Heart of Warby Lucian K. Truscott, Lucian K. IV Truscott
The brutal murder of Lieutenant Sheila Worthy has sent shock waves of fear throughout Fort Benning, Georgia, and the task of finding her killer has fallen to Major Kara Guidry. As the top lawyer in the judge advocate general's office, Kara has to tread lightly, for news of the death of Lieutenant Sheila Worthy has spread from the base to the most powerful corridors in… See more details below
The brutal murder of Lieutenant Sheila Worthy has sent shock waves of fear throughout Fort Benning, Georgia, and the task of finding her killer has fallen to Major Kara Guidry. As the top lawyer in the judge advocate general's office, Kara has to tread lightly, for news of the death of Lieutenant Sheila Worthy has spread from the base to the most powerful corridors in Washington. Breathing down Kara Guidry's neck for a fast solution is General William Beckwith, Fort Benning's commanding officer and the man many say could be the army's new chief of staff. As the tension between them builds, Kara learns that nothing is sacred and no one is free from suspicion. And the secrets she uncovers could forever alter the lives of the men and women of Fort Benning, hers included.
Major Kara Guidry, a staff attorney in the Judge Advocate General's Office, is assigned to investigate the homicide of a young female lieutenant at Fort Benning. Apprised that the victim may have been romantically involved with a senior officer, she fixes on William Beckwith as her prime suspect. A vaultingly ambitious but personally reckless general who's in line to become the next Chief of Staff, he fits the frame nicely. Eager for an end to the messy case, Beckwith pressures Kara (vulnerable because, against regulations, she's been conducting an affair with a staff sergeant) to finger a convenient fall guy who died in a training mishap. Guided by the martial premise that the heart of battle is to engage the enemy or retire from the field, the feisty JAG lawyer (a former helicopter pilot whose gender denied her a squadron command) presses on, eventually unearthing evidence that links the careerist Beckwith to an earlier killing. Before she can pounce, though, another young woman's body is found and Captain Randy Taylor, Beckwith's aide, is indicted for the crime. The likable Taylor has an airtight alibi, which he refuses to use because it would incriminate his gay lover, a Pentagon brigadier. Having switched sides to defend him, Kara manages to dig out the truth in a series of vivid courtroom confrontations that reveal the culprit and leave her sadder but wiser.
A well-handled shocker that raises intriguing questions as to how one branch of the armed forces can send soldiers of varied sexual orientations so many conflicting messages.
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Heart of War
By Lucian K. Truscott IV
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1997 Lucian Truscott Co. Inc.
All rights reserved.
Kara Guidry was stunned by her indecision.
They had been together only a few months, but already she loved to lie next to him in bed and lean on her elbow and watch him sleep. With his eyes closed, he looked like a boy, except for the curly brown hair on his chest that became a light fuzz at his belly button and got darker and more wiry going down, swirling and twisting at the sinuous juncture of his thighs in a passionate calculus of the flesh.
She wanted to reach out and stroke his belly and rub her fingers in the thickening sworls of his masculinity, but if she touched him, he would wake up, and she wanted him to sleep so she could lie there and gaze at him. Her dilemma was delicious, made her feel like a girl instead of the woman she was.
The first time they spent the night together she had been watching him sleep and had absentmindedly run her fingernail down his belly, and he jerked awake full of fire. In the dim light she thought she saw yellow in his eyes, and from somewhere deep in his chest came a low, guttural growl. Then he rolled gracefully over on top of her, and he looked into her eyes and the yellow was there, she could see it clearly now. He growled again and chewed on her shoulder, sending shivers down her legs. He burrowed his face into her neck, and he held her breast in his hand like a hunter in possession of prey. As he nibbled her lips, she looked up into his eyes and they flashed hungrily and he started licking her, grooming her like a cat. His tongue searched for pockets of sweat, and when he found them, he drank deeply. She hoped he would never stop, and he didn't, not for a long, long time.
She looked over at the bedside clock radio. 10:30. She whispered his name.
"Mace. Mace Nukanen. Wake up."
