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The Real Enemyby Kathy Herman
Brill Jessup just became the first female police chief in Sophie Trace, Tennessee, and is riding on the credentials of a stellar eighteen-year career on the Memphis police force. She may be a pro at finding clues, but she tends to ignore the obvious in her personal life. Her husband, Kurt, is weighed down by her unrelenting anger as he struggles to let God redeem the stupidest mistake he ever made. Brill hides behind her badge and her bitterness, deciding that moving her family away from Memphis is the only change she needs to make. Before she even has time to unpack her boxes, people start disappearing. Lots of them. To complicate matters, a local legend has many residents believing that the cause is unearthlytied to the “red shadows,” or spirits of the departed Cherokee who once inhabited the land. While Brill draws on all of her experience and instinct to solve the case, she must confront an enemy that threatens everything she holds dearone that cannot be stopped with a badge and a gun.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Brill Jessup, the new police chief in an east Tennessee town, probes the disappearance of several residents, which locals believe to be the work of supernatural forces. Meanwhile, Brill's deepening anger over her husband's infidelity may jeopardize her marriage. A new series launch from the author of the "Baxter" and "Phantom Hallow" series.
Read an Excerpt
THE REAL ENEMY
By Kathy Herman
David C. CookCopyright © 2009 Kathy Herman
All rights reserved.
Police Chief Brill Jessup yanked her hand away from the stuck desk drawer and shook it a few times, keenly aware of her broken thumbnail and the embarrassment scalding her face. She stole a glance through the blinds covering the glass wall, pretending not to notice Detective Captain Trent Norris's amusement. She wasn't about to ask him for help. How hard could it be to get the stupid thing open?
"Everything okay, Chief?" Trent's voice sounded patronizing.
"Yes, just fine."
Brill reached for the stack of Thursday's mail in her in-box and sat back in the well-worn brown leather chair, her thumb throbbing, and her feet barely touching the floor. The desk chair was still too high, but she wasn't going to call the maintenance engineer and have him adjust it again. Why draw attention to the fact that she was a foot shorter than her predecessor and utterly useless with a screwdriver? She could live with it until she was off duty and could get her husband, Kurt, to help her.
She wiggled out of the chair and ambled over to the window, her back to the glass wall and Trent's curious glances, and looked out through the magnificent trees of gold and orange and crimson that shaded the grounds around city hall. In the distance, beyond the ridge of rolling hills, the hazy outline of the Great Smoky Mountains looked almost surreal against the bluebird sky. She had always admired the grandeur of the Mississippi River when she lived in Memphis, but it couldn't compare with the heart-stopping view on the other side of the state. Outside, anyway.
She turned around and cringed at the monstrous bookcase that swallowed up the entire wall behind her desk. The other walls were dingy beige and bare, except for a few framed pencil sketches of Civil War heroes and an abundance of nail holes—glaring reminders of Chief Hennessey's passing.
Brill remembered seeing the framed portrait of the chief that hung in the main corridor of city hall at the end of a long row of portraits of the other police chiefs who had served the community of Sophie Trace. How honored she felt to be counted among them, even if she was the first "redheaded spitfire" to run the department. She smiled. Trent would probably be embarrassed if he knew she'd overheard him refer to her that way while talking with his wife on the phone. Not that he meant any disrespect. Perhaps it was even intended to be complimentary. But she wondered if he would describe her that way if she were male.
She went over to her desk, took a nail file out of her pencil cup, and began to smooth her jagged thumbnail. Hadn't she made up her mind when she accepted this position that she wasn't going to allow gender to be an issue nor was she going to overreact if someone tried to make it one? Her eighteen-year record on the Memphis police force spoke for itself. Had any detective cracked more cases than she? It was her captain who first nicknamed her Brill—short for brilliant—and it eventually stuck. When she moved here, she planned to use her given name, but Kurt talked her out of it. She'd been known as Brill for so long that the only person who still called her Colleen was her mother.
