BOOKS & THINGS
The Maidstone Crime Series
All are available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.
If by chance you have trouble finding the book with just the title, add my name to the search.
All are available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.
If by chance you have trouble finding the book with just the title, add my name to the search.
Chapter 1 February 9, 2010, was a typically cold night in Maidstone, a small village tucked into one of the valleys of the Berkshire Hills. The air was dry and crisp with a light dusting of new snow covering the ground. Traffic at 2 a.m. had all but stopped. On a Tuesday night everyone would be home in bed—there would be a few restaurant workers finishing up their late shift. Of course, there would be a couple of police officers watching over the town. Except for the occasional drunk driver or maybe a heart attack, not much was going to happen until the town woke up at dawn and things began to come alive. It could seem boring to some, Danny Gilcrest didn’t mind the quiet. It gave him a chance to catch up on his studies in a few community college courses, so he could move on to a four-year degree. He could do some research in the stock market even though he had very little to invest. This job had turned into a lot more than he had ever imagined. At times it was boring, just not all the time. The pay wasn’t great, though it was okay. The bills were getting paid and there was more than enough for his daily expenses. He could go out any night he liked if he didn’t go nuts and spend like he was one of the New York stock brokers who frequented the town. Maidstone really did look like an Andrea Smythe painting with the new clean snow. Then again, this is the town that Smythe lived in and painted year after year. The recent dusting made it look just the way it should for a small, quiet New England town in the dead of winter. The radio barked, “Unit 1, check-out a suspicious vehicle at the Shell Station on Route 9, just south of the Housatonic Inn. An unidentified caller has stated that he had driven by the place twice in the past hour, and the vehicle was still there idling.” Danny was almost happy to be interrupted and have something to do. Some of the guys on the midnight shift would go in the hole after the bars closed and catch a few hours of sleep, Danny couldn’t do that. The first time he heard the term going in the hole, he had no idea what they were talking about. There was always some vacant estate with a long driveway that you could pull into, and no one would ever see you. There were also the seasonal places that were closed for months of the year that no one ever wandered into except the police who had keys to the gates to make routine checks. During his time in the service, Danny had often dug a hole to sleep in at night for protection; he didn’t make the connection until it had been explained to him. After six years in the Marines, sleeping on duty was something he just couldn’t do. Even if he wanted to, his body wouldn’t let him. Danny drove the mile or so to the gas station. He didn’t recall seeing any vehicles in the area when he passed by earlier in the evening. This is a well-travelled route especially for patrol vehicles because it took them past most of businesses and shops that might be broken into. Then again, any of the drunks headed north from Great Barrington or travelling south from Lee would pass by there. This was Maidstone’s center of activity, if a few dozen cars could be called activity. As he pulled up near the gas station, Danny took note that there were no tire tracks in the new snow. There were also no vehicles in the general area that looked like they had been running as they were all dusted with the new snow. He decided to exit his patrol vehicle and listen for the sound of an idling vehicle. Danny figured that the caller might have used the gas station as an identifiable location near where the vehicle was sitting. “Dispatch, I will be out of the car at the Shell Station. I don’t see the vehicle; I will be checking the area.” “Roger,” was the response. As he stepped out of the cruiser, he reached for his flashlight on the seat. Not knowing that he’d be standing on ice, he stepped out of the vehicle. As his weight came down, his foot shot straight forward into the door. He flipped out of the door coming down hard onto his back slamming his head into the pavement. “What the hell!”
