A Sample from

The Ripple Effect Murders

by

Don Beverly

Don Beverly's latest Jake McCall adventure/mystery novel, THE RIPPLE EFFECT MURDERS, (now available in ebook format), describing the bloody trail of dismembered murder victims which McCall and his DEA counterpart find themselves following from peaceful Madeira Bay in the Florida Keys to the bisexual underbelly of Las Vegas.

What originally appears to be just another drug deal gone bad involuntarily exposes Jake to the infamous gay and lesbian lifestyle in Key West, effectively being used by a socially and politically prominent couple to camouflage their creative scheme for the importation of cocaine from Mexico.

Predictably, the drug dealing leads to murder, a lethal formula which in turn requires that Jake reluctantly enlist the brain power of a disenfranchised and gay New York cop, now a wheelchair bound forensic genius living in Key West.

McCall learns early in his investigation that the unidentified killer has carried the narcissism of a sociopathic personality to new levels, "branding" each of the gruesome serial murders by dissecting corpses with surgical precision, proudly using only a customized fisherman's knife designed to fillet large Marlin and tuna.

After a bloody road trip across Interstate 10 through Louisiana to attend the Gay Pride Extravaganza in Vegas, the killer unwittingly kidnaps a female FBI agent and engages Jake and his team in a high speed chase across the Nevada desert and back into the glitter of the Vegas Strip where, to say the least, the game changes to one unlike anything the city of games has ever seen.

This is truly a story with a spellbinding ending which "stays in Vegas!"

It's a wild story and here's a sampling of THE RIPPLE EFFECT MURDERS to "whet" your appetite:

 


Sample Chapters


As Jake pulled into the Bamboo Marina parking lot he immediately spotted the Marine Patrol's thirty-one foot Contender tied to the dock next to where he had earlier that afternoon left the Sea Chaser.  He also noted that a Border Patrol marked car was parked adjacent to the dock area where the two boats were located.  Since it was now well after dark he could only see what was visible from the illumination of the dock lights, but was able to clearly make out two uniformed men standing on the dock with a third man wearing civilian clothes.  The three were talking, but turned as they noticed Jake pull into a parking space next to the Border Patrol sedan.  As he exited his Jeep, the three began walking toward him.  The Marine Patrol officer spoke first,

"You must be Jake McCall.  My name is Herb Clifton.  First, let me apologize again for the inconvenience."

Jake nodded at the introduction and as the two shook hands, the officer continued,

"Let me also introduce you to Vinny Robellini of the Border Patrol and Tony Dowell, who's been assigned by the DEA to help figure this thing out."

Jake shook hands with the other two and as he did so asked,

"What ‘thing’ is it you're tryin' to figure out?  I obviously missed somethin' when I pulled this damn little boat in from Madeira Bay, so what's the deal?  And what does all this have to do with me, since you guys surely know more than I do at this point.  All I did was make the mistake of towing this damn boat back to the marina.  Just the fact the DEA is involved tells me somethin'.  I've already heard of Dowell's reputation from my buddy, John Reed, so there's gotta be more goin' on here than just a lost boater.  What's up?"

When Dowell heard Jake mention Reed's name he smiled and stepped forward,

“Good God, Jake, now I know who you are.  You and Reed are legends in the Miami office since you did the Cuban mission several months ago.  Since then I've worked another case with Reed and he's a bad dude.  I'm just glad he's on our side, so if you're in his league we'll have to call you 'sir'."

Jake laughed at the agent's description of Reed, but noticed the reference to the Cuban episode had gotten the attention of the two uniformed men,

"Well, thanks for the compliment, but I sure as hell don't put myself in the same 'bad dude' class as John Reed, since he's one of a kind.  I'm just glad to have him as a good friend.  But back to business, what have you guys found in this boat that I missed?"

Dowell continued,

"I gather from what Officer Clifton learned from his inspection of the boat that you only looked at the cockpit area and maybe the Igloo cooler, without bothering to check out the bait well or battery compartment."

Jake interrupted,

"You're absolutely right!  I took a quick look at the cockpit, checked the cooler, hooked up a tow line and here we are.  I had no reason to look in all the nooks and crannies and wasn't interested.  All I wanted to do was get rid of the damn thing, eat some stone crabs at Sloppy's and get home to my Australian Shepherd in Okeechobee."

