About the Book
Tim Jennings searches for his fiancée who presumably died in a tragic accident, but he believes that she is still alive – her body never recovered. His search leads him headlong into a subversive underground organization dedicated to toppling the U.S. government. The organization plans to implement a mysterious medical formula that halts the aging process to accomplish its evil goals. While Tim confronts evil, he struggles with his own faith. What will be the outcome?
Chapter One – A Friend Lost
Friday, June 7, 9:43 a.m.
Tim Jennings was a man of conflicting, even colliding emotions. He was tormented by the loss of the only person he ever truly loved. However, he had found someone new who was attempting to fill the emotional void in his life but he was not sure that he wanted the void, the emotional gap plugged. As an escape, Tim retreated to his successful professional career because it was an area of his life that brought a sense of satisfaction.
“You know what my goals are in the business This industrial film stuff is only a stepping stone because I want to shoot documentaries all over the world and hook up with a company or somebody that will bankroll my ideas,” Tim explained. “But I don’t see me in your settled down world.” The business afforded him opportunities to travel. When he was in college, he had plans to become an archaeologist and travel to remote locations but that
dream never happened.
“You have to be realistic because you still have to live somewhere,” Tiffany Baker said. “Why not here in Atlanta with me?”
“It won’t work.”
“You’re impossible!” Tiffany said. “If there’s something else, you need to tell me what it is.”
There was nothing wrong with Tiffany Baker.
“You’re perfect,” Tim said. “But I don’t like it when women pressure me.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t pressure you anymore. Good bye!”
Tim cringed. “What do you mean?”
“I mean I don’t think we should see each other for a very long time,” Tiffany muttered. “At least not until tomorrow night.”
Saturday, June 8, 5:36 p.m.
Tim’s mind raced back to the night one year ago. Nancy was a magnificently attractive woman with green hypnotic eyes. Her long brown hair, nestling softly on her shoulders, never seemed to get tangled.
Tim cried as the memories came back. It was Memorial Day weekend; they had a fun day planned at Lake Lanier. Nancy had packed a basket full of picnic food. Lance McMichael, Tim’s best friend since the third grade, had loaned his boat to them – a fishing boat with an outboard motor.
The couple spent most of the day boating, swimming and skiing, then relaxed on the beach until dusk. Tim remembered turning to admire Nancy’s natural golden beauty.
As darkness fell, Nancy argued that a quick spin under a shining moon would be fun, and she wanted to go alone to prove that she was capable, even though she had done it twice before. Her flair for adventure and the dramatic was alluring to Tim, but sometimes scared him.
He watched her cast off from a grassy hilltop overlooking the lake as the last light from the sun disappeared.
Tim became frantic after an hour passed and she was not back. A cool breeze stirred as he sprinted down to the shore. He remembered seeing a man and woman docking a boat a few hundred feet up the shoreline. After stumbling along the muddy bank, he reached the dock.
Tim convinced the old man to take him to search for Nancy. After about ten minutes on the lake, they came upon the boat, floating on the surface of the water. Tim’s gut ached and his palms sweated as their craft eased up alongside the boat. Nancy was not on board.
Shouting her name, he jumped in the water and swam a wide perimeter several times around the empty boat but saw nothing. A sheriff’s dive team was called in but they could not locate a body or any evidence of Nancy Proctor. The authorities ruled the incident a drowning.
Tim was brought him back from his memories by a wet slobbering lick by Lou, his big Irish setter.
Soon Tiffany would be knocking on the door so Tim grabbed an empty box of Ritz Crackers with one hand and an empty plastic RC Cola bottle in the other hand in a frantic last minute attempt at housecleaning.
They had decided to spend the evening at home which pleased Tim greatly because Tiffany was a gourmet cook and he welcomed an occasional opportunity to stray from his usual diet of frozen pizzas and TV dinners.
Tim thought he loved Tiffany but he wasn’t sure.
“You need an interior decorator to give this place an overhaul,” Tiffany said later in the evening as she prepared their dinner.
“Actually, you need a woman’s touch.” She was a beautiful, statuesque blonde who had a radiant complexion that stemmed from her pure countenance and her Christian faith.
“Do you think we’ll have any leftovers?” Tim asked.
