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Authors: Jacqueline Druga

Consigning Fate

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CONSIGNING FATE

Beginnings Series Book 23

 

Jacqueline Druga

Consigning Fate

Beginnings Book 23

By Jacqueline Druga

Copyright 2015 by Jacqueline Druga

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Thank you so very much to Cindy and Kira for all your help with this book.

PROLOGUE

December 8
th

His office was a tent. Even though they had moved south, the air was cold and a light snow fell. The sounds of gunfire rocketed in the distance, and with each blast, a dead chill went through Joe Slagel.

He warmed his hands over the pot belly stove and poured the last contents of the coffee into his cup.

It wasn’t going to be long, not at all. Those who remained were secure and underground in Mexico. There was no other alternative.

Joe went back to his desk. His body ached, head hurt, and he had smoked his last cigarette. He, too, would be leaving and joining the others, but did it make a difference? Would anything he had done made a difference? Swallowing a hard reality, eyes watering, he peered down to the fresh notice on his desk. The simple letter sent by field messenger that Robbie had been killed in action.

The static hiss of the radio brought him from his stare of the tragic news.

“Joe, come in,” the male voice said.

Joe picked up the radio. “Yeah, Dan.”

“It’s a shell. Everything that remained, that we could, we moved to the cryo tunnels. We did as much as we could with just the eight of us. Over.”

“I understand. Hopefully … hopefully when this is all said and done, we can go back and rebuild.”

“Hopefully. We got them in scope, Joe, about thirty miles out. Close.”

“Then you know what you need to do, get out of there.”

“Roger that, Joe. Good luck.”

“Same. Out.” Joe put down the radio. He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He needed a minute before he got in the jeep and left. Just a minute to himself.

He felt the cold air enter before the voice called out to him.

“Joe.”

Joe looked up. “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be with the others?”

“Not me, Joe.” He stepped closer. “You know who I am, don’t you.”

Joe stared for a few seconds, long and hard. “You.”

“Again.” He nodded. “Joe, I thought … I thought it would work.”

“I did, too.”

“But truth be known, Joe. You made some bad decisions. You didn’t think they’d be bad, but they were.”

“I made human decisions,” Joe said. “Human.”

“And you and I both know you’d do it again if you had the chance to do it over.”

“I based it on what I saw. Anyone would have.”

He shook his head. “Not anyone.”

Joe closed his eyes briefly. “Why are you here, again? At this point …”

“It’s not over, Joe. Not completely. I think you know what needs to be done. None of this had to happen.”

“What are you saying?” Joe asked.

“It’s time, Joe, to make a decision.” He paused. “The ultimate decision.”

On that, Joe peered up with a heavy sigh.

CHAPTER ONE

Eight Months Earlier …

 

BEGINNINGS MONTANA

 

March 26
th

 

Feeling the impact of a bullet was nothing compared to the impact of the news Frank Slagel received. It was as if he lost all neurological control for a second. His hands fell, he dropped the video camera, and his body seemed to absorb in to the chair.

He never would have imagined that one of the first things he’d face as leader would be the evidence presented to him.

As a son, he wanted nothing more than to see the man or woman who was responsible for his father’s death, caught. See them pay for what they did. But as a leader, the facts were important, and was what he witnessed fact?

It didn’t make sense.

When he mustered his wits about him and lost the shock, Frank lifted the camera, placed it on his desk, and stood.

“Fuck,” he blurted out in frustration, then said the word less harsh. “Fuck.” A deep breath and Frank sat back down in the chair, running his hand across the bridge of his nose and down his goatee.

John Matoose, reached for the camera, and Frank’s hand came down stopping him. “Don’t take it.”

“I ... I wasn’t going to,” John said. “I was just rewinding.”

Frank nodded.

Robbie, who was in the office, walked to the door. “I’ll go pull him in.”

“Wait,” Frank called out. “Get back here.”

“What?” Robbie asked shocked. “What am I waiting for?”

“Excuse me, Frank,” John said. “I ... I’d like to know that, too.”

“This isn’t right. It doesn’t feel right.”

Robbie looked at John, then to Frank. “Darrell woke up. Darrell said….”

“I know what he said,” Frank replied.

“He was there, Frank. Right there when Dad died. He saw who was in the office.”

John added. “And the video tape, Frank. It shows …”

“I know what it shows.”

Robbie huffed. “I know he is your friend, Frank but you can’t refute the evidence.”

“What evidence?” Frank asked hard.

“You’re fuckin’ nuts,” Robbie waved out his hands. “Why are you denying this?”

“Why are you so quick to assume?”

“Assume?” Robbie asked with a laugh. “He was in the office. Darrell saw him, the tape shows him leaving.”

