Pending Release! Lakeview Man: First Duty

Pending Release!

The sequel to Lakeview Man is almost finished!

Lakeview Man was well received and introduced you all to some fun characters that I’ve enjoyed writing. Daniel Clark and Amanda Sanchez (Clark) were interesting and complex characters that really seemed to come to life on their own. I found them not only enjoyable to write but doing dynamic things that even I didn’t expect, at times.

Lakeview Man left many of you wondering what was next for them. Well, if you’ve read the Code Name: Wild Hunt series, you know where Daniel Clark has been and what he’s been up to. But I was surprised by how many people wanted to know more about Amanda and the rest of Sloan County, once Clark had left. They wanted to see her continued adventures on her own. To that end, I wrote the following short story. I know, I already posted it on the blog once before, but with the coming release of Lakeview Man: First Duty, I wanted to repost it so you could refamiliarize yourself with not only the characters but with what had happened to them between the novels.

Lakeview Man: First Duty picks up after the events in this short story. Amanda is moving on to bigger and better things in her career. She’s standing on her own and showing everyone she’s not to be trifled with. She’s strong, funny, charismatic, intelligent, and determined. I find I admire her more and more and enjoy being surprised at her strength. Sometimes, as a writer, you find characters that just seem more alive than others. Amanda is one of those characters. She can be stronger than steel and softer than a gentle breeze. She’s dynamic and exactly the kind of person I have come to know throughout my career in law enforcement. She’s very much like many of the women I’ve known in uniform.  Strong, fierce, smart, and great to be around. So, to all the women in uniform that I was privileged to serve with, I dedicate this character to you. You’re the real heroes. Thank you.

Flash Fiction

Lakeview Man – A New Sheriff in Town

Friday, February 3rd  

“Are you at the cabin?”

The text appeared unexpectedly on Amanda Sanchez-Clark’s cellphone. The text was from Daniel, but she hadn’t expected to hear from him for another week. He’d been busy training with his new team. It had been almost five months since he’d joined the Wild Hunt and gone back onto active duty with the Army.  Unfortunately, she hadn’t spent much time with him since then. When she saw it was him, her face lit up like a child on Christmas morning.

“Not at the moment,” she sent as her reply. “I can be, though. What’s up?”

“Meet me there by 1700,” he texted, adding a smiley face.

“You’ll be there?” she sent, adding several exclamation points for emphasis.

“Yeah,” he replied. “Can’t talk right now. See you at 1700.”

“Love ya, babe,” she sent but didn’t get another response.

That didn’t really surprise her, though. He hated texting and rarely did it. She glanced at the time on her phone and saw that her shift was over in fifteen minutes. It was 1345 hours and she was going to have to head to the cabin so she could take a shower before he got there. They hadn’t been together in weeks and the last thing she wanted him to notice was her body armor funk. Also, she wanted to be wearing something more enticing than her uniform.

Finishing up the report she’d been working on, she headed out the door. There wasn’t a time clock that they had to punch in and out with. Instead, they called in to dispatch and logged on or off duty by radio number. Slipping into her patrol charger, she fired up the engine and let it start warming up. The air was a bit chilly today, but not bad enough that she felt like getting out her coat. Instead, she let the big Hemi engine idle for a few moments to warm up. Reaching for the radio mic, she brought it to her mouth and keyed up.

“155,” she said.

“Go ahead, 155,” said dispatch.

“Show me off duty and sign me off,” she said.

“Copy, 155,” said dispatch. “Be safe.”

Putting the magnetic clip on the back of the mic against the metal of the center console, she let it go and put on her seatbelt. Checking her mirrors, she backed out of the parking space and headed down the road. The little town of Galena was where the Sherriff’s office and jail were, but she lived outside of Kimberling City in the little cabin that had been built by Clark’s grandfather. She mentally chastised herself for still calling her husband by his last name when she thought of him, but it was a difficult habit to break. Cops rarely used each other’s first names and it felt odd calling him Dan or Daniel. He hated being called Danny.