Chapter 1 Danny came straight up out of bed letting out an animal-like scream. The explosion he heard in his dream was as real as the night he heard the shotgun blast. His roommate rolled out of his bed gasping for air and staring into the darkness where his Danny had just scared the shit out of him. “Not again!” Danny was trying to catch his breath and slow his heart rate, and after a few seconds, things began to return to normal. “Sorry,” said Danny. “The shit keeps creeping back. I have no control over these nightmares. I hear the blast, and then I wake up.” Looking through the darkness, Mike reached for the light. As he flipped the switch, he could clearly see that Danny was dripping wet and his chest was heaving. “Dude, you’ve got to go see someone about these dreams. This is the fourth time you have scared the shit out of me, and I don’t scare easy. I did my time overseas. Once in a while I have my dreams just not every damn night and not with the intensity that you have. Don’t take this the wrong way, but in the morning I am out of here. I can’t take this, and you need help.” All Danny could manage was, “Sorry.” Mike thought this was all about Iraq and Afghanistan. No one in the class had heard about the attempted murder in Maidstone, Massachusetts. Danny had his share of close calls in the Marines with twenty-four months in various combat zones. No one knew it was a small town in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts that gave him nightmares. Being in a quaint country village and almost getting cut in half by a shotgun blast was not what he had expected. The “BOOM” he heard when he hit his head he thought, was from the impact on the pavement only to learn later it was a blast from a shotgun. Who could guess that slipping on black ice getting out of the cruiser would save his life? Lying there on the ground dazed had given the shooter the impression that he had hit his target and that the deed was done. The false sense of security and the relative peacefulness of the mountains hid secrets that no one knew about. The FBI had cautioned Danny not to talk about the situation back home while at the FBI National Academy. Yes, it was in the news, they were controlling what information got out. The FBI did not want any leaked information than they deemed necessary to be made public until they were ready. If word got out about Danny being the target of a mob hit, there would be a lot of questions. Danny was surrounded by several hundred high ranking police officers who were used to getting answers. Danny would be informally and relentlessly interrogated by his classmates. So for the time being, he was to maintain a low profile and not standout, still people were talking. The sound of the reoccurring nightmares had extended beyond his room. The two suitemates who shared the bathroom heard all the noise and the conversations with Mike. That opened the circle of people in the know and was a topic of conversation among the rest of the class. No one wanted a roommate who was having problems. They weren’t afraid of Danny. They just wanted to study and get a decent night sleep without the animal screams in the night. There were some serious squirrels running around in that young man’s head, and he needed to do something about it. The assignment to the FBI National Academy had gotten Danny out of town, just not away from the nightmares. The Behavioral Science guys at Quantico were trying to help while they debriefed him, there was only so much they could do. The counseling was there, and Danny refused any type of medication even with the consent of the FBI doctors. He wanted his life back on his own terms, without the drugs that he might become dependent upon to sleep the night through. When Mike went to the FBI coordinators and asked for a new roommate, it was Danny who was moved. The agents had speculated about the dreams, Mike finally confirmed it. Danny was given his own room and a private bathroom. It was just like all the rooms in the dormitories. There were two beds, two desks with chairs, two sitting chairs and bare walls. The rooms were plain though totally functional. A few of the females had put up posters and other decorations, while the guys would not get past a picture or two on their desks. A few had their notes carefully displayed on the walls with blue painters tape. With no one else in the room, Danny was able to listen to a classical radio station playing music all night long. The music played softly through the night. Even the disc jockey had a soothing voice. This helped; most of the nightmares were gone, most of them. Erasing the past several years was not going to happen overnight, if ever. He had always kept the demons at a distance, sleep let them creep in and take over his thoughts. The unexpected things that happened in Maidstone disturbed and traumatized him more than the events in the combat zones. Yes, they could both be deadly, and in the Middle East, it was expected. It was a surprise in the Berkshire Hills. A small town police officer wasn’t supposed to be the target of a mob hit, unfortunately that’s what happened, and Danny had no control over it.
