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Shannon's Creek

Shots fired! Officer down! Sergeant Stacey O'Hara, a Sheriff's deputy is seriously wounded during a shootout and is near death. Sergeant Jay Reardon, a deputy from Shannon's Creek, Virginia, is an out of town visitor riding with an officer friend. He comes to her aid and is stunned by Stacey's likeness to his missing wife. About to pass over the divide between the living and the dead, Stacey is stopped by a spirit from the other side. She tells Stacey that she must not die. During the long months of recovery, Stacey realizes that the spirit is not a figment of her imagination and accepts it as an invisible entity whose voice is comforting, supportive and who is encouraging her to get well. The entity identifies herself as Ellie Reardon. She explains no one knows she is dead, only her killer. Ellie seeks Stacey's help in finding her body and her murderer. Stacey's godfather offers her his summer home in Shannon's Creek, in South Western Virginia, to recuperate. On her arrival Stacey meets a disgruntled sheriff and his deputy Jay Reardon, whom she doesn't remember. Stacey quickly learns that she could pass for Ellie's twin. A vital bit of information Ellie neglected to tell her. High on the suspect list is Jay Reardon, who was about to divorce Ellie when she disappeared. The attraction between Stacey and Jay is something they can't ignore. They decide it's better to join forces in solving the mystery of Ellie's disappearance and murder.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

June Mack Bradley     June was born and raised in Pawtucket, Rhode island. She started writing after she graduated from Pawtucket West Senior High. After marriage and two children, like all fun stuff, it was put aside to raise her family and take care of her career navy husband. She continued writing off and on for years and had completed several college courses in order to improve her craft. She has been married for forty-eight years and has two children and four grandchildren. She became a member of Romance Writers of America in the fall of 1988 at San Diego California and was an active member of that chapter for four years before moving back to Virginia. She is a charter member and past president of the Chesapeake Romance Writers (CRW)and has held several positions within the chapter. She writes a monthly column called 'Love Bytes' for the CRW 'Peake News'.

     SHANNON'S CREEK is her first published novel.


5 Daggers!

"Shannon's Creek is a real keeper. This book was very well written. The characters flowed so well together that they all seemed like old friends. I could feel myself in the scenes with these characters. If ever a book is a real page-turner, this one is. I say to June Mack Bradley, if all of your work is this great, please tell me where I might find the rest. Keep up the good work."

Darlene Howard -- All About Murder

"With breathtaking imagery and lively characters, Shannon's Creek quickly becomes a place you want to return, even after the narration has ended. This is an excellent story that stretches the imagination and entices the reader to wonder what secrets their own towns may hold."

Fran Snow

Chapter 1

Southern California

THROUGH THE closed windows of the air conditioned patrol car, Stacey could still hear the coyote's mournful lament high in the hills surrounding the city. The sounds blended in with the harsh grinding motors of the early morning street cleaners. From the passenger side of the car, she watched the heat force its way up from the road in billowing tufts of dirty gray vapors.

An uneasiness stole through her body, chilling her. She squirmed in her seat trying to get comfortable. The vest under her uniform only made her hotter. Her brown cotton and polyester uniform stuck to her statuesque body like wrapping paper on a much handled package. She was hot and cold at the same time. At thirty-four she felt too young for hot flashes.

"You finally gave Greg the boot," her long time friend and partner Steve commented. "I'm glad. You're much happier than you've been in a long time. I don't see how you stood him for as long as you did."

She glanced at Steve Edwards, a good guy with an easy-going personality. Steve wouldn't ask any questions about the breakup. He considered Greg to be arrogant, opinionated, and never good enough for her.

"Its over with," Stacey's reply didn't invite more questions.

"How did he take it?"

"Bad. Very Bad."

Stacey thought back to last week when she and Greg had that terrible fight. He demanded to know where she'd been and didn't believe her when she'd told him about the special detail that kept her after hours. His jealously and possessiveness had become stifling. She'd been on her own too long to have any man boss her around. When he struck her, she knew that she had to terminate the relationship. She'd read about and seen too many instances of abused woman not to recognize the characteristics in Greg. She retaliated by getting an arm lock on him. She physically threw him out of her apartment.

The car radio squawked. Stacey automatically reached for the mike and listened. "Silent Alarm. Burglary in progress. Keenan's Warehouse, thirteen-twenty Waterfront Drive. Patrol one-oh-four, what is your location?"

With the mike in her hand, Stacey replied. "We're three blocks away. Our ETA is two minutes."

"Use code 10-40," was the reply.

The code meant a silent approach, no sirens blaring. This early in the morning there wasn't any traffic on the city streets to hinder them. Steve stepped on the gas. Moments later, Stacey keyed the mike again. "One-oh-four, we're at Keenan's Warehouse."

The dispatcher's voice rumbled, "Patrol one-oh-two is your back up."

Stacey clicked the mike twice to show she'd received the message. Shifting to the tactical frequency, she spoke loud and clear. "Grimes, this is O'Hara. What's your location?"

"I'm about six blocks away."

"Is anyone riding with you?"

"Don't sweat it, O'Hara. I have an observer. He's an old Marine buddy out here for a reunion. His name is Reardon. He's also a deputy in his hometown and knows the routine."

Grimes' reassurance should have made her feel better. But it didn't. "Oh, great," she muttered to herself. Stacey glanced at Steve, waiting for his comment.

