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Run To Ground: A Novel

Run To Ground: A Novel

by D. P. Lyle


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What would you do if someone brutally murdered your only child, served only months in jail because of a technicality, and continually taunted, even threatened, you from behind bars? Could you hide your growing rage from family and friends? Could you gun the killer down as he left prison? Could you change your ID and leave behind your entire life - family, friends, jobs, house -and just disappear? Could Tim and Martha Foster do this? Forensic evidence and criminal behavior expert Dub Walker, along with best friend and homicide investigator T-Tommy Tortelli and ex-wife and TV reporter Claire McBride, employ all their skills to track down the Fosters. But the murder of Walter Whitiker is not as simple as it seems. Tim and Martha are not the only ones who want Walt dead. Someone has twisted the evidence to keep the hot light of suspicion on the Fosters. Will the real killer please step forward? Sorry, Dub, you're going to have to work hard to solve this one.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608090570
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Publication date: 08/07/2012
Pages: 310
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

D. P. Lyle, MD is the Macavity Award winning and Edgar? Award nominated author of many fiction and non-fiction books, short stories, and essays. He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women's Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars. For the past 35 years, he has practiced Cardiology in Orange County, California.

Read an Excerpt

Run to Ground

A Novel

By D.P. Lyle

Oceanview Publishing

Copyright © 2012 D.P. Lyle
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60809-057-0


Sunday, 9:33 p.m.

"I can still smell him." Martha Foster inhaled deeply and closed her eyes.

Tim stood just inside the doorway and looked down at his wife. She sat on the edge of their son's bed, eyes moist, chin trembling, as were the fingers that clutched the navy-blue Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirt to her chest. It had been Steven's favorite. He had slept in it every night the first month, until Martha finally pried it away long enough to run it through the wash.

Behind her, a dozen photos of Steven lay scattered across the blue comforter. A proud Steven in his first baseball uniform. A seven-year-old Steven, grinning, upper left front tooth missing, soft freckles over his nose, buzz-cut hair, a blue swimming ribbon dangling around his neck. A playful Steven, sitting next to Martha at the backyard picnic table, face screwed into a goofy expression, smoke from the Weber BBQ rising behind them. Tim remembered the day he snapped the picture. Labor Day weekend. Just six months before — that day. He squeezed back his own tears and swallowed hard.

Martha shifted her weight and twisted toward the photos. She laid the sweatshirt aside and reached out, lightly touching an image of Steven's face. The trembling of her delicate fingers increased. She said nothing for a moment and then, "I'm taking these."

Tim walked to where she sat and pulled her to him, her cheek nestling against his chest, her tears soaking through his tee shirt. He kissed the top of her head.

"He's gone," Martha said. "Everything's gone. Or will be."

Tim smoothed her hair as details from a room frozen in time raced toward him. A Derek Jeter poster, a photo of Steven's Little League team, and his Student-of-the-Month certificate hung on the wall above his small desk. A crooked-neck lamp spotlighted a history text, opened to the stern face of Thomas Jefferson. His baseball uniform draped over the chair back, sneakers haphazard on the floor. Exactly as it had been the day their lives jumped the track.

They had been through this dozens of times. What they could safely take. What must be abandoned. What could be traced back here. They had scrutinized everything they owned. Their marriage license, birth certificates, engraved wedding bands, the calligraphed family tree Martha had painstakingly drawn and framed, and boxes of family keepsakes. Any photo that showed their home, cars, neighbors, family, Steven's friends, teammates, or school, had to be abandoned. As did Steven's Little League uniform. Each of these could undo everything if seen by a curious eye.

Tim had always won these what-to-take-what-to-leave arguments, but now, with the end so close, he knew he could no longer resist her.

"It's okay," he said.

"Thirty-six hours." She eased from his embrace, looked up at him, and swiped the back of her hand across her nose. "I can't believe it's here."

"We can back out. Stay and risk it."

She shook her head. "No. We can't. Not with him around."

"He might've just been blowing off steam."

"You don't believe that."

No, he didn't. He knew better.

"Besides, that's just part of it. We can't let that animal —" She screwed her face down tightly, suppressing another sob.

Tim touched her cheek, catching a stray tear with his thumb. "It'll be okay. Keep the pictures." He walked to Steven's desk, lifted the uniform from the back of the chair, and returned to her side. "The uniform, too."

"His uniform?" She took it from him as a sob escaped her throat. "He was so proud of it." She swallowed hard and then dabbed her eyes with her shirtsleeve. Her voice broke as she asked, "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure."

"Thank you," she whispered.

"But nothing else. Nothing that leads back here. This life is over. Finished. Tomorrow night Tim and Martha Foster no longer exist. But Robert Beckwith and Cindy Strunk will get a chance to live yet again."

She shook her head, uncertainty lingering in her eyes. "What if they find out Robert and Cindy have been dead for a couple of decades?"

"Not likely."

"Still —"

"It'll work. We're not the first to rummage through old obituaries and cemeteries. Lots of people have done it before us."

"Most get caught."