Police Chief Brill Jessup did have a nice ring to it. She chuckled aloud without meaning to, recalling that when she was in the second grade, she announced to her teacher and classmates that she wanted to be a lion tamer when she grew up.
A voice came over the intercom on her phone. "Chief, line one is for you. It's Kurt."
"Thanks, LaTeesha." Brill picked up the receiver and pushed the blinking button. "So how's your day going?"
"Great," Kurt Jessup said. "I'm in Pigeon Forge at the new store. The SpeedWay sign was put up this morning. I thought it might look lost with all the glitzy signs along the main drag, but actually it's not hard to spot."
"I think your little quick-copy business just turned into a chain."
"Yeah, I'm starting to think five stores is enough unless I want to hire someone to handle HR. I've got all I can say grace over."
"Good. The last thing you need is time on your hands." Brill felt her neck muscles tighten in the dead air that followed. Had she subconsciously intended to turn the knife? She wondered if Kurt was thinking the same thing.
"What time will you be home?" she said.
"I'm not sure yet. I want to stop by the church and finalize my class notes for Sunday."
Brill sighed under her breath. What made Kurt think he was qualified to teach Sunday school? And didn't he care that it put pressure on her to attend? It's not as though she could opt out without raising a few eyebrows. "So you're really going through with it?"
"I told you I was. I wish you'd at least pretend to be supportive."
"Sorry. I think you're biting off too much too soon." Okay, so she was turning the knife. Was she supposed to pretend he was worthy?
"I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree," Kurt said. "I've put the past behind me. I want to get involved at church, and I really feel called to do this."
Called? Convenient choice of words. How was she supposed to argue with that? "Did you remember Emily has gymnastics at four?"
"It's right here on my phone. I'll get her there on time. So how're things at the station?"
Brill leaned on the side of her desk and looked down at the cars parked at the meters. "Let's see ... we investigated multiple vehicle break-ins in the employee parking lot at the tire plant. Responded to a domestic disturbance on Fifth. Racked up a few speeding violations. Made a report on a fender bender in front of the high school. Checked out a 'popping noise' on Beech Street—a possible drive-by shooting we haven't been able to confirm. Feels strange not having a big case hanging over me. The real challenge of the day has been trying to get this stubborn file drawer open. I got it open once, but I'm not sure what I did."
"Why don't you just ask Trent to show you?"
"I can figure it out by myself, Kurt."
There was that uncomfortable dead air again.
"What I would like help with"—she stood and turned around— "is making this office look like it's mine."
"I'll help. Where do we start?"
"With a coat of fresh paint—something cheery. These walls are disgustingly drab, and I doubt they've been painted since Chief Hennessey was sworn in. I could use a few plants in here too—something alive to offset the abundance of dead oak. I'll bet if we cut this conference table and chairs into firewood, there'd be enough to burn 'til the next century. We could burn this old desk chair while we're at it."
Kurt laughed. "So how do you really feel about your new office?"
Brill smiled in spite of herself. "Oh, you know how I am. When the walls look grotty, I feel grotty. I'm sure once it's brightened up, I can make do with what's here. But I would appreciate your lowering the desk chair a notch. I'll tell you one thing, I doubt there's a prettier view of the Smokies anywhere in town."
"I think you're right. It shouldn't take more than the weekend to do the job—unless you actually want that big bookcase moved. In that case, you'll have to wait 'til I can round up some young bucks to help."
"Forget it, you'd need a forklift." Brill scanned the rows of books that rose almost to the ceiling. "Let's just paint around it. I'll weed out some of the books and put a few family photographs on the shelves. At least there's plenty of light in here."
"It'll look more professional after we hang your diplomas and award certificates," Kurt said. "So, are you starting to feel settled?"
"I'm comfortable with my position, though it still feels strange being called 'Chief.'"
"Especially with a Cherokee reservation just across the border."
"Very funny, Kurt."
"Sorry, bad joke."