He stirred, threw an arm over his forehead, and settled back into a deep sleep. She got up and tiptoed across the room, and stood at the big motel mirror filling one wall of the bathroom and ran her fingers through her blond hair.
Must be those reveille runs, she mused.
She looked pretty damn good for a thirty-five-year-old woman who had spent a third of her time on the earth in the United States Army. She weighed exactly the same as she had on the day she graduated from West Point thirteen years ago. Maybe her elbows were a little sharper, her smile lines a little deeper, but her body had survived pretty much intact. Her hips curved gracefully into tight, sinewy thighs, and her waistline was nothing to be ashamed of. She remembered with some distaste that a few years ago when she had been in law school, studying maybe eighteen hours a day, she had given up running and gained ten pounds that had settled around her midsection like a thick winter coat. Immediately she had carved two hours from her studies and went back to running every morning. She had never stopped.
She splashed water on her face. She had her father's strong jaw and serious brows and her mother's pointed chin and slender, elegant nose. Her deep-set, large brown eyes looked perpetually skeptical, darkly witty, and when they flashed, they could make dogs bark and small children hide their faces. Her smile was like her voice, warm and just a little husky and worn.
She heard a step, saw him in the mirror, turned in time to catch him around the waist. "We've got to go. It's almost checkout time."
He pulled her toward him. "No, we don't. We can stay another day."
"I've got that court-martial on Tuesday, and I've got to spend tomorrow prepping for it."
"Right. Corporal Richards. That thing in New Orleans. You going to get him off?"
"I won't stand a chance if we don't get ourselves back to Benning today."
He was taller than she was, stronger. He turned on the shower, picked her up, and stepped in. Water cascaded into their faces as he kissed her, sliding his hands down, grabbing her ass. She lifted her knees, wrapped her legs around his waist, leaned back against the shower wall. All she could hear was the rhythmic pounding of the shower and his hot, wet breath on her breasts. She knew why she surrendered herself to him. He did care about her; he cared about her in a way she had never experienced before, and he had insisted that she understand this even though she knew it was dangerous for both of them.
He was younger than her by several years; she had never bothered to ask how many. The absence of gray hairs in his crew cut told her what she needed to know. So did his skin, which was smooth and unlined, and his eyes, which sparkled with eager intelligence, and his hands, as big as omelet pans, which he carried at his sides awkwardly like a teenager.
She had met him canoeing down a river in north Georgia. It was the middle of the week, and they were alone on the river, each in their own canoes, and they fell into following each other, taking the same line through the rapids, leaning back sunning themselves through the slow stretches. Ten miles had gone by before he asked her what she did. She told him. She asked him. He told her. Another five miles passed before he asked her what rank she was. It was already too late.
She was out there on the river with him, and she had watched his broad, tanned back glistening in the hot sun, the easy stroke of his paddle. He knew the river, embraced it like a lover, pointing at a turtle sunning on a log, a muskrat diving from the bank, swimming into its lodge, the swirl of a smallmouth bass rising for a cricket caught in a ripple behind a sunken stone. They rounded a bend, and he pulled his canoe to the side of the river and climbed up the bank and slid down the muddy bed of a feeder stream into the river with a huge splash. He stood up grinning, and she did the same thing, and there they were, diving on their bellies down a muddy stream into the river like a couple of otters. She ran up the bank and slid down again. Her top came off, lost in the rushing water of the river. She laughed. Then they both ran up the bank, and he slid down and then she belly-flopped onto the mud, and when she squirted into the river he caught her in his arms. Later on, they set up camp on a sandbar and sat staring at the fire as darkness fell. He poked it with a stick, sending sparks flying into the night.
"What are we going to do? I'm a sergeant. You're a major. They've got fraternization rules against what we're doing. They'd discharge both of us if they found out we were out here on this river together."
She walked to the riverbank, threw a rock into the water. "Have you ever thought of signing up for Officer Candidate School?"
He laughed. "Me? You see me as a lieutenant?"
"It's just a thought."
"Hey, I've been a sergeant for twelve years now. I've only got eight left for my twenty. I like being a sergeant."
"It'd solve the fraternization problem, is all I was thinking."
"It's not a problem yet, is it?"
"I guess not."