Chapter 1 Danny’s nightmares were not going away; in fact, they were getting worse. The shocking dreams weren’t from is combat duties in Iraq or Afghanistan. Those six years didn’t bother him. The random memories were like a PowerPoint slide presentation that kept scrolling through his brain. It had only been one slide for the longest time; that changed. Danny would slip on black ice getting out of his cruiser and slam his head onto the pavement as a shotgun blast passed over him. That was the least of his terror. Slide one, Penny Worthington naked and twisted in the bed covers with the back of her head blown off. Slide two, an angel silhouette of Penny on the wall outlined in blood where her husband, Brad, had pinned her and fired the fatal shot. Slide three, Gary Carlson sitting on the ground using his cruiser for cover, bleeding from a head wound while praying not to die. Slide four, Danny sticking his Glock 17 in a hitman’s mouth ready to pull the trigger if the mutt didn’t talk. Slide five, a headless man sitting at a desk that would cost most people what they paid for their home. Danny would hear that final blast of a ten gauge shotgun; and after enough repeats of the slide show, he would roll out of bed ducking for cover. This time he had no one to scare except his yellow Labrador, Bear, and Bear didn’t like it. Geri would be coming back from England and the Interpol assignment, things were different. That short time away had changed their lives and Danny was having some serious problems. Geri would be able to handle the nightmares. The worst part was the small town politics--politics that extended to the state police covering Western Massachusetts. Danny was doomed, and he knew it. He had to get away from the Berkshires and that meant getting away from Geri. Her job as a state police detective was just taking off. Everything was breaking her way, except Danny. He was the most respected and hated member of the Maidstone Police Force. He solved a horrible murder and put the quiet town in the national news—a place the town did not want to be. He took out a corrupt police official that everyone loved for one reason or another. He identified the biggest thief in town who was also the biggest tax payer and employer whose suicide crushed the town, and it was all Danny’s fault. U.S. Attorney for Western Massachusetts Diana Sheriden kept Danny on the federal payroll, even though there was very little for him to do. He spent most of his days waiting for a phone call to testify in any of the ongoing court cases. Then it was a ride to the court house to wait. The Worthington family was trying to get their trucking business out of receivership from the feds. Since the fuel laundering business was exposed, the federal government took over the running of the company. Cynthia Worthington, the widow of Quenton Worthington, was trying to prove that no one else in the family or company knew that home heating oil was being diverted to diesel truck fuel. The tax evasion scam had worked like a charm until Danny started to nose around. Cynthia had agreed to every demand that the federal government had imposed on the trucking company. Agent Tom Deverse of the FBI had gone over the business records with the forensic accountants, and they all agreed the trucking business without the untaxed fuel oil scam was still a profitable operation. The money that came in from the laundered fuel oil was just extra cash and not needed to keep the company in the black. The scam was profitable in every way. Cynthia was begging the court to release the noncriminal part of the company for the good of the town. She agreed to pay all the tax money owed and was willing to submit to a heavy fine. This would benefit the town as much as it would the Worthington family. The IRS and the Massachusetts Tax Department signed off on the deal. With no real effort on their part, the state and federal tax departments were going to be getting sizeable checks if they agreed to return the trucking company to Cynthia. In the end, even after paying the back taxes and the imposed fine, Worthington Trucking would still be ahead of the game dollar wise. Having several family members on the state and federal level helped out immensely. Having low friends in high places had its benefits. Everything would be back to normal except for Danny. He was spending more time on his studies and getting his associates degree. He was concentrating on areas other than criminal justice. He was convinced that he wouldn’t be in law enforcement much longer. He was sure that he couldn’t stay in Maidstone. He doubted that another department would hire him. Chiefs of police are reluctant to hire someone with the baggage he was carrying. Getting a fellow chief of police and a well-respected detective lieutenant arrested and sent to prison would not sit well with them. Forcing a state police captain into an early retirement just added to the drama they didn’t need. Why hire someone with that kind of history when there are two hundred qualified candidates to pick from. It didn’t matter that the chief and the detective lieutenant were guilty. The fact that the captain was on audio tape threatening Danny for something he didn’t do made no difference. Danny Gilcrest was trouble. Why take the chance. Geri was due at Westover Air Reserve Base in a few days……..these were very long days as Danny watched the time tick by, waiting to see his future fiancée. Finally this small town cop would catch a break.
