At sleepy Fort Leavenworth, Kansas the commanding general’s wife Bunny Harris is decapitated with the Arabic word for “dust” scrawled in her blood over the bed.
JACK GARRETT (40s), a Los Angeles entertainment lawyer and former special ops soldiers reports for reserve duty at the fort and finds his orders are changed and he is working for CAMERON WELLS (40s), an ambitious attorney who began her career in military intelligence.
Two days later military judge FRANK O’CONNOR (50’s) is charged with the rape and murder of Bunny. He requests that Garrett defend him, and Garrett is placed on active duty.
Wells is put on O’Connor’s trial to spy on Garrett. O’Connor admits to an affair with Bunny and that she enjoyed rough, painful sex including whipping and strangulation.
The CIA brings in PHILLIP RUBIE (50s) and his daughter SIMONE (20s). The pair kidnap Garrett’s son then release him with a message to back off the case. Garrett and Wells are drawn closer over this incident and start to have a romantic relationship.
Evidence points to the general’s involvement in war crimes by killing Iraqi POWs with a nerve agent called “dust.” A reporter tells Garrett that he believes Bunny was killed with this nerve agent. Bunny’s body is exhumed and she melts out of her casket.
The trial begins and the prosecutor receives a CD with Bunny and O’Connor at an S&M club where O’Connor pretends to cut off her head with a machete. O’Connor is offered a deal and refuses.
Simone tells Wells she has evidence of O’Connor’s innocence. Rubie attempts to kill Garrett and Wells at the meeting, but Wells fights and subdues Rubie. Garrett tortures Rubie and he says that Wells knows who the real killer is.
Rubie is left to die but Simone finds him when he activates a GPS chip. His dying request is to kill them all. Simone decapitates the general and leaves a message written in Arabic: “Dust to Dust.” O’Connor is released from jail, since it appears Bunny’s killer is still at large. At a press conference with O’Connor, Wells and Garrett, Simone, disguised as a reporter, attempts to shoot Garrett and Wells. Simone is killed and authorities claim she is Bunny’s killer.
Wells and Garrett return to California and start a new life. Garrett’s son finds a sword in Wells’ footlocker with blood and hair on it. The sword belonged to Wells’ father and was given to him by Bunny. Wells confesses to the killing because the general discovered Bunny was having an affair with her father, and general sent him on a secret mission where her father was killed. Wells tells Garret to forget about what was found and go on, but Garrett can’t
Garrett turns his back and walks out of the house.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 4 – R Rated
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I served as criminal defense attorney in the Army JAGC for five years. Three of those years were at Ft. Leavenworth where the novel is set.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
From my time serving in the Army JAGC and living and practicing law in Los Angeles.
1. Two Heads Are Better Than One
Bunny Harris, wife of three-star general Norman Harris, was naked under her full-length sable coat. She teetered unsteadily for a moment on her four-inch Jimmy Choos, then strolled onto the sweeping balcony of her antebellum mansion that overlooked Fort Leavenworth. Below her loomed the modern sandstone-colored brick-and-glass building that housed the Command and General Staff College. There, hundreds of the Army’s best and brightest studied diligently into the night: all of them competitive, all of them type-A personalities, all of them believing they could beat the 10,000 to 1 odds and become a general, just like her husband.
Off to the north loomed the United States Disciplinary Barracks, the “DB,” the military’s maximum-security prison. There, warehoused behind thirty-foot-high walls, razor wire, and gun turrets were the soldiers, airmen and marines who had gone bad – the cold-blooded killers, the rapists, and the thieves. Men and women who were so violent, the military had given up on them and thrown away the key.
From what Bunny Harris understood of the Army, these contradictions were all part of the same lumbering beast. The only difference was the powerful lived by a different set of rules: Generals’ Rules.
Bunny had witnessed what her husband had perpetrated in the name of “National Security,” and she had remained silent. That was about to change. Miles Unger, a tabloid journalist turned crusader, was interviewing her on Monday. Unger had connections with WikiLeaks and promised the world would soon know.
