KAREN’S KILLER BOOK BENCH: Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!
The Carolina Slade Mysteries Book 5
BY C. HOPE CLARK
Carolina Slade’s long awaited engagement is put on hold as Senior Special Agent Wayne Largo leads the manhunt for a naive fresh recruit who may have jumped the gun on an investigation from Slade’s case load. When the agent is found dead next door to the jurisdiction of friend and Edisto Beach Police Chief Callie Morgan, Slade calls in a favor to add support for Wayne’s investigation. Soon the two women are hip-deep in the secrets, black water swamp land, and farms of the Salkehatchie region.
And anyone attempting to uncover those secrets gamble with their lives.
1. What is your name? Do you have a nickname?
Carolina Slade is my name before my husband died a few years back at the hand of one of my clients. I dropped the name Bridges. A long story. But I go by Slade. Carolina was my mother’s choice of label for me, and I don’t feel particularly partial to the lace and frills connotation that comes with it. Just Slade works fine.
2. Who is your best friend? What kinds of things do you do when you’re together?
Best friend, best beau, best crime fighting partner . . . all one and the same. Senior Special Agent Wayne Largo with the US Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General’s Office. And what we love to do (laughing. . . then laughing again) ranges from cookouts, to hot dates, to gunfights. The adrenaline rush of a case is both our highs and our lows. It’s thrilling to us both, but we tend to face off and clash on how a case is handled. Our relationship is anything but level or normal . . . or boring.
3. If you have a family, how do you get along with them? If you don’t, are there people in your life that you consider family? How do you get along with them?
My parents live down on the coast. I adore Daddy, but Mom hates my profession as an investigator. Especially after one case got my sister shot. She’ll never forgive me on that one. But my close family consists of my nine-year-old son Zack whose antics crack me up, and a young teen daughter, Ivy, whose about to come into her own . . . whatever that turns out to be. And of course there’s Allegra Jo, my sister known as Ally. She’s not just my sister but is also the best aunt in the world, my full-time, live-in babysitter while I’m on cases, and the sounding board for all that goes topsy-turvy in my universe. We’re anything but like souls, but her Yin to my Yang just seems to work. Plus, she’s a cheap housekeeper.
4. Do you have a birthmark? Scars? Where is it/are they? How did you get it/them?
(Laughing and eyes rolling.) Let’s see . . . there’s the knife scar across my ribs from a case in Beaufort, which I got literally saving Wayne, which I never let him forget. Then there’s shotgun pellet scars in my belly from when a deranged farmer whose wife left him, locked me and others in a restaurant and shot us up. Who needs birth scars when you can make your own!
5. When you’re angry, what do you do? Where do you go? How do you deal with your anger?
I get sharp tongued, unfortunately, but I tend to walk away, be alone. And since I live on Lake Murray in central South Carolina, I have a dock that tends to absorb most of my anger. I don’t fester long, though. Just not my nature to stay mad at those I love. But admittedly, I can speak before thinking, often regretting what comes out.
6. A penguin walks up to you, right now, wearing a sombrero. What does he say to you and why is he here?
PENGUIN: “Psst, you’re the agriculture lady, right? Someone in the states is trafficking penguins, and one of them is my best friend. We went to iceberg school. I wouldn’t have set the world-record in breath holding if not for Angus. Can you find him?”
SLADE: “Not sure penguins fall under my purview, um, your name?”
PENGUIN (looking distraught at the expected turndown): “Chase. You know, because I’m fast? What does it matter that he’s not a cow or pig or whatever your type investigates.”
SLADE: “How are you sure he’s been taken?”
PENGUIN: “I followed that boat all the way to Mexico. Bought this sombrero to disguise myself down there . . . and to prove to you what I say is true. Please? Isn’t this akin to rustling cattle or something?”
SLADE (feeling sorry for the chubby guy’s tears): Sigh. “Meet me at the Charleston Dock. I’ll arrive tomorrow, with a friend.
PENGUIN: “Not interested in broadcasting this, lady.”
SLADE: “Not interested in traveling to Mexico alone either. He’s part of the deal.”
PENGUIN: “What am I, a sardine?”
SLADE: “You’re an unknown. Not many penguins in these parts, though I have to admit . . . the sombrero does help you blend in. Gotta admit, never would’ve recognized you on the street. Stay away from the shrimp boats when we get down there, though.”
7. What’s the one thing you’re afraid of losing?
My family and Wayne. I can tolerate losing anything else in the universe except for them, and I’ll break whatever rules you throw at me in order to keep them safe. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt.
8. What makes you laugh out loud?
Stupid criminals, my best friend Savannah Conroy who hasn’t found a man she can’t master, and my youngest whose sense of humor can be brutal to us all.
9. What’s your favorite food?
Barbecue pork – pulled with Carolina mustard sauce. But for snacks . . . Golden Flake Hot Chips and bourbon.