Chapter 1 Danny sat on a teak wood deck chair looking out over the quiet lake that was the Stockbridge Bowl. A two-year-old yellow Labrador laid by his side on a bed of white pine needles. Towering above them were trees that had survived hurricanes and snow storms for more than one hundred years. The cottage behind them was old; by the same token, it was comfortable thanks to many helping hands. These were the Berkshires Danny remembered growing up. Not the place where organized crime figures partied. His neighbor had a sound system on, playing loud enough for the entire west side of the lake to hear. And it was all good. One song was from James Taylor, another from Bruce Springsteen. That would be followed by the Kingston Trio and even Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Bono and Ozzie Osborne would soon follow. Of course this was the Berkshires, old and new, all at the same time. It was cool for a summer day, and a gentle breeze came in from the northwest out of New York State. Danny was half asleep with the sun warming his face when he heard a car pull into the camp. His first reaction was to grip the Beretta 380 auto before looking to see who it was. To his surprise it was Chief Dominic Nanfito of the Maidstone Police Department, his big boss. Danny slid the 380 back into the pouch and got up to greet the chief. The visit was a total surprise. “Chief, my cell didn’t ring. Is there something wrong? Do we have a call out?” “No, nothing like that. I just need someone to chat with and exchange some thoughts. You have some time?” He saw the chief daily for the last several years, and nothing like this had come up. He could have pulled him aside at any time; here he was on a day off wanting to talk. It wasn’t like Danny was going to turn him down. “Whatever you need, chief. Let me get you a deck chair.” “While you’re up, get some ice and two glasses.” Danny did as requested, and the two sat sipping scotch looking out over the lake. For someone who wanted to talk, nothing was being said. He knew this had to be something serious, and it was the chief’s call. Danny waited. It was twenty minutes and half a glass of scotch later when the chief finally spoke. “Ever kill anyone, Danny?” It wasn’t the question he was expecting. He took a long pull on his scotch and thought back to his days with the Marines Iraq and Afghanistan. For a long time Danny had a very faraway look as the chief waited. “I’m going to have to give you a definite probably. There were days when I emptied all seven of my magazines and chucked whatever grenades I had. Sometimes I would make my way back to the HUMVEE and draw more ammo and grenades. Did I kill anyone? Probably. When you toss a grenade into a room or crank off 30 rounds at a guy a hundred yards away, you never know for sure. Everyone is firing and throwing grenades so it would be anyone’s guess as to who connected. When we swept through an area, did we find dead and wounded? You bet your ass. Do I feel bad about it? Not in the least. I hope I did kill a few, yes, but not for the bragging rights. They were trying to kill me and my guys. I wasn’t going to let that happen.” Then there was a long pause. Danny’s thoughts were once again a few thousand miles away from Maidstone. “Chief, I take that back. There were a couple of times we were just a few feet apart clearing rooms. We were close enough to see the sweat on their faces, and I just fired until the insurgent went down. I put a few more into him just to make sure he wasn’t getting up. They did like their drugs. There were times that no matter how many rounds you put in them they kept coming. They had no sensation of pain even after being hit six times. So yes, I did for sure kill a few people. Yes, I was close enough that I got covered in blood more than once. The smell of copper from the blood was so overwhelming I almost puked. We took prisoners if they would surrender. After May 1, 2003, when the Iraqi Army was defeated, not one US Serviceman was ever taken prisoner. Our guys were all executed, murdered if they were captured. So no, I don’t lose any sleep over it. I do have my nightmares, terrifying dreams because I missed firing at insurgents. The ghosts are laughing at me. I had serious visions in color that I missed, and the mutt is still firing at my guys. In the nightmares, I was so pissed at myself for missing. Then there were dreams where I’m not prepared. Those still bother me. Chief, you didn’t have a choice the other day. You had to take those guys out. Otherwise we would be having some huge memorial services and talking about the great guys we lost. By the way, where did you learn to shoot an M-14 like that?” “I was a Gunner’s Mate in the Coast Guard.” “Seriously?” “I was armed with an M-14. My job was to cover boarding parties from cutters or to be a gunner on helicopters. We were in the Caribbean and Gulf back in the 90s. I have four confirmed kills. With four single shots, I took