He walked over next to her, picked up a rock, tossed it in his hand. "Wanna bet I can't hit that flat spot out there behind that rock in the middle of the river?"
She looked at the river. A large boulder had formed a V-shaped ripple that glistened in the moonlight. He was grinning. "How much?" she asked.
He wound up like a baseball pitcher and threw. The rock landed dead center, exploding the riffle in a spray of bright water. "Close enough for government work?"
She took his face in her hands and kissed him on the mouth. Smiling, she said, "See? It's a problem already."
That night they slept next to each other in sleeping bags near the fire, and in the morning they stripped naked and bathed in the river and cooked scrambled eggs and looked at each other across their tin plates like they'd been doing it every morning of their lives.
When they were finished eating breakfast, he took the frying pan and the plates and coffeepot to the edge of the river with a bar of hand soap and did the dishes. Watching him squatting at stream side scrubbing the pots and pans and plates, that was when she decided.
Damn the fraternization rules. The hell with Article 134. He was worth it.
She reached around him and turned off the shower.
"We've really got to check out of this dump."
He grinned. "Dump? The commanding general's quarters is a slum compared to a room with you in it."
She kissed him on the nose, stepped out of the shower, grabbed a towel. A twelve-by-twelve motel room on the Gulf Coast of Florida was the Ritz and she couldn't remember the last time she'd felt this way, couldn't even remember what it meant to feel this way, except for the fact that it meant trouble. Big trouble.
She felt him coming up behind her, whipped around.
"Get your hands off me!" she laughed.
He dove onto the floor, grabbed a foot, started kissing her toes. He was up around her ankle by the time she broke free.
"Coffee? You ever heard of coffee? You want to get some coffee?"
He looked up.
"I get plenty of coffee in the mess hall every day of the week. I only get you on the weekends."
"We can fix that. Move out of the barracks. Get yourself a place downtown. We could spend every night together out at my place."
"Too dangerous. Somebody'd be bound to see us."
He was right, of course. It was one thing to sneak away down to Florida. Quite another to flaunt their illicit relationship, even off-post, around Fort Benning.
She dropped to her knees, grabbed his face in both hands, and kissed him on the mouth. He bit her lip, and she bit his, and they tugged at each other, not wanting to let go. Monday was coming up on them too fast. The real world was about to set in, and they didn't want to let go of what they had, which was unreal; and it was illicit and it was hot and it was undeniable, and because it was all those things it was dangerous and hugely wonderful.
"I'm going to pull rank on you."
She stood up, looking down at him. His face was framed between her breasts. His eyes were so dark and huge she felt she could dive into them and never hit bottom. He reached up for her, she jumped back, and he fell forward on his chest on the floor, make-believe groaning.
"It's another goddamned Sunday. I wish Sundays would go away."
"If there wasn't a Sunday, there wouldn't be a Monday, and we'd never start the week and get to Friday, would we?"
"Miss Practicality. Is that what they voted you in high school?"
"Hey, it works in court, I'll tell you that much."
She patted his head. He felt like a big cat, ready to pounce. He leaked desire, every muscled inch of him was blazing soaking glowing red with it. It felt good, a man in heat at your feet. She wondered why so many years had passed before this man had come along and made her feel this way, and then she looked down at him and he smiled at her, and she stopped wondering and she kissed him and she pulled him to his feet and she shoved him toward his overnight bag.
"We've got a long drive ahead of us."
He stepped into his jeans and pulled a sweater over his head. "I'll take the bags down to the car." He grabbed them and went outside. Down the way a door opened, and a crewcut man stepped out of his room, heading for his car. Mace turned and went quickly back inside.
She was standing at the mirror, her back to him. She turned around and saw him standing at the window, peeking through the curtains. "What's the matter? I thought you went out to the car."
"I just saw Lieutenant Parks getting into his car."
"Your platoon leader? He's here?"
"Yeah. He almost saw me."
"So? He signed your pass. You're allowed a weekend at the beach."
"Not staying in a room with a Jeep Cherokee with an officer's sticker on the bumper, I'm not."
