Nothing Fitz

Dec 18, 2013

Nothing Fitz cover

An officer is murdered on the air base near Prospect, Tennessee. A sergeant is found standing over the body holding a bloody wrench, but OSI Agent Roxanne Wallace thinks the evidence against the defendant is too sketchy.

She enlists help from Prospect Police Chief Sam Jenkins and this odd couple jump through hoops to learn whether Master Sergeant Michael Fitzgerald really killed his captain.

Base workers are reluctant to cooperate with the special agent and her civilian police colleague, but while obtaining evidence to convict the killer, they uncover a criminal enterprise costing the Air National Guard a fortune.

Read An Excerpt

On a rainy Thursday morning I stood in my office pouring a cup of coffee, knowing I’d have to attack the monthly vehicle report I’d been avoiding. Just as I sat behind my desk, the intercom buzzed and I spoke to Sergeant Bettye Lambert.

“Change your mind and want a second cup of coffee?” I asked.

“No, you have a visitor.”

“To whom will I be speaking?” She laughed at my attempt at grammatical correctness. “Special Agent Wallace from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.”

“What’s so special about him?”

“Darlin’, I’m gonna let y’all see fer yer own se’f.” Bettye’s delightful Smoky Mountain accent took on a decidedly more country sound.

“What does it say on my door?”

She chuckled. “Chief.”

“And I believe the name plate on your desk says sergeant. Is it proper for you to speak to your fearless leader like that in front of a total stranger?”

“And you have a pleasant day, too, sir.” She hung up.

I took a sip of black coffee and moments later looked up at a gorgeous African-American woman wearing a tan suit with a skirt all of three inches above her knees. She held a khaki raincoat draped over her left arm and a five-hundred-dollar leather bag hung from her right shoulder. My visitor stepped up to the edge of my desk and extended a hand.

“Hi, I’m Roxanne Wallace, resident OSI agent at McGhee-Tyson.” I stood and shook her hand.

“Nice to meet you, Ms. Wallace. I’m Sam Jenkins.”

“I know.” Her smile lit up the room. “Call me Roxy.”

I nodded. “Please sit down.”

She did and so did I, after watching her skirt slide up another two inches. Nothing gets past a trained investigator.

“What can I do for you, Roxy?”

She tilted her head and fluttered a pair of the longest eyelashes I’d seen in years. Her almost full lips parted in a perfect smile.

“I want to ask a favor.”

Then she turned up the smile another 500 watts.

“I thought you might.”

“Word is you’re the best homicide investigator in this part of the world.”

I flashed my own dazzling but modest smile. “That’s a statement of fact. You spoke about a favor.”

“Yes it is, and so I did.”

She tilted her head again. This one could give Halle Berry a run for her money in a beauty pageant for girls over thirty.

“Have you heard about the captain who was murdered on the air base?”

“Sure. Beaten to death with a foot-long crescent wrench.”

Flutter, flutter. “I need your assistance.”

“I have no jurisdiction on your air base.”

“I know. I just thought I might enlist your help. You know, from one professional to another, you having so much experience and being so good at your job. That’s all.”

She smiled again, blinked a few times, and waited. I needed to get to the bottom line.

“Roxy, you are a beautiful woman and I love flattery as much as the next guy, but why are you asking me to help with an investigation on the air base when you must have a chain of command that can provide all the assistance you could possibly use?”

Her smile faded a little, but the eyelashes remained in motion. She tapped the long acrylic nails of her right hand on a lovely knee. The candy apple red paint job on her nails looked like something you’d see on a restored, chopped and channeled ’49 Mercury coupe.

“I really need some help,” she said. “I’ve been with OSI for ten years and never handled a murder before. My boss wants results and I hate to admit I’ve got nothing and don’t know where to look next. I just don’t want to look inept.”

“I thought the security police arrested someone at the scene.”

“They did, but he isn’t confessing, they don’t have much of a case on him, and I can’t find any evidence that definitively links him to the murder. Nothing fits.”

“Who processed the crime scene?”

“I did.”

“Are you a technician?”

“I learned in criminal investigation school. We often do our own work.”

“On a homicide?”

She shrugged.

“Where’s your regular forensics team?” I asked.

“Seymour Johnson Air Base.”

“That’s in South Carolina.”

“Yes, and I’ve got another problem.”

“What?”

“I don’t think the defendant killed him.”

“Why do you think I can find your killer?”

She crossed her left leg over the right and resurrected the smile. “Because you’re Sam Jenkins.”

I flipped my hands in the air. “I give up,” I said. “If I wasn’t an old married man, I’d say I’m in love. But I have a job here. How long do you think this’ll take before you call in your big guns?”

“Why don’t you come to McGhee-Tyson and look at the crime scene. I’m sure you’ll know after you look things over.”

“May I hear your version of the incident first?”

“Of course you can.”

I’ve spent a lifetime getting bamboozled by good-looking women, but this one was a crackerjack—a real pro at interpersonal manipulation.

“The SPs responded to an anonymous call about a dead body in a maintenance hangar,” she said. “They found Captain Norwood Brower dead and a crew chief present. The guy is Master Sergeant Michael Fitzgerald. But I don’t buy him as the killer.”

“Why did the SPs lock him up?”

“He was standing over the body.”

“Hmmm.”

“Holding a bloody wrench.”

“Yikes.”

“I know.”

“Any info on the phone call?”

“Prepaid cell.”

“Think that’s odd?”

“A little. It was early morning. There are usually some people out and about. Perhaps someone just didn’t want to get more involved.”

“Not great, but sounds possible. I’m not sure I can do more than you.”

“But you’ll help me?” She sounded like a little girl who lost her puppy.

“All I have to do is point you in the right direction for a good arrest and conviction?”

She did the head tilt thing again. “Uh-huh.”

“And if I work this magic for you, you’ll owe me a favor?”

The eyes went into motion. “You bet.” And she flashed a set of priceless pearly whites.

“Your car or mine?” I said.

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