"Only the ones you hear about. Most just move on. Become someone else."

"Let's hope."

He brushed a wayward strand of hair from her face and lifted her chin with a finger. "You'll make a perfect Cindy."

She smiled, weak and tentative, her face tear streaked, her nose reddened, but it was still a smile. There hadn't been many of those lately.

"It's not like we have another option," Tim said. "We can't simply move. We have to disappear. Become completely untraceable. Be reborn."

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "It will be like dying."

"Except that we'll have another chance. A new life." He looked down at her. "And Steven will live on in our memories."

"It's not fair." She hugged the uniform to her chest.

"Can you live with this? What we're doing?"

She sat silently for a moment as if considering his question. The question that had plagued them for the past six months. Even as they pressed ahead with the planning, with getting the documents in order, with building their new life, their new identities, the question hung out there on the horizon. A horizon whose sharp edge dropped into an abyss. A horizon that rapidly approached. Could they do this? Could they really leave everything and everyone behind?

She sighed. "I'll have to."

"We'll both have to."

She swallowed against another burst of tears. "What now?"

He retrieved his to-do list from his shirt pocket and unfolded it. "You have the new passports and the North Carolina driver's licenses. Right?"

"In my purse."

"The money from the house sale and our accounts is in the North Carolina bank."

They'd luckily found a buyer willing to pay cash for the house. At a big discount. He bought the story about them needing to sell quickly and head west to Arizona. Ailing mother. That was lucky, but also easy. The hard part was closing down all their accounts, selling the bonds, and emptying his pension plan without raising too much suspicion. You can't simply take a couple of hundred thousand in cash from a bank without triggering scrutiny. Shutting down a pension plan is even more difficult. Tim had managed to move the money around to several banks and investment houses, each time bleeding off a chunk of cash.

"The rental house there is ready," Tim said. "Tomorrow we'll empty the last bank account."

She stood. "I'll finish packing and then we can take all this over to the new car."

Tim turned the SUV into the mall's parking garage and wound up to the roof. At eleven p.m. only a handful of cars remained on that level. He pulled into the space next to a blue sedan. The one owned by the newly minted Robert Beckwith.

He had purchased and registered it in North Carolina a month earlier and driven it back here. They had moved it around among parking lots and garages all over the city, never leaving it in any one place more than a couple of days. Someone might notice. Might think it was abandoned. Might involve the police. They avoided the airport and any other place that had video cameras. It had been in this spot less than twenty-four hours and would be gone in just over twenty-four more.

Tim stepped into the lazy night air where thousands of stars peppered the clear sky. A perfect Alabama spring night. May was a good month here. The damp chill of winter gone and the heat and humidity of summer still a couple of months away. He would miss this. He'd never lived anywhere else. Neither had Martha. This was home.

For another day anyway.

He popped the SUV's rear hatch. They loaded the four suitcases into the sedan's trunk and then wedged three cardboard banker's boxes into the backseat. Amazing that an entire life can fit into one car. But when cutting loose everything that came before, that's the way it was.


Monday, 10:11 a.m.

I parked my 1983 911SC Porsche in the front lot of Walker Lumber. My company. The one I inherited when my parents died. Drunk driver, rain-slicked Governors Drive — a dangerous road under the best conditions. A weave, a skid, a bang, and that was that. Here one minute, gone the next.

I'm Dub Walker. My real job is writing books and consulting on criminal cases not supplying lumber to construction companies and do-it-yourselfers. In the past, I had busted out of med school, been a Marine MP for a couple of years, spent some quality time with the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, and for six years worked as a criminalist at the Alabama Department of Forensic Science here in Huntsville. Turned out I had a knack for connecting the evidence dots and for understanding how criminals think. Not sure where all that came from, but it lead to a new career. Not one I had ever envisioned but here I was and I had to admit, it wasn't a bad place to be. I've written eight books on evidence and criminal behavior and consulted on dozens of cases all over the country, so people think I'm sort of an expert in these areas. True or not, writing books and giving lectures will at least create that illusion. I keep the lumber company going because it pays the rent and because it carries on my father's work. He built it, he lived it, he loved it. My duty is to keep it going.

Mondays were for bill paying. When I pulled into the front lot, I saw Milk inside the office, talking on the phone. He gave a half wave. Milk never wasted movement. His real name was Bertie Jackson but everyone called him Buttermilk, a great Southern nickname. Close friends simply called him Milk, his nickname for his nickname. Only in the South could that happen.

My dad's age, Milk had worked here for over twenty years. When the company dropped in my lap, I needed help running it. I had worked here many summers during high school and college, but I didn't know all the ins and outs of making it tick. Milk did. I gave him a chunk of ownership and turned the day-to-day stuff over to him. It worked out well.

Inside, a stack of bills sat on my desk. I scribbled out checks for each while Milk continued his call. Talking to one of our hardware providers. Apparently a late-delivery problem. Milk hung up.

"They late again?" I asked.

"Yep. Just a couple of days and we got enough to make it through the week. Just don't want to fall too far behind."