“And that gives us what?” Frank asked hard.

John answered “It gives us enough to bring him in, Frank. Get him out of the community circulation.”

“But it doesn't give us a motive,” Frank said. “What reason would Dean have to kill Dad? What reason?”

Robbie and John didn’t answer.

Robbie tossed his hand up. “I don’t know. To stop your wedding.”

“Fucking bullshit and you know it. Dean doesn’t have a reason. That’s why I don’t buy it,” Frank said with a shake of his head. “Not at all. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

“I give up!” Robbie barked. “I give up. This was our father, Frank. Our father. What the fuck. You have visual evidence and testimony.”

Frank stood. “Of what!”

John tried to intervene, holding out his hands. “Frank. Robbie. If we can calm down. I understand where you’re coming from, Robbie. I do. I’m with you. But getting angry right now isn’t going to get us anywhere. Frank…” John faced Frank. “Tell me why you don’t think this is evidence enough to bring him in.”

“First, we have Darrell saying what? What did Darrell say?” Frank asked.

Robbie, irritated, huffed out, “I asked if anyone was in the room with Dad. He said yes. Dean.”

Frank nodded. “And we have Dean on video coming out of the office.”

Robbie threw out his hand. “You’re only making my case here, Frank. Yes. Dean was in the office right before Dad was killed. Right before the explosion.”

Frank nodded. “And that proves Dean planted the device? We have no evidence that Dean brought in the explosive. We have no evidence that it wasn’t there when Dad arrived. We don’t know. If we had a motive, we’d have enough to go on. But we don’t.”

Robbie asked. “Are you saying this because you really want more evidence or because you don’t want to believe Dean did it?”

“I don’t believe Dean did it. I don’t feel it. Dean loved our father, Robbie, come on. It doesn’t make sense. And you and I both know, Dean is the fucking pawn over and over in set ups.”

John watched. Robbie nodded, and it made sense to John as well. “What do you want us to do?” John asked. “What do you need?”

Robbie in defeat, nodded as well. “What do you need?”

Frank looked at his watch. “Meet back here in an hour and a half. Both of you. We’ll have a meeting. In the meantime, Robbie, did you pull any prints off the remains of the C-4 container.”

“Not yet,” Robbie replied.

“Then get on that. If there’s a Dean print, I’ll get him myself,” Frank said.

“I’ll get on that now, Frank.” Robbie said.

“John, I want you on Darrell, twenty-four seven if you have to be, I want you there when he groans to try to get an answer. I’ll contact Ryder about having you here.”

“Right away, Frank.” John stood and walked to the door.

Frank watched them both getting ready to leave. “And, the lid is on this. No one knows anything about hits. The video or what Darrell said. Not until we get more. Clear?” When he saw he had both of their understanding, Frank said. “I don’t need a leak and a lynch mob hanging Dean in the center of Beginnings. You know that’s what will happen.”

John nodded and was the first to leave.

Then Robbie began his exit. He stopped at the door. “I’m sorry, Frank I got so pissed.”

“No,” Frank shook his head “I understand little brother, I do. I want the killer found. But I want it to be the killer.”

“And are you willing to accept it if it is Dean?”

“Absolutely,” Frank said.

Robbie gave a single nod. “See ya in a little bit.”

Frank prepared to sit back down, but just as he did, the door reopened and Robbie poked his head in.

“Oh, hey,” Robbie snapped his finger. “Before I forget. Andrea is talking to Dad’s ghost.”

“Thanks Robbie. We can use that as well,” Frank said. “He might have the answers.”

Robbie grinned. “You’re funny.” And closed the door.

“That’s if Dad will talk,” Frank mumbled to himself, then paused. His eyes widened almost in revelation, then he shook his head. “What the fuck am I saying?” After a grumble over his own temporary dive back into an old Frank mode, Frank regained his composure, and picked up the phone.

 

<><><><>

 

Hal would never admit it. Never. In fact, if asked, he’d flat out deny it. But if truth be known, there’s was something obscurely enjoyable about the audio version of Frank’s book.

Frank’s Day Out, was Beginnings number one best seller. Then again, it was really the only new book out. That would change soon.

The odd little children’s novel was enjoyed by both grownups and kids. Hal was a bit shocked when he read it to discover that the children’s book had the word ‘fuck’ in it. It didn’t surprise him that Frank used the word 'fuck’ but it surprised Hal that Jenny allowed it in a book that kids would read. After all, she was in charge of the education system.

But Jenny said, it was a reality based book, and the kids had to face reality.