Steve shrugged and answered. "If Grimes has confidence in this Reardon guy, he must be okay. There's always some kind of military reunion going on."

"That's all we need, an outsider."

She contacted car one-oh-two. Grimes' familiar voice answered. Raising the mike to her mouth, she said. "Grimes, you take the north side. We'll take the south side. You should be right behind us and can cover us."

"Can do," was Grimes reply.

"There's supposed to be a guard on each gate," she told him. Steve turned off the air conditioning and opened the windows.

They cautiously drove around to the side of the building and parked by the open gate. This told Stacey that the burglars were careless by leaving the gate open. Stacey got out of the car and reached for her flashlight. Then she reached down and unbuttoned her holster and caressed the butt of her gun. Taking her gun out of it's resting place, she released the safety. Steve did the same.

When they approached the south side gate, everything looked normal. The two story warehouse covered a city block facing Waterfront Drive. The back of the building opened onto nine loading bays and a large open space. Across the road, further back, two oversize piers stood stacked with hundreds of crates waiting to be shipped out. In the distance she could hear the rats and other night creatures scurrying about as water slapped incessantly against the old pilings.

"It's too damn quiet," Steve whispered.

"It generally is at this time of morning." Stacey smiled to herself.

"Be serious," Steve said in a lower whisper.

She whispered back. "Aren't I always?"

Stacey inched forward with Steve by her side. They saw no lights in the guard house. Steve moved his light around and found the guard tied up on the floor.

Stacey untied the guard's gag. "Are you all right? How many men did you see?" She questioned the man before he could catch his breath and speak.

In a groggy state the man nodded his head and groaned as he tried to get up. "I only saw one man up front." The guard gasped for more air. "The guy who hit me must have hidden in the back of the truck. He slipped behind me when his partner stopped to show his identification." The guard rubbed his hands together, then slid them down his rib cage. "I just didn't see him," he said in a sheepish voice.

Stacey whispered into her shoulder radio to Grimes. "We found the guard tied and gagged but otherwise okay."

Her radio crackled back. "Our guard house is empty. We're going to scout around."

Steve followed Stacey through the open gate. Leaning close to the side of the building, she edged her way to the back of the warehouse. She leaned forward and looked around the corner. Moving ahead, she motioned Steve to follow her.

Grimes low voice came over her radio. "We've found the other guard. He's a little disoriented, but okay."

"Good. We're moving in."

A large rental truck sat parked a few feet from the fourth loading bay with its motor running and its lights off. Why hadn't they backed up to the bay? It was easier loading the stolen merchandise that way. She was beginning to suspect the men were amateurs from the way they were doing things.

The small floodlights at the corners of the building gave off little illumination in the large area. Staying low by the jutting apron, Stacey watched the dark figure of a man as he lifted oblong crates into the back of the truck. There seemed to be no one else around. Whispering into her shoulder radio, she contacted Grimes.

"We only see one man by the truck. There must be someone in the warehouse. We'll move in. You come in from the other side." Her boots whispered softly along the asphalt. Rivulets of nervous perspiration soaked her underarms and ran down her back. Filling her lungs with gulps of warm air, she released her breath slowly.

The morning sun began to edge its way over the mountains. That gave her enough light to see. A man wearing a ski mask and dark clothing was bent over a long wooden crate. After prying open the crate, he reached down and grabbed something. Straightening up he pushed the straw away from the semiautomatic rifle in his hands. He stroked the weapon like a lover. Its newness reflected in the morning's glow. An expert couldn't have done a better job of appraising the sleek weapon.

Stacey heard the culprit whistle. He murmured a sound of appreciation, and she heard him say aloud. "You sure are a beauty." Something familiar about the way the man spoke and handled the gun unnerved her.

With Steve off to one side, they moved out of the shadows, away from the apron and the burglar's line of vision. Her heart pounded so loudly she wondered if the 'perp' could hear it. With steady hands, she aimed her nine millimeter and shouted, "Police Officers! Put the gun down. Raise your hands where I can see them. Now!"

The man jerked his head around and several tense seconds passed before he carefully laid the gun down on the bed of the truck. She yelled at him, "Walk back toward me." He started to turn slowly.

"Backwards! Don't turn around," her voice commanded. He continued to turn.

"Hold it there. Don't move."

"Stacey, my love, I've been waiting for you." The man faced her pulling the mask from his face. His words resounded through the stillness.

The shock of recognition immobilized Stacey. "Greg?" Her voice croaked. His arrogant smile repulsed her.

"Of course it is, my love." He sneered.

"I'm not your love." Stunned, from the shock of seeing her ex-lover, Stacey froze in horror as he quickly drew a gun from his waistband and fired.

Shots echoed through the early morning stillness. The sound ricocheted off the building and across the water.

"Damn! It's an ambush!" Steve's cry of pain reached her ears at the same moment he fired his weapon. Stacey saw his shot go wild. Steve fell to the ground.

An ungodly scream came from her throat when she realized she'd also been hit. Two shots tore through her vest into her chest, forcing her backward and down to the ground from the impact. She crashed onto the black asphalt. Only a gurgle came from her throat. Her heart beat rapidly against her chest. Her blood turned to slivers of ice. Dazed, she tried to comprehend her situation.

Time stood still.