He knelt and twirled open the lock to the large safe that squatted in the corner. He pulled out a zipped banker's bag and handed it to me.

"Last week was a good one. Very good."

The bag felt heavy. "How much?"

"A little over sixty-two thousand." His eyebrows gave a couple of bounces. "Home prices going up so much around here, people staying put and fixing things up. Good for us."

With the increased activity at the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the Cummings Research Park, and about every other high-tech industry in the area, property values in Huntsville had jerked upward more than a little bit. People moving to the area snapped up the homes in the many new subdivisions almost as fast as they popped up. Locals hunkered down and remodeled. "Amen to that," I said. "Other than getting this over to the bank, you need anything else?"

"Nope. It's all copasetic."

I got back into my car. I called Claire. Claire McBride. Channel 8 News's top reporter. My ex-wife. Our brief, eighteen-month marriage was sandwiched between med school and my time with the Marines. Didn't work out because we are both bull-headed. Especially Claire. True story. Woman can drink anybody under the table, melt down most people with a glare, and can crack a rib with a single elbow. Personal experience here. But she's beautiful, sometimes charming, and, along with T-Tommy Tortelli, my best friend. Actually we're more than friends. We still love each other, still occupy the same bed from time to time, just can't hang our toothbrushes side by side.

She, T-Tommy, and I met in the fourth grade. Became fast friends. But it was after Jill disappeared that our relationship changed. Claire helped me survive what was impossible to survive.

It was a cold drizzly October night in Birmingham, and I was a senior med student, nearing the end of a two-month ER rotation. I had planned to meet my younger sister Jill at my car in the med staff parking lot at six p.m. but just as I was leaving, the medics rolled in with a major trauma case. One that required opening the chest in the ER. Not a common thing, so I hung around. To help. To learn. Made me an hour late meeting Jill. She wasn't there. Only one shoe and her purse, strap snapped, laid on the rain-slicked asphalt.

She was never seen again.

Med school evaporated as I sank into depression, drinking too much, and feeling sorry for myself. Along with a generous dose of guilt. It was my fault. Had I been there like I said I would, this would never have happened. The spark of life would never have drained from my parents and I would be a doctor now.

Amazing how a simple choice can rip up your life. But Claire was there. She picked me up, dusted me off, and married me. Of course she was coming off a bad breakup so our timing couldn't have been worse. Led to a divorce and my stint with the U.S. Marines.

Claire answered on the first ring.

"Still on for lunch today?" I asked.


"It's the food, huh? And I thought you wanted to see me."

"You, I tolerate. Food, I crave." She laughed. "T-Tommy coming?"

"I'm heading over to pick him up now, then the bank, and we'll see you at Sammy's by noon."


Monday, 11:01 a.m.

Tim and Martha Foster held hands while they waited for Anne Marie Bridges to finish helping another customer. When she waved a goodbye to the elderly lady and turned her smile toward them, they walked up to the teller's window.

"How're you two doing today?" Anne Marie asked.

"Fine," Martha said. "You?"

"Other than my arthritic knee acting up, I suspect okay."

Anne Marie had been with the bank for at least fifteen years. Longer than Tim and Martha had been coming there. Maybe sixty, with neatly styled gray hair and an open smile, she was their favorite.

Tim worked his left hand, balling and opening it a couple of times. "I understand."

"Young man like you? Just wait a few years." She laughed. "What can I do for you today?"

"Time to close the last account."

"Is it May already?"

"Afraid so."

"We're so sorry to be losing you as customers," Anne Marie said. "How long has it been? Ten years?"

"Longer," Tim said. "We'll miss you and everyone else here."

"You're moving out west? California?"

"Arizona," Martha said. "Phoenix."

"I hear it's hot there."

Martha smiled. "They have air-conditioning."

"And ice cream," Tim added.

Anne Marie laughed. "Your balance is seven thousand six hundred thirty-two dollars and forty-four cents. You want a cashier's check?"

"Cash," Tim said. "Need some traveling money."

"That's a lot to carry around."

"We'll be okay."

"I don't have that much in my drawer. I'll have to run to the vault. It'll take a few minutes. Why don't you have some coffee?" Anne Marie pointed toward the corner table that held a large coffeepot and a stack of Styrofoam cups.

T-Tommy Tortelli. His mother called him Thomas, but most folks use either Tommy-T or T-Tommy. I use the latter. Have since grade school. Since we met at football practice the first day of fourth grade. T-Tommy was a linebacker and the toughest person in school. Still the toughest person I know. Still a linebacker at heart. An attitude that serves him well as a homicide investigator for the Huntsville PD. Boy's a bulldog, and once he gets his teeth into a case he can shake all the bad guys out better than anyone. "Relentless" would be the word.

I picked him up at his office at the South Precinct and we drove to the bank. As we walked from the parking lot toward the entrance, I saw Tim and Martha Foster through the front window. They stood, sipping coffee, wearing the same sad expressions they had worn the last time I saw them. When was that? A year at least.


Excerpted from Run to Ground by D.P. Lyle. Copyright © 2012 D.P. Lyle. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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