10. What’s the one thing you want out of life that you don’t think you can have? Why can’t you have it?
Don’t even have to think twice on this one. My job is Special Projects Representative, which is a catch-all for my agency to let me investigate anything amiss under the Agriculture umbrella. However, my counterpart Wayne Largo is a pure, gun-toting, badge-wearing federal agent with arrest authority. He picks up where my job drops off. When I came into investigations, I was 37, the age they cut off hiring people to be the real deal. I missed my calling, so I do the best I can with the powers I have. While I’m supposed to hand off the criminal cases to Wayne and keep the minor ones, I manage to blur that line here and there and get a taste of what I swear I was born to do.
She pulled onto US Highway 17A, then county road 63, assured in where she was going. “You talk to Wayne yet?” she asked.
“I was about to ask you the same thing.” It had been a while since I’d traveled Colleton County, and I fought to regain my bearings. Or rather that’s what I told myself staring out the window in lieu of thinking about my behavior.
Damn how Callie’d knocked me off my game. And there she sat, driving nonchalantly as if she’d spoken of nothing more than juggling who sat where for Thanksgiving.
“No, I didn’t call Wayne,” she said. “I figured he was too busy to chat. Figured I’d just show up.”
“With me,” I threw in. Sounded like something I’d do.
She turned and gazed long, almost making me worry about her keeping the car on the road. “Will your presence be a problem for him?” she asked.
I couldn’t really answer that. “Wayne and Jasmine were about to embark on an investigation I handed off to them a month back. A local farmer you may know. St. Clair Simmons.”
She shook her head. “But keep in mind my knowledge of people is mostly confined to Edisto Island. Go on.” She slowed, and I hesitated before speaking, noting the road we were entering. About a mile down, Old Coon Road turned off of this one, if I was right.
“Anyway,” I began, opening the file to refresh my memory. “The guy has pocketed money instead of paying his government debts. The type of behavior that’s hard to take to court, with the dollars typically too low for the US Attorney to choose prosecution. Wayne wanted to train Jasmine with it. That’s the problem.”
Another peek over, quicker this time. “Not hearing the issue.”
“Jasmine is from Colleton County,” I said. “You put the idea in my head when we spoke this morning and you asked if she’d go it alone. In hindsight, I think she may have driven down early, taking advantage of him wanting to be with me to do some preliminary snooping of her own.”
We turned onto Old Coon Road, a distance I guessed to be about twenty miles from town. “And how’d you reach that conclusion?” Callie asked.
Jasmine’s behavior at Saluda’s vividly returned to mind. Jasmine exhilarated. Her asking with a sense of espionage that they be more clandestine in their arrival.
“She bragged about showing off to her family,” I said. “That they’d respect her going after St. Clair, a name they’d know.”
Staring hard forward, Callie let loose a soft grunt of sorts, making me take notice of what might be ahead, the subject clearly changed.
I counted five cars total. Two marked, one Wayne’s, an unmarked that could be Jasmine’s, and an SUV with K-9 on the sides and back. One officer guarding the unmarked.
Callie pulled to within ten feet behind the K-9 vehicle. “They already brought the dogs.”
“They’re quicker, right?” I said, pulse quickening. “Isn’t that a good thing?”
“Not usually.” She threw the car into park and got out controlled, a new stiffness in her manner.
We got out, but before Callie could say two words to the Colleton deputy, a hound bayed in the distance.
As Callie addressed the deputy standing guard, I took note of where we were per the file in my hand. St. Clair owned most of this acreage. Jasmine’s car wasn’t on the road, but instead pulled in on a double-rutted turnoff, nosed against a chain between posts, a sign dangling about access limited to a deer hunting club. With Jasmine having disappeared in the night, nobody would’ve easily seen her car tucked in like that. No traffic and too dark.
Which meant she traveled on foot, which led me to question why leave her phone in the car. Which then escalated to maybe she was dragged out. Studying the ground, peering in the car, I saw no sign of struggle. No sign of blood.
Callie spoke with the standing deputy, and I headed over to ask a few questions of my own when his radio went off. I walked faster to hear.
“Heard the dogs, sarge. Come again?” he asked.
“Reception’s rough,” came back the voice. “I said, call the coroner.”
C. Hope Clark is the award-winning author of the Carolina Slade Msyteries and the Edisto Island Mysteries. During her career with the US Department of Agriculture, she met and married a federal agent, and through their combined interests, she plots murder mysteries at their lakeside home in South Carolina when they aren’t strolling Edisto Beach. She also happens to be founder of FundsforWriters.com, a website chosen for Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 19 years. www.chopeclark.com
Links to C. Hope’s website, blog, books, etc.
Amazon – https://amzn.to/2MOJySh
My page – www.chopeclark.com
(for autographed copies)
Thanks, C. Hope, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!