"Not to mention politically incorrect. You read the literature the chamber of commerce gave us. You know how Sophie Trace got its name. There's a rich Cherokee history in this region."
"And some bad blood that wasn't mentioned in the brochures. Wait'll you hear what I found out at the barbershop this morning."
Brill smirked. "And they say women are gossips."
"This wasn't gossip. There's a legend. Some people actually believe that the spirits of the Cherokee who were driven off this land have come back to get even with the descendents of white people who settled here."
"That's about the craziest thing I've ever heard."
"They refer to the spirits as red shadows. I kept my mouth shut and just listened to the barber and a couple old duffers bat the legend back and forth. Apparently there have been a number of bizarre unsolved crimes over the years, including an ax murder in 2006—seven people were found dismembered."
"Up in the foothills, not in Sophie Trace," she said. "And the victims were shot first. I read the case file. The sheriff, along with the FBI, ATF, and DEA determined it was drug related. The victims were tied to a Venezuelan drug cartel. It was likely a territorial issue."
"Try telling that to my barber and his cronies. They're convinced it was the work of red shadows—also last week's seven-car pileup on I-40."
Brill rolled her eyes. "We arrested a drunk driver at the scene with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. Come on, Kurt. Those guys were pulling your leg. You're new in town, and they were having some fun."
"I don't think so. You should've heard them."
Brill, a grin tugging at her cheeks, got up and closed the blinds on the glass wall. "Well, you can tell the keepers of the legend down at the barbershop that I'll gladly get an arrest warrant for whichever red shadow or shadows poured a fifth of Jack Daniels down our drunk driver's throat. But I'll need names and addresses." She chortled into the receiver.
"I knew you'd find it entertaining. At least a little folklore will keep the case interesting."
"At the barbershop, maybe. Not here. The guilty party is already behind bars. Case closed."
"And now you're sitting around twiddling your thumbs?"
"I've got a stack of paperwork to keep me busy." Brill put the nail file back in the pencil cup. "Actually it's nice not to be stressed out for a change."
"I know. I'm just concerned this job isn't going to be challenging enough."
"Well, we both know I didn't pursue this position for the challenge." The words cut, and she knew it. Let him bleed a little.
There was a long pause, and she could hear Kurt's shallow breaths in the silence. Finally he said, "Maybe after dinner, we can go over to that big home- improvement center. You can choose the paint for your office." His tone was even and nondefensive.
"I'm leaning toward deep yellow." She let her gaze glide around the room. "Maybe a shade of mustard that won't make it look like a nursery."
"You pick the color, and I'll do the painting. You'll have a fresh new look on Monday morning. How's that sound?"
It sounded great. But was she using Kurt by taking advantage of his willingness to please her, especially when she had no intention of letting him back into her heart or her bed? Probably. But wasn't it better than shutting him out altogether? For Emily's sake she could pretend to love him. But she could never forgive him—not ever.
"Brill, you still there?"
"Yeah, I'm here. Okay, sounds like a plan." But if you think being nice to me is going to change anything, think again.CHAPTER 2
Kurt parallel-parked his Dodge Caravan across the street from Sophie Trace Elementary School and glanced at his watch. Right on time.
He leaned back on the headrest and looked down the wide avenue, lined on both sides with towering shade trees that formed a canopy of gold, russet, red, and purple. He admired the old-fashioned gaslights, historic brick buildings, and striped awnings that characterized the town he still couldn't call home.
At the end of the block, he spotted the white gazebo in Shady Park and pigeons bobbing in a blanket of colored leaves that covered the ground. Three backpack-clad boys who appeared to be of middle-school age stood at the light at the crosswalk.
Kurt heard the bell ring and caught his reflection in the rearview mirror and cringed at the lines that fanned out from his eyes.