"O.K.", said Dowell,

"Here's what we've learned since Clifton took over and then got the Border Patrol and my agency involved.  Tony checked out the owner of the boat and learned it's not titled in an individual name but rather some bogus corporate-sounding outfit which isn't even registered with the Secretary of State's Office in Tallahassee as a Florida corporation.  We've traced ownership of the boat since it was manufactured back in 2001.  It originally was shipped with a truckload of new boats to a dealer in Hypoluxo and didn't sell for almost a year.  Then it was bought by a local guy named Berman who kept it for several years, then traded it in on a bigger used Mako at the same dealership.  It again sat at the dealership for over six months until they decided to have a used boat auction and blow out a bunch of old inventory, which they did in March, 2006, the same week as the annual Palm Beach Boat Show.  The boat was bought by a local named DiNardo who we were actually able to track down and talk to about an hour ago.  Nice guy and cooperative, but knew nothing except he owned the boat until a few months back, kept it in meticulous condition and always under cover, but decided to sell it when his kids left home.  Said he advertised it in the Boat Trader and sold it two weeks later to some guy with a heavy accent.  But, of course, accents aren’t unusual in South Florida.  Said the guy didn't haggle over the price, paid him in cash, hooked up the boat and left.  He signed the title, gave it to the buyer and never heard another peep outta him.  Has no idea what his name was, got no phone number and obviously never saw a check. So we ran the title transfer and came up with an address in West Palm Beach which turned out to be a vacant lot on North Olive Avenue and again, an owner which is likewise fictitious.  Now it gets better! Clifton, since you initially inspected the boat, how 'bout tellin' Mr. McCall what you found, then we'll all take another look at it."

Clifton pulled a small note pad from his shirt pocket,

"Sure, let me just start at the beginning.  Dispatch called within a few minutes of Mr. McCall's report that he had towed the boat in from Madeira Bay and was leaving it here in Key Largo at the Bamboo Marina.  I was out on the Atlantic side and about seven or eight miles southeast when I got the call.  I was helping some kids get their outboard started after they ran outta gas but left pretty quick and was here in less than thirty minutes.  When I first looked at the boat I reacted just like Mr. McCall. Just looked like a typical day trip gone bad when the boat got away and left somebody on the beach with no way home.

Then I lifted the hatch cover off the bait well and almost had a damn stroke.  It was crammed full of cocaine. After that I pulled the hatch cover off the battery compartment.  Same story!  Next I opened the two little doors under the console and that compartment was also full.  Not a very sophisticated effort to hide the stuff, if you ask me, and frankly, based on what I've seen, the last boat you'd ever expect to be carryin' this kinda' load.  Maybe that's the whole point, at least until the boat driver decided to vanish.

But we can agree on one thing.  He sure as hell didn't leave a boatload of coke to go down a pretty sand beach lookin' for seashells!  So, Mr. McCall, now you know why we asked you to make a u-turn and why we need to get back up to Madeira Bay first thing in the morning and learn what we can."

As Dowell had promised, the three men were all loaded in the gray Marine Patrol Tahoe and headed back to the Bamboo Marina where Clifton had left his Contender the previous night when he, Dowell and Robellini had loaded the drug laden Sea Chaser and hauled it away to be locked up and more fully examined.  Two more DEA agents had come down from Miami to photograph the boat as the cocaine packets were unloaded and the boat disassembled, a process which had lasted well into the night and early morning hours.  In addition to removal of the taped packets from the bait well, battery hatch and console cabinet, more packets were found stashed in the compartment under the front seat and even in the anchor locker in the bow.  After the agents had thoroughly cleaned and inspected the readily accessible areas, they began to remove the deck plates which were attached with stainless steel screws to the underlying stringers, all of which were wrapped in fiberglass and provided the support structure for the cockpit floor, elevated from a few inches in the bow to almost a foot of open bilge space in the stern.  Dowell explained this detailed investigation process to Jake as they drove,

"Now to the good part!  Based on the volume of coke which had been jammed into every corner of the boat, we know it had been used as a commuter to offload from some sort of mother boat sitting out in the Gulf.  But the so-called mother ship program has been sorta' abandoned 'cause the shrimpers are pretty well monitored these days and the current satellite imagery can easily pick up anything that big electronically.  Any boat that size has to have a reason to be there and with today’s chase boats that can run over a hundred miles per hour the druggies have to use the same type boats to bring the stuff over from Mexico, which is what they do now.  

