Witness Security – The Series
Pieces of the Past – Book One
The past is closing in on Christine Scott. Uprooted from her pleasant life in Chicago, she and her two children are thrust into the Witness Security Program when the mistakes of her husband catch up with him. He lands in prison, while she and the kids are transplanted to a quiet Kansas town. Christine does her best to keep life normal for her active ten-year-old son and persistently moody seventeen-year old daughter. But when they start receiving gifts from an anonymous sender, reminders of their old life, it becomes obvious that someone has found them.
Doug Jackson's been in service with the US Marshal’s office for fifteen years. He hasn’t lost a witness yet, and doesn’t intend to start with Christine or her family. If he can get them to cooperate, his job might be easier. Unfortunately, no one seems concerned about making Doug's life easy. Not the man in the white sedan who eludes him, nor the pretty Christine, thoughts of whom he can't seem to shake. Their lives depend on Doug keeping his head in the game, and he's determined to do just that.
Life is hard, then you die. He’d read that on a T-shirt once. It seemed like a fitting expression. Maybe I should get me one of those shirts. Then at least people would know what to expect when they saw him coming. If they saw him coming.
He chuckled and adjusted the air vent on the left side of the car’s dashboard so it aimed directly at his face. He’d started to sweat profusely, and wanted to nip it in the bud. He used a wadded-up fast food napkin to pat down his balding head.
The neighborhood seemed quieter than usual. From what he could tell, the oppressive heat had sent children in search of pools and adults inside, seeking relief. Even through his closed car windows, he heard the drone of air conditioning units as he drove slowly down the street.
He stopped a half a block away and studied the yellow house, its sidewalk framed by a red brick planter full of petunias. No bicycle in the driveway, no loose basketball lying at the base of the hoop, which sat atop a pole next to the house. For a moment, he wondered if the family was away. They can’t be. I saw those things here yesterday.
When the front door opened and the woman came out, he breathed a sigh of relief. I’m paranoid. Not uncommon for someone in his line of work. He adjusted the right vent so the cold air blew in his face, too.
The woman glanced in each direction before she inserted a letter into the shiny black mailbox and raised the small red flag on the side. She gazed toward his car and seemed to stare right at him.
He crouched down low in his seat. She can’t see me from there. A new bead of sweat formed on his temple, and trailed down his face. I hope.
Without missing a step, the woman walked back into her house and closed the front door.
He swabbed his forehead, straightened his shoulders and settled back against the rented sedan’s leather seat. The coast is clear. A bit too close for comfort, but no harm done. Plus, he got a good look at her, so there was no doubt he was at the right place.
He lifted several photos, and sheets of information accompanying them, from the passenger seat. Thumbing through the pages, he paused when he reached the picture of the woman and examined her closer. Straight dark hair framed her face, falling past her shoulders. Young. She looked much less than her purported thirty-five years. She’s a pretty dame. Clear brown eyes and a happy, innocent smile.
Bet she’s not so happy anymore. Reality had a way of taking that from people. I should know.
He flicked the photo back and forth against the steering wheel. If the woman was somehow happy again, after everything she’d been through, he’d be amazed. And sorry that someone was intent on blowing it. But that’s the way the cookie crumbled.
This is no big deal. Just another job. He tossed the photo back into the passenger seat and stared at the house once more. Same game, different players. There had to be different players, if he did his job right. If I ever mess up, I’ll be the one lying on the slab. He hadn’t screwed up yet, and wasn’t too concerned about it. He was very good at what he did.
He yawned, fiddled with the vents again, and settled back into his seat.
Christine Scott closed the front door and locked it out of habit. Their first August in Kansas was hotter than blazes outside. She didn’t expect either of her kids would be going out. Ethan was in the family room playing a video game. Peyton was in her room, where she spent most of her time.
Christine sighed. It had been a frozen day last January when she and the kids moved to the quiet city of Topeka. The state capital was large for Kansas but nothing like Chicago, where she and both children had been born and raised. The move had been quite a jolt, on top of changing identities and literally, their lives. The marshals in the Witness Security Program had encouraged them to keep their same first names and initials, hence the Stewart family became Scott. Seventeen-year-old Peyton, furious about the relocation, the divorce, everything, had taken it hard.
Jordan Burke, the US Marshal assigned to their case, did everything she could to make things easier. Christine liked the woman, even though a part of her was envious of the dark-haired beauty with her long, thick black hair and a figure people couldn’t help notice. She could tell Peyton was enthralled with Jordan, partly because of the woman’s looks, but also because the marshal treated Peyton like an adult. That scored major points. Christine watched them interact, saw her daughter was starting to idolize their protector, but didn’t really mind. Jordan was gorgeous and just plain nice. She understood that the kids weren’t thrilled by uprooting their lives and relocating from Illinois to Kansas.
Christine hadn’t been thrilled either, but she was an adult and could see the big picture more clearly. Her accountant husband of eighteen years had lied to her and put their family in jeopardy. He’d thought the cash he received laundering money for the Russo crime family would make up for the hardships they’d had to endure. He’d been wrong on so many levels.
No amount of cash could ever make up for the death threats Christine and the kids had received. They’d had no choice but to enter the protection program. Neither child seemed to believe it when she explained she was divorcing Daddy and they were entering the Witsec program. After they moved, they’d never see Daddy or Grandma and Grandpa again. Ten-year-old Ethan was devastated. Peyton had chosen anger, and remained angry for a very long time. Christine wasn’t sure the girl was over it yet.
The phone rang, startling her out of her thoughts. She grabbed her cell and recognized the number as one of Ethan’s classmate’s. “Hello?”
“Hi, Christine, this is Donna Ulinky. How are you today?”
She pictured the pretty, auburn-haired woman, with the freckle-faced red-headed son. Unlucky son. Roger had broken his arm in the early weeks of baseball season and had spent the whole summer in a plaster cast. “Hi Donna. Fine, thanks. How’s Roger? Did he get his cast off?”
“This morning. He’s so excited to finally be able to swim. He’d like to take some friends to the pool this afternoon. Is Ethan free? We could swing by and pick him up, and drop him off in a couple hours.”
“I don’t know.” Christine glanced toward the family room nervously. She usually preferred to take him places herself. “Maybe we could meet you there.”
“Nonsense. If he wants to go, we’ll pick him up. There’s no reason you should have to deal with the heat.”
Christine gripped the phone until her fingertips turned white. “I, uh—”
“Both my husband and I will be there. I promise you, we’ll keep an eye on the boys.”
She hated being thought of as an overprotective mother. She’d always prided herself on being cool and laid back. Another facet of her life her husband had stripped away and she had no choice but to live with it. She had a real reason to be protective of her children, but the people in their new lives could never know about it. “I’ll see if Ethan wants to go. Hang on, okay?”
Christine muffled the phone as she stood in the doorway of the family room. “Honey, Roger Ulinky got his cast off today. His parents are taking him swimming. Would you like to go?”
Her son’s bright brown eyes sparkled. “Really? Sure!” He proceeded to punch some buttons on the controller in his hand to close out the game.
Christine inhaled and lifted the phone. “Donna, Ethan would love to go. What time will you pick him up?”
Available here: http://amzn.com/B00K5XAGY2
And coming to print soon!