No, she was just going to have to get used to thinking of him as “Clark” even though she, too, was now a Clark. Despite their marriage, all the people who knew her before still called her Sanchez. Doing a quick mental checklist, she knew they had plenty of alcohol at the cabin but she decided to stop at the grocery store to pick up some steaks and ingredients to cook. Tonight was going to be a special occasion and she wanted to make it something he’d remember.

She’d been so focused on the election coming up on Tuesday, she’d forgotten about almost everything else.  Under most circumstances, the election for Sheriff wouldn’t have been until November, but this was a special election. After what happened last August when the Gugwe creatures had attacked and killed several people in the area, Sheriff Prescott had covered up the truth of what had happened. Even the deaths of two deputies.

As much as that infuriated both her and Clark, they had been sworn to secrecy by the very team that Clark had joined to help hunt monsters like that. Fortunately, an investigative reporter named Noriega had gotten wind of the story and broken it wide open. He exposed the lies and even managed to find photographic as well as physical evidence of the creature’s and their attacks in the area.

She had no idea how he’d found out but she certainly approved. When the public found out Prescott had lied, there had been a recall vote to get him out of office. The recall had been overwhelming and Prescott had to step down. Now there was a special election and on the ballot was a former Missouri Highway Patrol Captain named Rick Bonham who everyone knew was going to be a real hard-ass. The other candidate for Sloan County Sheriff was Amanda Sanchez-Clark. The newspaper was calling for it to be a very closely contended election.

After a quick stop at a local supermarket, Amanda picked up the food she wanted to grill for tonight’s dinner. It was only a short drive from there back to the cabin. As she drove up the driveway, she felt that familiar knot in her stomach. She felt it each time she came here since the Gugwe attacked them. She knew they were out of the area but she’d also gone to great lengths to protect herself since the incident. For one, she never left the house without the .458 SOCOM rifle that Clark had given her. For another, there were the dogs.

After the incident, Clark had helped her locate the two puppies that they were now happy to have. They were both five-month-old African Mastiffs, also called Boerboels. They were siblings from the same litter and both males. The breeder said they should both hit two-hundred pounds since they came from a large lineage. They had planned originally to get Caucasian Ovcharkas or Caucasian Shepherds, but they couldn’t find a breeder with any available. When they went to look at the two Boerboels, she’d fallen in love.

After some deliberation, they’d settled on naming them Sam and Dean after characters who were brothers in one of her favorite television shows. Sam was a dark brindle color and Dean was a light fawn color. They had been in obedience training and had already begun formal training with Meadows from Kimberling City Police. They seemed to love training and playing with his police dog, Rocco. At five months old, they were already nearly as big as the full-grown German shepherd. They took to the training like they’d been born for it.

They were in their dog run in the front yard while she was at work. They had shelter, food, and water in there, but they stayed in the house with her when she was home. She couldn’t take them to work at the moment, but that would change if she won the election. She was going to make sure of that.

Meadows had a key to the dog run and came out every day to work with them. When she was there, schedule permitting, she worked with them too. The dogs were so eager to learn and very smart, she knew that they were going to do well. They already were able to be trusted off-leash and would listen to verbal commands without having to restrain them. However, when it came to defending her, they could be downright scary. She was eager to see how that would progress as they grew.

Grabbing the grocery bags and her rifle, she went over to the dog run. They were both excited to see her and she could tell from their demeanor that no predators were in the area. Unlocking the cage, she let them out into the yard and they ran around her happy to have “mom” home for the night.

‘Let’s go, boys,” she said, heading for the house.

They followed along happily, running inside as soon as she opened the door. Chuckling, she followed them in and got them both a treat. While they munched happily away, she got out a large Tupperware bowl and put in the two Kansas City strip steaks she’d bought, then added the marinade. Sealing the lid, she put it in the fridge to do its job while she put the rest of the food away. By the time Clark made it home, the steaks would be ready for the grill.

Grabbing a glass of water, she headed into the bedroom and started taking off her duty gear. Once she’d removed all of it, she put her armor on the rack inside out to let it dry. Then she hit it with a healthy dose of Febreeze, just for good measure. Hanging the duty belt on the hook beside the armor, she sat down and took off her zip-sided tactical boots.