“If we do, we can give them to Lou. By the way, you need to keep Lou for about a week because I’ve been invited by an independent film company to go to the Himalayas with them as an assistant to the producer. This will be great experience for me and a chance to make some contacts!”
“The Himalayas? Why?”
“They’re going to search for Noah’s Ark, the Bible myth,” Tim said cautiously.
“It’s not a myth. It’s an historical incident from Scripture,” Tiffany protested.
“Whatever! All I know is that people have been looking for that ark for ages and have never found it. Some astronaut even devoted about ten years of his life searching for it.”
“Well, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
“I don’t care whether it exists or not because I’m just glad to be able to go on this trip.”
“Did it ever occur to you to ask me what I thought about the trip?”
“Then why didn’t you say anything?”
“Because you would have told me not to go but I can’t pass up this opportunity. And you know something? If we got hitched,we would be having this same type of argument about twice a month.”
“We’re not arguing.”
“Yes, we are so let’s change the subject. How’s the spaghetti coming along?”
Monday, June 10, 9:11 a.m.
Tim, camera operator Bud Pope, and Lance McMichael arrived together at the construction site on a sweltering summer morning. The heat hung over the city like a thick, itchy wool sweater. Tim was afraid that by afternoon the heat would be unbearable so he wanted to get the job finished as fast as possible.
Occasionally, Lance came along on jobs. Tim and Lance had been inseparable through the years. Lance was a tall, fun loving fellow with a great sense of humor. The two young men played sports together in high school.
Tim’s assignment was to film the president of Premium Construction and Associates in various poses in front of equipment and the building that was under construction at the site as he discussed the attributes of his company.
Lance often assisted in the projects by holding a clipboard and taking notes for Tim as he shouted out his thoughts about the shoot as it unfolded.
As Tim looked up at the sun, he saw a massive steel girder dangling above that was suspended by the company’s biggest crane. The girder was about thirty feet in length, ten feet in width and five tons in weight and it had a big banner with the company logo draped across it. The company president thought it would be a neat idea to have the girder come down above him and hang suspended in air as he made his closing remarks for the film.
Several minutes before the commercial was to be shot, George Petrie, the president of the company, received a telephone call.
“I understand that you have some knowledge of the Florida Everglades. You did archeological digging down there. I read your bio on your website,” Petrie said to Tim as he walked away. “I have uncovered some interesting information that could make your experience in that section of the country very useful. Frankly, that’s one of the reasons I hired you.” He hurried off to take his phone call.
“How about if I help out and stand in for the guy til he gets back?,” Lance offered. “You can go ahead and set up the shot.”
“O.K. Bud, get over here,” Tim said.
Bud had found a shady spot next to the Port-a-John.
It took several minutes for Bud to get the camera set. “I’ll make sure you get the entire banner in the frame,” he said.
Tim looked up at the girder and the chains attached to it. “Lance, do you know how much life insurance you have?” he shouted.
“Enough to start my own goat farm to go along with my fifty acres and a mule.”
“It’s forty acres.”
“What?” Lance laughed. “You want ten of my acres. Well, you can have it but not the mule.”
Tim forced a grinned as he made his way to the refreshment stand for a swig of soda. Suddenly, Tim heard a tremendous crashing thud and a scream of terror and pain. He whirled around and saw a horrendous sight. The huge girder had come loose from its supports and collapsed to the ground. Dust and debris floated through the air as people ran frantically in all directions. Tim sprinted up to the location and witnessed a sickening, sad,
and horrifying situation. Protruding from underneath the steel girder was a leg and a barely visible hand. A stream of blood flowed in front of Tim’s feet.
“Lance!” Tim shouted.
Tuesday, June 11, 8:19 a.m.
The ring of the telephone broke the morning’s silence. Tim arose from the den couch. In his state of half slumber, Tim believed for a moment that Lance McMichael’s death had been a dream. It was only a fleeting yet uplifting moment until the pain and gut wrenching truth of reality hit him upside the head.
Tim was a handsome thirty-eight year old man with wavy brown hair and an athletic appearance combined with a normally confident presence that had carried him far in his professional life. But the confident exterior had melted away as he reeled from the second death of someone very close to him. He was like a frightened child.
The phone rang again.
“It’s Bud. There’s something strange going on with Lance’s death.”
“What do you mean?”
“They can’t find the guy who was operating the crane that dropped the girder. He’s disappeared.”