She carefully balanced the vodka and tonic on the balcony railing and glanced around for Private Johnson, her cat. The sable peeked open and revealed why twenty years earlier Bunny had been crowned Miss Texas. She was tall, with high cheekbones and Mediterranean-blue eyes, eyes so beguiling that in her 20s some of the world’s greatest rock stars had fallen in love with her. Bunny used her striking looks to charm her way into her first TV gig at KXAN in Austin. Five years later, through moxie and studying how veteran news people worked, Bunny was poached by the D.C. bureau of Fox News. A steady diet of alcohol and pills had added some lines to her beautiful face, but at forty-two, Bunny Harris still turned heads and bragged that she had the best blonde hair, teeth, and breasts that money could buy.
“Private Johnson, hurry up. Mommy’s cold.”
A heavy gust of wind pushed down on the cottonwoods next to the balcony. Bunny looked up and saw a noiseless aircraft shimmering above the tree line. A stealth drone? It beamed a shaft of purple light at her face, and Bunny felt a hot sting on the side of her neck. She patted her throat and found it – a tiny dart the size of a fly. Bunny plucked it out and threw it on the porch. Then just as quickly as the drone seemed to appear, it vanished. No sound, no trace.
“Damn. No more drugs for you, girlfriend.”
Bunny’s throat began to tighten. She was ready to give up on her cat, when the large red-and-white striped tabby leapt onto the balcony at her feet. Private Johnson sniffed the dart, attempted to eat it and spat it out over the balcony.
“Mommy can’t breathe,” she said to the cat.
Bunny’s vision blurred, which she attributed to the pills. She tried to steady herself on the railing, stumbling toward her bedroom.
As she stepped off the balcony into her room, someone slipped from behind the curtains. The intruder wore a ski mask, black military fatigues, and combat boots. Bunny had only a second to look up before the assailant swung a cavalry saber.
It was an unseasonably hot December day when General Harris’s olive-drab staff car swung into the circular driveway of his home and stopped. Banana Winds they called them in Kansas, warm humid air blowing all the way up from the Caribbean: the death throes of fall before a brutal winter.
Major Anthony Volk, the General’s aide-de-camp, met his boss’s car and saluted as Harris exited the vehicle. The General, a tall, lanky man with leathery skin, buzzed cut hair, and an oversized nose, had just returned from Senate meet and greets in D.C. He was on the President’s shortlist for National Security Advisor.
“Welcome home, sir,” said Volk. “How was your flight?”
“Just fine, son. How’re you feeling?”
“Food poisoning, sir. I’m better now.”
Volk told the driver to wait, then lugged two heavy rolling suitcases toward the house. As a cadet at West Point, Volk had been nicknamed “General Sherman” because of his thick red hair, hard angled face, and prickly demeanor. Four tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan had managed to thin out his hair, and made him twice as testy. Officers unlucky enough to receive one of his reprimands said they rivaled Sherman’s March to the Sea: everything destroyed including their careers.
The 9mm Beretta holstered under Volk’s arm pinched at his chest. The General thought the weapon was unnecessary, especially within the U.S., but Islamic State had made threats. Killing the American general who had led the invasion of Iraq would be a huge propaganda coup for terrorists. Volk was determined for that never to happen on his watch.
The downstairs’ drapes were drawn, and the air-conditioner was blasting: evidence Mrs. H was on a drunk.
“Bunny,” shouted Harris. “This place feels like a goddamn mausoleum.” Volk was already thinking of ways to hustle Harris out of his house and back to the office before the inevitable argument between the General and his wife broke out. The couple seldom saw each other, and when they did, Bunny made a point of humiliating her husband.
“Do you smell something?” Harris asked as he walked in from the dining room.
Volk sniffed and nodded his head. “Cat box. Maybe garbage. I’ll look, sir.”
“Bunny?” bellowed Harris, storming into the den. “That’s it. I’m tired of coming home to this shit. I’m checking you into Betty Ford!”
The General refused to acknowledge it, but Bunny’s notorious drunken behavior was the one reason he might be passed over for National Security Advisor. Volk wished the General would just get a divorce and be done with her.
Major Volk began a quick search of the house to detect the source of the unpleasant odor. Bunny Harris had created a magnificent showpiece of a home for the General. Muted Dupioni silk drapes pooled to the floor in every room. Baccarat crystal sparkled in French antique étagères. A burled walnut dining table was decorated with pieces of Haviland bone china. Tiffany sterling silver gleamed from every end table and sideboard.