Hal did enjoy the book, it made him chuckle. But it was nothing compared to the audio version. He listened to that in the truck on his way back to Bowman. It probably wouldn’t have been as funny if Frank read it, but hearing Ben from Fabric’s rendition and imitation of Frank, had Hal in stitches.

He actually contemplated going to see Ben’s live performance at Hoi-Hoi on the Range.

Pulling into New Bowman following his meeting with Frank, Hal was pleased to see things running normally. They seemed to slow down after his father died. People had no ambition whatsoever to do anything.

But they were back on the horse both literally and proverbially.

Elliot Ryder was walking down the street toward the main office building when Hal pulled to the curb.

Elliott stopped, waved, and waited for Hal to disembark from the truck.

“Captain,” he extended a hand. “You’re back early.”

“It was brief. For some reasons, the meetings aren’t the same without my father,” Hal said.

“Well, as I had said, the chemistry and combination of Frank and Mr. Slagel made for drawn out meetings. Have you initiated my plan?”

“The plan to irritate Frank into being Frank?”

“Yes.”

“No. Not yet. I’m working on it.”

“How did the meeting go?”

“Very well. I am the Vice President now.”

Elliot smiled and shook Hal’s hand. “Congratulations.”

Hal responded first with a ‘hmm’, “That remains to be seen.” He grinned and stopped when his phone rang. “Captain Slagel,” he answered. “Yes, Frank.” Hal looked at his watch. “I just returned. Really? Then absolutely. We’ll be there.” He hung up.

“Everything OK?”

“I don’t know,” Hal said, staring at the phone. “Frank needs us in Beginnings in an hour and a half.”

“Both of us?”

“Both.”

“Did he say why?” Elliott asked.

“Only that it had to do with my father’s killer.”

“Captain, it must be big to call you back right way.”

“My thoughts exactly.” Hal tapped the phone to his hand.

“I’m free now. Do you want to head there early?”

After a moment of thought, Hal agreed. After checking in with Sgt. Manis and letting him know they’d both be gone, without further hesitation, Hal and Elliott left for Beginnings.

 

<><><><>

 

Lars Rayburn had to wonder how the wiry, annoying, arrogant, little scientist got anything done in the clinic when he was never around. He seldom if ever saw him, and was always being told he was in the other lab.

Not that Lars minded that. The less of Dean he saw the better.

He stopped at the clinic for two reasons, to check on Darrell and to post a bulletin regarding the next woman’s meeting at his wellness center. While there, he pulled Darrell’s chart. He flipped through the pages. “What the heck?”

“Something wrong?” Melissa asked.

“Where are the results from his recent blood work?” Lars questioned.

“They didn’t come in yet?”

“Not yet?”

Melissa shook her head.

“We drew the blood yesterday morning.”

“I know.”

“Does it usually take this long?”

“Well, it depends,” Melissa said.

“On?”

“What Dean and Ellen are working on and if it is an emergency. Obviously, Darrell doesn’t have a disease, and Dean and Ellen are working on a secret project, so they’ll get to it.”

“Andrea allows this?”

Melissa chuckled. “She fights a losing battle. Usually Jason comes in and does it., But Jason hasn’t worked since Joe’s passing.”

Lars nodded. “Well this is unacceptable. I am going to tell this to Andrea. This has nothing to do with you dear, I don’t want you thinking I am blaming you.”

“Thank you Lars.”

Lars handed her the chart and headed to the lab. He’d do the blood work himself. It wasn’t as if he was asking for a simple blood count. Lars wanted an analysis of Darrell’s blood. Mainly because Darrell wasn’t responding, and the head scan didn’t show any damage. So there was a sense of emergency. Why? Was there something else going on with Darrell? Perhaps he was consuming some sort of substance. Lars didn’t know, but analyzing the blood was a first step to finding out.

He ran the blood through the program. When the first result came back, Lars greeted them with a perplexed, ‘hmm’.

“Substance unknown?” he read.

Thinking surely Dean would have put every known substance into the computer; Lars did a breakdown of the substance.

It didn’t take long for the further breakdown to come through. Lars didn’t recognize it. Then again, he was still new to Beginnings.

“Knock. Knock.” Andrea called out pleasantly.

“Oh, what a delight.” Lars said and stood, taking the paper from the printer.

“Melissa said you were dismayed.”

“Ah, yes,” Lars exhaled. “Your resident brilliant boy takes too long to do his work. He should work before he plays.”

“I agree, I’ll speak to him again.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Andrea …” Lars handed her the print out. “Do you recognize this breakdown? This substance was found in Darrell’s blood. The computer doesn’t know it.”

Andrea read it. “No. But that doesn’t mean anything.”

“What do you mean?”

“Dean has lots of stuff he doesn’t put into the computer. He may have been giving Darrell something on the side.”

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