“Are you serious?” Tim shouted.
” When the police and the dude’s boss tried to find him at the site to ask him questions about what went wrong, He had disappeared. The cops discovered that the support chains didn’t break loose with the girder. The chains had been loosened intentionally!”
“What are you saying? Lance was murdered? You’re telling me a perfect stranger murdered by best friend,” Tim scoffed. He grabbed the pillow from the couch and squeezed it.
“All I know is that they need to talk to the crane operator and he must have taken the next boat to China because he be gone!” Bud said.
“What was the guy’s name? They shouldn’t have much trouble finding him.”
“I don’t know his name but the cops are probably gonna be calling you. They called me last night.”
Lance McMichael was one of the most likeable dudes anyone could ever meet. “Nobody would murder him!” Tim said. “They must have been targeting the company president.”
Late in the morning, Tiffany visited Tim. She gave him a big hug. “I’m sorry about Lance.”
“I want you to stay with me today. Please!”
Tiffany simply smiled and kissed Tim on the cheek. “Will you go to church with me on Sunday?” Tiffany asked when she returned from the kitchen with two cups of coffee. “You need to visit more often . . . . especially with the experiences you have suffered through.
It will be good for you.”
“I can worship anywhere I want like my van, at the donut shop, at the park, you name it,” Tim said.
“You need to fellowship with other believers in church!” Tiffany stared blankly at her boyfriend. “Are you sure you have been saved?”
“Yes. I ought to know, shouldn’t I?” Tim laughed nervously.
“I’m worried about you,” Tiffany said.
“The only thing I’m worried about is solving Lance’s murder,” Tim said. “I’m meeting with the detectives tomorrow.”
Wednesday, June 12, 8:53 a.m.
Tim arrived at Atlanta Police Headquarters for his appointment with the detectives assigned to Lance McMichael’s case. In the lobby, he walked through a sea of blue clad officers.
Five minutes later, Tim was sitting in a tiny office. It had a bookcase, a worn out coffee maker, an oversized wall calendar that featured photographs of motorcycles, and not much else. Tim squirmed in his chair and looked across a battered wooden desk at his two inquisitors.
“I’m Detective Grover.” He was a young black man of average build. He wore a gray suit with gold cuff links. He pointed to his associate. “This is Detective Howard Welch.”
The other detective was a white man, bald, and middle-age. He wore a blue blazer that was two and a half sizes too small, polyester gray slacks and a clip-on blue tie.
“How well did you know Lance McMichael?” Grover asked.
“He was my best friend.”
“I asked you how well you knew him.”
“Since the eighth grade. Real well,” Tim said.
“Do you know of any reason why someone would murder him or have him murdered?” Grover asked.
“Not at all. Lance was a great guy. Everybody loved him.”
Grover adjusted his tie. “Sam Reed didn’t love him.”
“Who’s Sam Reed?”
“He’s the crane operator who dropped the slab of concrete on your friend. He’s got an interesting past. What do you know about Reed?” Grover asked.
Tim glanced quickly at Welch and then at Detective Grover. “I never heard of the guy.”
“He’s a small time crook,” Grover said. “This construction company doesn’t do a good job of screening their job applicants. Reed did time for petty larceny, stealing a car, and trespassing.”
“I don’t think Lance would ever get mixed up with someone like that. He was too straight,” Tim said.
Grover flipped a paper clip in the air. “What about drugs? Did he get high? Was he hooked? He might have owed some dealer a big debt.”
Tim laughed. “Not Lance.” He looked at Welch. “When are you going to say something?”
The fat man grimaced and looked down at the dirty carpet.
Grover continued. “He could have been in debt. You see, this Reed. He was only working for someone else. He did the grunt work.”
“I don’t understand,” Tim sighed. “What’s going on here?”
Grover pointed at Tim. “A simple ‘yes or no’. Level with me. Was Lance McMichael involved in anything illicit?”
“A simple no!”
“How well did you know the owner of the company, Mr. Petrie?” Grover asked.
“Not well at all. It was the first time my company had ever worked with him,” Tim said. “It’s more likely that they were actually wanted him dead.”
“It is probable that Mr. Petrie was actually the intended target,” Grover said. “Do you know someone named Saul Marino? They call him ‘The Load’. Do you know him?”
“No,” Tim said. “I’m glad that we are off the wild goose about Lance.”