out four two hundred and fifty horsepower outboards on a drug boat at sixty miles an hour from a Jayhawk helicopter. After that everyone on the drug boat put their hands up. We trained every week, sometimes every day. We would crank off a few rounds just to stay sharp. That day at the barn was the only time I ever fired on a civilian.” At this point the conversation took a long break. Sipping scotch was the main activity besides listening to the neighbor’s sound system. Smitty, the yellow Labrador, maneuvered in for some attention. Sipping scotch and scratching a fat headed Labrador had a calming effect. Danny thought back to those months in Iraq and Afghanistan. “When we were out sweeping the town or patrolling the roads looking for trouble, those things were not just a one-time event. The shootout at the barn was something else. It was over in a matter of minutes. In the Marines we didn’t have time to reflect on what just happened because as one engagement ended, the next immediately followed. The pressure was always on, and you had to stay focused. You couldn’t dwell on the past because the future was right there, and you had to take care of what was in front of you. When we came out of the field, all we wanted to do was get some real food, take a long shower, and go to sleep without eighty pounds of gear. We were exhausted, and all we wanted to do was sleep. We didn’t reflect on the past events. The only time we did was at the memorial services. Even then we still had things to do and might be back out in the field in a few hours. We were ready to move on. Let’s say we would get in a fire fight clearing a building. Once we cleared that building, there would always be another one to hit. As soon as you fired that second round at the barn, it was all over. So at that point you had plenty of time to think about it. We never did. You killed two guys and saved a bunch of out-gunned officers. They were looking for Cynthia Worthington and by extension me. Of course we were long gone, leaving Patty the horse trainer at the main house, when they headed there looking for Cynthia. You guys stepped in and took the heat off Patty. Your precision marksmanship ended it in in a few seconds.” “Danny, I am trying to be a family man again and a low profile Chief of Police. Everyone is looking at me a differently, even my kids. I’m pretty sure that they don’t fully understand what happened and why. The kids at school are giving them a hard time because their father is a killer. I’m back on the job without a badge or gun. I sit in my office and do the administrative part of being a chief. They won’t clear me for full duty until the district attorney signs off on the shooting. I’m not worried about being cleared--it just takes so much time to do all the interviews and complete the investigation. District Attorney Cohen has already told me I am in the clear; unfortunately, the investigation has to run its course. The thing is I am not with a bunch of Marines or Coasties. I’m out in town, and some people have the idea that I am a stone cold killer. Others think I’m some sort of Clint Eastwood super hero. I don’t know what I am. I keep trying to explain it to the kids. If I can’t understand it, how can I explain it?” “People are going to think what they will, chief, and there is nothing you can do about it. Don’t try to explain the unexplainable. Most people won’t even listen anyway; they already have their minds made up. Hopefully, time will let memories fade. People will see you in the present and not the guy who took down two hitmen. Of course that won’t ever go away. People will get used to the old you. They will see you around and at town functions. They will see you out with your wife and the kids, a normal family. That day at the barn won’t ever go completely away, with time things will fade.” “I always had the idea that something bad might happen. That’s why I had the M-14 in the trunk. I figured that all I would have to do was pull it out and that would be the end of it. I never thought I would actually have to fire it. Until you shot up the van with the armed robber in it, no Maidstone officer ever discharged his weapon. In just under three years, we have had gunfire exchanged four times. I don’t know if I’m cut out for this sort of thing.” “Chief, if I had the answers to your questions, I would be making the big bucks. You did what you had to do, and you saved lives. Go back to being you, and don’t worry about what you have no control over. Easy for me to say, huh?” “Thanks for the time, Danny. I think I will take the kids for a walk out to the Ledges and watch the sunset.” “I like that hike too.” The chief headed for his car leaving the bottle of scotch. Danny was about to call out to him, then thought better of it. Most of the scotch was still in the bottle and it would keep for another day. The chief had a lot on his mind and didn’t need to cloud it with too much booze.
Coming soon, MAIDSTONE V