Stripping down to her sports bra and panties, she went to the closet to select something appropriate to wear for his homecoming. She went back and forth between different dresses, but she opted for a black shift that was easy to remove. She knew Clark would appreciate that.

“Alright boys,” she said to the dogs. “I’m getting in the shower. You guys watch my back.”

The dogs dutifully followed her into the bathroom and made themselves comfortable on the rug in front of the vanity. Slipping out of the rest of her clothes and into the hot shower, she let the water wash away the stress of the day. It had been exhausting. Since the sheriff had stepped down, they’d all been pulling extra shifts to keep up with the caseload. It wasn’t as if Prescott had done any of the work. It was that when he left, eight of his cronies went with them and the department was now critically short-handed.

Lathering up her legs, she got her razor and started to shave. Each time she did so, she saw the scars that were left behind from when they fought the Gugwe and the memories flashed back to her as fresh as the day they happened. She’d gotten those scars the day that Konrad had been killed. The scars had faded since that day, but the memories were still vividly clear. She knew that they probably always would be.

As difficult as it had made things since the incident, she was glad that the reporter had broken the story. Most people still didn’t believe it was a Bigfoot creature, but quite a few did. She’d been asked about it many times but had to tell them that she couldn’t talk about it. Some understood and some didn’t, but she knew that none of them would understand what happened. You couldn’t really unless it happened to you. She also promised not to go public with what she knew. Unlike Prescott, she took her oaths seriously.

It was almost 1645 by the time she got dressed and ready. She was wearing a simple short black dress with spaghetti straps on the shoulders. She’d left the shoes off, on purpose. Glancing at the time on her phone, she decided to wait on the porch. She left the pups in the living room and smiled at them before she shut the door.

“Behave yourselves,” she said. “I’ll be just outside.”

They promptly got up on the couch and curled up, watching the door patiently.

“Oh, you’re not spoiled rotten at all,” she said, closing the door and chuckling softly.

She’d left them inside not because she didn’t want them running around, but because she didn’t want the competition for Clark’s attention when he first got home. The pups would have immediately rushed him and jumped all over him. That was her job and she intended to do just that as soon as he got here.

She was waiting to hear the familiar sound of his jeep coming up the driveway, but when the clock said 1700, she still hadn’t heard it. She was beginning to wonder if maybe he’d ran into traffic near the lake when she heard a sound that caught her attention. It was a helicopter and it seemed to be getting closer. Ordinarily, she wouldn’t pay much attention because aircraft flew over the lake all the time, but this one seemed to be coming in very low. It kept growing louder.

Glancing around, the sound seemed like it was practically on top of the cabin. Then, suddenly, a small chopper came streaking in just over the tops of the trees. It was a military chopper but not one she was familiar with. She knew Blackhawks and Chinooks, but this one was smaller and looked fast. What she didn’t know was the chopper was an MH-6 Little Bird.

The chopper flared upwards and came to a stop directly over the front yard. A large rope dropped and a man wearing full combat gear and carrying a rifle slung across his chest leaned out the side. He was wearing a helmet and dark sunglasses. In an instant, he slid down the rope and hit the ground. The rope dropped down behind him and the chopper turned and shot off over the trees, back the way it had come. All told, the chopper had been visible for less than thirty seconds.

When the soldier removed his helmet and sunglasses, she could see it was Clark and he was grinning like a kid. He dropped his gear as she ran towards him, then swept her up into his arms and pulled her close. She was kissing him and crying at the same time, happy beyond words to finally have him home for a while. They kissed there in the middle of the yard for a long moment, savoring the embrace. When they finally came up for air, she kept her arms wrapped tightly around his neck.

“God, I missed you,” he said, smiling broadly.

“That was a hell of an entrance,” she said. “Did you do that just to impress me?”

“We were on a training exercise at a base down in Arkansas,” he explained, “I’ve been jumping out of that damned chopper all day. Since we were heading back to Fort Leonard Wood anyway, I just had the pilot drop me here.”