“We believe that these two men had some business dealings together in the past. Illegal activity,” Grover said. “Marino has been known to eliminate rivals.”
“This is all new to me,” Tim said.
“You’re free to go,” Grover said. “Make sure you don’t cross paths with Marino because he’s dangerous!”
Back at his office, Tim could not concentrate on his work. A walk in the near by park after his grilling by the police had done nothing to clear his mind.
Bud Pope walked in the room. He was an overweight slob who was described by some people as a slacker. His was balding on top, never tucked his shirt tail in and had a plump belly. “The cops called before you got here.”
“I got grilled for an hour. What more do they want?” Tim grimaced.
“They want the video.”
“What video? You mean the video of the accident?”
“I didn’t tell you before because I thought it was too morbid or gruesome or something but the camera was running when the accident happened.”
“You’re telling me we can watch Lance get killed?”
“I’ve seen the footage and It’s not a pretty sight.”
Tim stood up and walked to the other side of the room. “How did the police know about the video? By the way, they are following the premise that Mr. Petrie was the intended target, a scenario that makes more sense.”
“I agree and so in an effort to be helpful, I told them about the video. And they think it could help in the investigation.”
“Well, I want to look at it before we turn it over,” Tim said.
“Are you sure about that? It might shake you up too much,” Bud protested.
“He was my best friend and I want to look at it.”
They walked into an adjacent room that was used for editing video footage. The room was equipped with the most modern equipment available. Bud put a disc into a video machine and fast-forwarded for approximately thirty seconds at which point he pushed the play button. “Get ready.”
Tim squirmed and fidgeted in his chair as he watched the seconds leading up to the accident. “I had my back turned when it happened.” He watched as the steel girder fell on his friend. “Stop it!”
“I told you not to watch it!” Bud stammered.
Tim was red-faced and seething. “Rewind it because I want to watch it again. Did you see what happened? That worthless piece of trash carefully positioned that girder over Lance.”
They watched the sequence again as the girder crashed to the ground, sending dirt, dust, and gravel flying.
“Do you want to watch it again?” Bud asked.
“No. You can see that Reed in the corner of the screen sitting in the cab of the crane. I want you to center that part of the frame then zoom in on the picture until I can get a good look at his face.”
“Why do you want to do that?”
“I want to know exactly what he looks like because when I find him, I’m going to kill him!” Tim shouted.
Bud approached a mini-cooler in the corner of the room and pulled a can of Cherry Seven-Up from the top shelf. “You know, man, you need to chill out and Let the cops do the dirty work.”
“Do what I tell you to do!”
Bud mumbled under his breath and took a quick swallow of soda as he approached the equipment. He centered the image of the cab of the crane on the screen and made Sam Reed’s face clearly visible through the window. Bud blew the shot up several times its original size until Tim was satisfied. Tim leaned forward in his chair as the man’s face appeared on the screen, staring quietly for a long time. The man had a thin, angular face with a bushy mustache.
“He’s an ugly bird,” Bud said.
You might as well let the video run its course and we’ll watch the end of it.”
“Anything you say boss as long as we can get this ugly guy’s face off the screen. I’ve already seen the end. Somebody runs by the camera after the accident and brushes up against it and the lens faces out toward the street now. See. Look at all those morbid people running over each other to get a good look.”
Tim found it strangely interesting to observe the expressions of the onlookers as they watched the confusion after the accident.
An old woman, a bag lady of sorts, peered at the scene with a solemn expression. She wore an old gray dress with oversized shoes and a Sears department store bag was draped over one of her arms. A wiry little man wearing a cheap dark suit with a polka dot green and white tie came into view. He stood silently with a slight smirk on his face as he munched on peanuts that he pulled from a brown paper bag.
“How much longer does this video . . . .” Tim stopped in mid-sentence as he glared at the video screen. He blinked several times and strained his weary eyes to get a better look at the unbelievable sight, his dead fiancée, Nancy Proctor.
About the Author
Clint Smith lives in Dawsonville, Georgia. He is a writer, businessman, and a member of the Georgia Air National Guard, assigned to State Headquarters at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia. A former legislator in the Georgia General Assembly, Smith has written many newspaper columns, speeches, and other works on political, public policy, historical, and military subjects. An ordained deacon, Clint Smith is a member of First Redeemer Church.
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