He took his cell phone off his belt clip, accessed the menu, and reviewed the remainder of the day's calendar:
3:00 p.m. Pick up Emily at school/ice-cream date
4:00 p.m. Emily to gymnastics
4:15 p.m. Class notes for Sunday school
5:30 p.m. Pick up Emily/flowers for Brill
Brill. Would there ever come a time when she crossed his mind without his heart feeling weighed down? It helped to picture her as Colleen O'Reilly, the shapely redhead who dared to challenge the views of the political science professor their senior year in college.
Kurt remembered finally getting up the nerve to ask her out, surprised when she accepted. The chemistry between them sparked a battle with passion, but he knew after the first kiss that he was going to marry her.
She got him involved in Campus Crusade for Christ and the Baptist Student Union. He made a deeper commitment to Christ and to her. A month after graduation they married, virgins on their wedding night. They did everything by the rules.
He sighed. And wasn't there a lot to be said for rules? Once broken, the damage couldn't be undone, but merely managed. If he'd learned nothing else in the past year and half, that lesson was forever carved into his heart.
He stared at his calendar, wondering why he felt compelled to keep giving Brill flowers every week. What was done was done. He could neither undo it nor live with it, and his folly produced the kind of guilt that taunted him on a regular basis. Had his compulsory flower giving offered even a moment's respite from her indifference?
He was sure the only reason she wanted to move away from Memphis was to brush off the dust that had been kicked up by his unconscionable behavior. Did anything about Sophie Trace appeal to her other than being close to the Smokies?
Brill was a master at controlling her feelings, and he guessed that when her anger finally got bigger than she was, he would have to be strong enough for both of them.
He was aware of children's voices and footsteps pounding the pavement and turned just as the side door of the van slid open. Emily climbed in, her bright blue eyes dancing with the details of a school day yet to be discussed.
"Hi, Dad." Emily popped up between the seats and planted a warm kiss on his cheek, her sandy blonde ponytail swiping his ear. "I've been thinking about Chocolate Mud Pie Crunch since lunchtime. I want two scoops with peanuts and butterscotch syrup." She slipped out of her backpack and buckled up in the backseat.
"Okay, then," he said, "Chocolate Mud Pie Crunch it is. That ought to give you a burst of energy to work off in gymnastics."
"Don't worry, I've got plenty of disgust to work off. Mrs. Bartlett told us we could pick something to read when we finished our math problems. So I was minding my own business, trying to read my Little House book, when Heath Briggs kept pulling my hair. Then Jeremy Downs passed me a note and Mrs. Bartlett saw it and made everybody do ten more math problems."
"She punished all of you?"
"Uh-huh. Because no one would tell who wrote the note."
"Were you afraid Jeremy would make things hard for you if you told?"
A grin tugged at the corners of Emily's mouth. "Not for long. Pouncer will help me take care of him."
"You're not thinking of putting a dead mouse in his lunch box like you did to that kid's last year?"
Emily giggled. "He stopped bugging me, didn't he?"
Kurt coughed to cover his smile. Maybe that old tomcat she adored was good for something after all. Let her work it out on her own. "Ready for our date?"
"It's cool having a date. How come you're taking me out and not Mom?"
"I take your mother out sometimes. But ice-cream dates are reserved for the princess of the family."
"Did you take Vanessa for ice cream when she was nine?"
"Not as often as I wanted to. We were on a tight budget back then. There areadvantages to being the baby girl. So what else happened at school?"
"I got all my spelling words right."
"And I made a friend, Jasmine Mendez. She's smart too. Mrs. Bartlett said we could do our science project together, and we decided to do it on wind as an energy source. We might have to go to the library and also look stuff up on the Internet."
Kurt listened intently to Emily's girlish chatter, glad for a reprieve from the aching emptiness that never let him forget that he had a long way to go before he and Brill were okay.
* * *
Brill filled a glass vase with the fresh flowers Kurt brought to her and felt no need to comment. Hadn't she told him at least a dozen times that his guilt offerings were a waste of time and money?