“When do you have to be back?” she asked.

“A week from Monday,” he replied. “I’m here to support Team Sanchez-Clark for the election. Plus, I gotta make sure I cast my vote for the hottest cop in history.”

“Wow, you really must like Bonham,” she said, teasingly.

“Oh yeah,” said Clark. “Iron grey hair and a face like a goddamned Rottweiler gets me every time.”

She laughed and kissed him again.

“You’re going to have to stop before we wind up naked in the front yard,” he said, picking her up and cradling her in his arms.

“Well,” she said, grinning wickedly, “I don’t think the neighbors will mind.”

“You smell wonderful,” he said, “but I smell like the inside of a footlocker. I’ve been running and gunning in this armor all day. As much as I want to get grass stains on my knees and your back right now, I desperately need a shower.”

“Well,” she said, “I already took one, but there’s no law that says I can’t take another one.”

“You can never be too clean,” said Clark, carrying her towards the house.

“What about your gear?” she asked.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine for a little while,” he said, opening the door and carrying her inside.

After a long, hot shower and the “shaving thing” that had become a romantic game with them, they headed in to start cooking their supper. Clark took time to rough-house with the pups and they rolled and jumped all over him, loving the playtime. After an appropriate amount of puppy time, Clark washed up and helped Amanda get supper started. He fired up the grill and got the coals burning when he heard her phone ring. Glancing back, he saw the look of concern on her face.

“It’s the department,” she said.

“Well, fuck,” he said. “I hope they’re not calling you into work.”

“Me too,” she said, hitting the answer button. “Sanchez.”

Clark scowled at her and she flashed him her beautiful smile. She put her hand over her ear and walked a short distance away. He kept an eye on her as he put the steaks on the grill. She was only on the phone for a few moments when she hung up and came walking back over with a shocked look on her face.

“What’s going on, babe?” he asked. “If it’s work, I can go with you. I’m still a reserve deputy.”

“Well, yes and no,” she said. “That was Kimmy at dispatch. She told me to watch the news for the full story, but that I was now a shoo-in for Sheriff. Bonham dropped out of the race today.”

“What?” said Clark, shocked. “Who drops out of a race just days before the election?”

“Guys with a nasty secret that they hoped wouldn’t come out,” she answered. “Apparently, Bonham left the Highway Patrol under allegations of sexually assaulting a young female patrol officer and forcing her to be quiet about it under threat of her job. The Highway Patrol kept it quiet while it was under internal investigation. They filed formal charges today and arrested him at his Kimberling City house.”

“Are you serious?” asked Clark, wide-eyed.

“As a heart attack,” she said. “Thank god he wasn’t elected sheriff. Guys that do shit like that will keep doing it as long as they think they can get away with it. We’ve got several young female deputies who he would probably target.”

“Well, he’s not targeting anyone, now,” said Clark.

“Nope,” said Amanda. “He’ll be lucky to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.”

“Fuck him,” said Clark. “I hope he rots in jail. I hope some of the fellas at the Department of Corrections do to him what he did to that poor trooper.”

“I’d say that’s a good possibility,” said Amanda.

“Well, forget that asshole,” said Clark. “We’re celebrating, now.”

“What do you mean?” she said.

“Sheriff Amanda Sanchez-Clark,” said Clark. “That’s got a hell of a ring to it.”

“I think I prefer Sheriff Amanda Clark,” she said, smiling. “I’m proud to have that name.”

“And I’m proud of you,” said Clark. “You’re a better cop than I ever was.”

“I don’t know about that,” she said.

“I do,” he replied. “I’m good at fighting. I’m a soldier. You’re better at all the rest. You’re going to make one hell of a sheriff.”

“Thank you,” she said, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him.

Clark kissed her back. A lot. By the time they came up for air, he’d burned the steaks.

“Looks like we’re going out to eat,” he said, laughing. “The pups will have to get these steaks.”

“I don’t care where we go as long as we’re together,” she replied.

“Babe,” said Clark, “I’ll always come home to you. You’re stuck with me.”

“Promise?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” he replied. “Sheriff.”

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