eyes. “That has never been outside the pentagon’s weapons vault since the day my team escorted it there eight months ago.”

Emily turned to her assistant and quickly had him clear the crime scene. Calling for a phone, she made the call that got generals jumping and pulled Megs back from vacation.

“No promotion and you’re still on coffee detail but your job is secure, Benjamin. Good work.” The chief of detectives did not get to her position by walking on her fellow detectives. She got there by keeping the case at the center of her actions.

Decisions Made

Megs arched her back and slowly scanned the basement one more time. Walking carefully through the scene, she gained access to the stairs and went up and out of the building through the kitchen door.

There, patiently waiting for his next order, the young detective used his boot to trace zigzags in the dirt below the swing he was on. Seeing Megs, he jumped to his feet and stood at attention only making a half salute this time. He caught her momentary smile. It made her face more beautiful than anything his dreams could imagine. He stared shamelessly, watching her approach.

“All right DB,” she nicknamed him from the moment they met. “You and I have a lot of detecting to do. Let’s get you processed for JSOC clearance and get on with it.”

Not sure if DB stood for Detective Benjamin or dumb blockhead, Benjamin didn’t care. This was the case and the investigator to be assigned to. My God, she is beautiful!

“Yes Ma’am, where is our next stop?” Ben awaited her command.

“Number one, it’s Megs; drop the Ma’am crap. Number two, I may have rank, but I am a working Navy brat. While we are together, we are equals until you prove different.”

Megs pointed to the car and Benjamin took off at the trot to get there before his new teammate. Unsure if chivalry was allowed, he opened the passenger side door and stood aside to let her in.

“DB, stop horsing around and get in. I’m driving.”

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About Bill Joyce

Bill is a writer of prose, a poet in his own mind, and self-proclaimed master of words. Long-windedness is due the personal enjoyment of his inside jokes, most of which fall on deaf ears. He calls himself an Author.

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