Excerpted from THE REAL ENEMY by Kathy Herman. Copyright © 2009 Kathy Herman. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Kathy Herman has written fourteen novels, including CBA bestsellers Tested by Fire and All Things Hidden. Now retired from her family’s Christian bookstore business, Kathy and her husband, Paul, have three grown children and five grandchildren and live in Tyler, Texas.
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This is a great mystery / suspense book that kept me guessing for awhile. We have a "family" that moves to a new town so mom can be the new police chief. Mom and Dad are living together but separately just so they can raise their daughter as a couple. Dad cheated on Mom and almost ruined thier marriage. Can they live in peace? Now that Mom is on the force, crazy stuff starts happening... people start disappearing without a trace. Are they alive, dead, kidnapped??? Locals believe that an old legend has come to life and is taking vengence on those in town. What's happening and can Mom stop it? Can Dad save the marriage? Can Mom figure out who the "Real Enemy" is? Well written with just the right amount of tension, mystery and resolution.
The Real Enemy by Kathy Herman is the first book in the Sophie Trace trilogy. Police Chief Brill Jessup moved her family from Memphis, Tennessee to the small town of Sophie Trace to get away from the bitter reminders of her husband's betrayal. Kurt and Brill have decided to remain together for the sake of their nine-year old daughter, Emily, but it's a marriage in name only, and they both struggle to keep up the facade. Brill's tested in her first day on the job when a citizen disappears, seemingly off the face of the earth with no evidence as to how or why. In the succeeding six days, six more people disappear, and now, not only is her marriage in jeopardy, but her job is as well. Brill, Kurt, and Emily are all terrific characters, well-rounded and interesting, and the plot is full of twists and turns. The investigation is hindered by a local legend of angry Cherokee ghosts avenging the loss of their land, so the town of Sophie Trace becomes its own character. There's a profound message of forgiveness and temptation that Herman handles with flair. My only complaint with this thriller is that the reconciliation at the end of the novel seems to come out of the nowhere. I felt like I had missed a chapter because of the 180 degree turn in attitudes. That said, I plan on returning to Sophie Trace soon.
This is my favorite type of book to read. Written in third-person narrative, this Christian fiction thriller keeps the reader on edge. The plot is a brain teaser. I loved it! Brill Jessup, the protagonist, comes across as a believable chief of police as she works 24/7 with the Sheriff and the FBI on a case that seems impossible to crack. Meanwhile, she does her best to ignore her husband, who strayed. One of the themes of this book is bitterness--the inability to forgive, a topic that will cause most people to relate. At times, I fully supported Brill, while other times, I wanted to sit her down for a heart-to-heart. On the other hand, Emily, Brill's precocious nine-year-old daughter is written too flat, and several times I had trouble believing that any child, no matter how bright, would speak and act this way. That being said, it still is a terrific book and well worth the read. Discussion questions are included.
The mystery side of the story is good but I'm finding the marital discord story long and tedious. Her husband commits adultery but she's not allowed to deal with the betrayal in her own time. He's ready for things to be back to be back the way they were, and can't understand why she doesn't feel the same. I sometimes get the impression that since he's asked God for forgiveness and his wife isn't ready to forgive him that she's considered to be the bad guy and he's now the victim. Not sure if I'll read the next books.
I haven't really done much reading for years. While in a book store this book caught my eye and I purchased it. Oh my gosh...This was last May and I have read 8 Christian fictions since then. I really liked this book and plan to read the rest of this series.
There are those days that something speaks and you just have to listen, the Lord lead me to this book and I have truly enjoyed the journey it took me on. I don't know what I do if the same situation were put upon me, but I would pray and hope that my Lord would walk me through too.
Brill Jessup is the first woman police chief in the small town of Sophie Trace. Brill is still moving in her new office when she has her first big case of small town living -- people are disappearing. In addition to the strained relationship with her husband, who had a one-night stand, Brill struggles with stress and tension of her new job. Kathy Herman has written a fine suspense novel. I would recommend this book to anyone.