From what Volk had been able to tell, Mrs. H was beautiful but miserable. The General had met her when she was a reporter covering the Pentagon. He’d been tasked to brief the press corp during the first Gulf War and charmed her and most of her colleagues. He swept Mrs. H off her feet and married her after a hot six-week courtship, even though she had been engaged to another man. Something happened after they were married that changed Bunny Harris. Something that the General had done had made Bunny hate herself and look for relief in self-destruction. Volk didn’t think it was women. The General wasn’t interested in other women.
In the kitchen, Volk checked the trash, finding only an empty Sancerre bottle. Two wine glasses sat on a small table; one had lipstick on the rim. Volk knew what it meant. He had politely rebuffed Mrs. H’s advances on several occasions when he was forced to drive her home drunk from Army spouse club meetings. Other officers weren’t as loyal.
What was that stench? Volk knew he had smelled it before, as a boy. Grandpa Volk’s farm outside Sioux City. Cleaning game. Grandpa needed help skinning out a cottontail he shot. Volk held the rabbit by its hind paws, one in each hand, the legs splayed wide. Grandpa used his pocketknife to catch the skin below the joint on the foot and peeled the fur off to the neck. The fur slid off the rabbit the way a beautiful woman slips off her coat. The rabbit’s body steamed with heat, death and sensuality. Then Grandpa cut the head at the neck. The head dropped into the washtub, the eyes shiny, staring back blankly…
“No,” wailed the General from the second floor, jolting Volk from his memory.
Volk bounded up the stairs, three at a time. General Harris slumped in the doorway to his wife’s bedroom, his head clutched in his hands.
“Sir, are you alright?”
The odor was overwhelming, rotten, gamey. The room seemed off-balance.
The General looked up, his expression a mixture of incomprehension and pain. “I tried to warn her,” he said, pointing. “They’ve killed her.”
Then Volk turned and saw the image his peripheral vision had taken in but had refused to register. Mrs. H propped up naked in her bed. Balanced between her legs was her decapitated head. The same thing had been done to her cat. Then he cut the head at the neck, the eyes shiny, staring back blankly…
Above Bunny’s body, a word was scrawled on the wall. The room spun momentarily. Volk fought back nausea. He had led an infantry company into Mosul in house-to-house street fighting and had seen mutilated bodies before. But he expected them in that setting. He had an urge to run screaming from the room, but didn’t. You’re an officer, he told himself. Do your duty.
He edged closer. On the wall an Arabic word was written in Bunny’s blood: لغبار
Finally, it registered. This was a terrorist attack. Volk drew his Beretta, chambered a round, and pushed off the safety.
He extended his shooting arm into the bathroom, waited for a shot, then rolled around the corner.
He breathed deeply, pushing down his fear. It was Iraq all over again, where every room, every door was a trap with someone ready to lob a grenade, unload an AK-47.
Volk kicked open the door of the massive walk-in closet, then spun inside in a low shooter’s stance. Someone was there. He increased the tension on his trigger finger, ready to squeeze off a round.
“Make one fucking move,” he shouted, “and you’re dead.”
No one answered. Just then, Harris wailed. Spooked, Volk fired the entire clip of his pistol and Chanel purses and Christian Louboutin shoeboxes rained down.
No moaning, no blood. The form dropped to the floor.
Volk ejected the clip and popped in another. He patted up the wall with one hand, searching for the switch. There. He turned on the light and saw a bullet-ridden dressmaker’s dummy and a crushed hatbox that had spilled open. On the floor, littered among the shoes and bags, were DVDs and photos of Bunny engaging in sex acts with various men. Those were the least of his concerns now.
Assess the situation and threat. Make an action plan. Good, good, he could feel his reasoning coming back. Don’t touch anything. Secure the perimeter. Protect the General.
Harris sobbed uncontrollably in the doorway.
“General!” Volk shook him until Harris looked up. “Sir, I need you to move. You’re a visible target.”
Harris did not seem to understand. Shock. Volk lifted Harris from under his arms and dragged him down the hall out of the line of fire. Volk looked at his Blackberry. No bars. He dashed down the stairs to the landline. He used his handkerchief to pick up the receiver and dialed the MP station.
“This is Major Volk, General Harris’s aide. Mrs. Harris has been murdered. No, she is not breathing. She’s fucking dead. Get an ambulance to the General’s quarters ASAP and a platoon of MPs to provide security.”
He slammed down the receiver, then closed his eyes a moment and leaned against the wall.
The General’s wife had been murdered on his fucking watch.
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