She walked up behind him and peeked over his shoulder. Across the highway, the Gulf was choppy under heavy December skies. A car started, pulled out of the motel parking lot, turned down the highway, and disappeared into the misty distance.
"That was Parks?"
"That was close."
"Yeah." He opened the door, and she stepped into the parking lot. An icy wind off the Gulf of Mexico hit so hard it took her breath away. Clouds over the water had turned into a black wall across the horizon, gray curtains of rain below slanting darkly into the Gulf.
"That's some storm out there," she said.
She unlocked the door of the Jeep Cherokee and climbed in the driver's seat. He climbed in the other side. "We can stay ahead of it if we don't stop for breakfast."
She pulled out of the motel parking lot and turned up Route 41, heading north, toward Georgia.
Tall trees at the edge of the parade field were bent horizontal, whipping the ground with low limbs. General William Beckwith stood at the window of his office in Headquarters. He was wearing a white shirt with a black bow tie and his drawers. His white legs disappeared into black over-the-calf socks. Outside, a lone soldier leaned hard into the wind as he made his way down the sidewalk into Headquarters.
Phone calls were starting to come in about the weather. Control was everything in the Army, and weather was just about the only thing a commanding general couldn't control, and he wasn't happy about it. The phone calls meant problems, and problems meant the General had to find people to solve the problems for him, and the kind of people you could count on to solve problems for you were getting damn hard to find in the Army.
The storm outside was whipping through the post with more than winter's usual discontent. Trucks in the motor pool rocked noisily on their shocks, canvas tops whipping against steel frames like snare drums. M-1 tanks pinged and creaked as frigid air contracted their heavy iron turrets imperceptibly but noisily. Teenagers leaving the early movie were hit hard by the wind, clutched at each other, screamed soundlessly into the teeth of the storm. A girl fell, a boy tried to help her, fell on top of her; they skidded on the icy walk. A light pole snapped, crashed to the ground, its halogen bulb exploding next to them. Someone screamed. Blood stained the sidewalk. MP's arrived, brandishing flashlights. An ambulance drove up, lights spinning, siren wailing. Over at the post hospital emergency room, two medics went through a dozen needles and two packs of suture thread stitching up cuts.
Flooding had started across the post, near the river. The water was over the curb, up to the front steps of barracks in some areas. The chief of staff, a florid-faced colonel by the name of Roberts, entered at a run.
"Sir, we're getting calls. People are wondering what you're going to do about the flooding."
Beckwith barked his displeasure. "They want me to stop a goddamned flood? The goddamn weather isn't my responsibility! They should take their complaints to the big man upstairs."
There was a long pause as Colonel Roberts thought about what he was going to say. Finally he settled on an old military axiom. When in doubt, flatter.
"Sir, to them you are the big man upstairs," the chief of staff replied without irony.
A thin, self-satisfied smile played across the General's handsome features as he looked out his second-floor window. Roberts' ploy had worked.
The big man upstairs. Yes, indeed.
General Beckwith wasn't physically a big man; he stood five nine, he had narrow shoulders, a thin face with sharp features, but the way he filled up a room, even standing there in his drawers, had been remarked upon since he was a lieutenant. He was quick and direct, and his voice boomed when he addressed the target of his attentions. At West Point, instructors in the Tactical Department had called it "command presence," and Bill Beckwith had it in spades, even as a plebe.
He turned around. His aide, Captain Randy Taylor, was standing in the door, a pair of uniform trousers over his arm. "Sir, your dress blue trousers are ready."
"Put 'em down, Randy," boomed Beckwith. "I need a drink."
Randy neatly folded the General's trousers over the back of a chair and opened a mahogany cabinet, exposing a built-in wet bar. He filled an old-fashioned glass with ice and poured it half full of gin and dropped an olive into the mix. He picked up a cocktail napkin decorated with Infantry crossed rifles and handed the drink to Beckwith.
"Your martini, sir."
"You didn't put too much goddamned vermouth in this thing, did you, Randy?"
Excerpted from Heart of War by Lucian K. Truscott IV. Copyright © 1997 Lucian Truscott Co. Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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****1/2 is what I give this book by the author of Dress Gray. Another winner. every bit as good as the first book.