So, logically, the inconspicuous little boat was bought to complete the delivery cycle since the Sea Chaser is fairly fast, stable in a moderate chop and can carry a big load out of sight.  Adding two and two, the delivery boat came in from Mexico, met the Sea Chaser at some predetermined GPS waypoint, packed it full of coke and sent it to a delivery spot somewhere in the area where you were fishing, since it doesn't fit the prototype for a drug boat at all.  A Cigarette, Yellowfin or Fountain would immediately attract attention, but not this dinky little thing which could be bought for a few thousand dollars and deliver millions of dollars worth of coke per trip.

But that's not the whole story yet.  I told you we pulled up the floor deck panels, right?  Lo and behold, these guys had already done the same thing and stashed in the bilge enough AK-47s to start a small war.  Not a huge surprise since this is the weapon of choice for the druggies. The weird part is they were apparently bringing these guns into the U.S. where they're already easy to find and the bilge space could've been used to store more coke, worth a hell of a lot more than the guns.  So the reason for the guns being there was different and we've got to figure out why.  Not to complicate what seems to be the obvious, but this stuff may not have been headed into the Keys at all.  Maybe it was headed up toward Everglades City and after the boat got loose it just went where the tide took it.  For the time being though, my money is still on the Keys as the destination.

Remember, it appears things began to go haywire when the guy driving the Sea Chaser pulled up on the beach for some reason, maybe just to go to the bathroom or take a nap after being up all day and night.  Bottom line is, somehow the boat and driver got separated and you found the boat.  Now we have to find the driver which may have already happened.  Before we met you for breakfast, I got a call from the office.  After midnight last night two guys from Tavernier were up in the mangroves back out toward Cape Sable checking their crab traps.  They saw a dead man floating along with the tide and called the Sheriff's office, who sent their boat out to pick up the body.  Only thing is, it turned out to be only part of a body.  The guy had been dismembered just like those girls down south everybody thought Joe G. had done. But Joe G.'s in jail and this is the first murder of this type we've encountered since he went to jail several years ago.  Now that the plot thickens, we need your help more than when it was just a drug deal gone bad.   We need for you to take us to precisely where you first saw the boat and explain what the tide was doing.  At least we'll get some idea of where to start looking for what is now a crime scene."

As Jake heard the story unfold he began to think back on the previous day's fishing trip,

"I've told you guys I'll do what I can but this latest little wrinkle puts a whole different spin on things.  Obviously somebody got in a pissin' contest about the boatload of drugs.  Secondly, 'stead of a single boat driver there had to be two.  Third, for whatever reason they both somehow got separated from the boat and lastly, the murder didn't happen on the Sea Chaser since it was clean as a pin.  So maybe the two stopped off on the beach to avoid bein' seen travellin’ back to the Keys in the daylight and that's when and where they got in an argument or maybe one just got greedy and decided to take all the money himself since the hard part was over.

If any of my theory makes sense I think I know exactly where we need to start lookin'. We used to go there and camp out as kids.  The beach is wide and you have to wind in through the mangrove heads to find the place.  Only the locals know about it and hardly anybody goes there anymore.  I've always heard the Cuban fishermen used to camp there way back in the 1800's and we even found pieces of ole' shacks which the hurricanes had torn all to hell.  Why not start there and work our way back since any tide action from the Gulf side woulda' taken the boat due south and I never could've seen it.  Also, anything this side of East Cape all the way around to the canal is only knee deep or less at low tide, so maybe these guys got trapped by the outgoin' tide when they stopped or even just ran aground as the tide was goin' out.  Either way, they weren't gonna physically pick up a boat load of drugs and move it anywhere.  Maybe that's what started a fight when the one drivin' the boat got it stuck and one thing led to another.  I'm sure we're not dealin' here with a couple of rocket scientists."

By the time Jake had completed laying out his ideas of where to start looking for the crime scene the group was at the marina.  Without much further discussion except to agree on Jake's plan, they were aboard the Contender and headed under the bridge and northwest toward Madeira Bay and the strip of beach along the southern tip of the peninsula Jake had described.  Clifton knew the area well and with the speed of the Contender and with two or three pointers from Jake they were soon in shallow water and following the narrow channel along the shoreline.  Fortunately, the tide was dead high, giving them a window of time to explore without getting in the same tidal trap which had most likely caught the two druggies.  In less than another thirty minutes of careful navigating, Clifton had eased the bow of the Contender into the shallow water which lapped up against the stretch of beach Jake was searching for.  Clifton shut off the three big Mercury 250-horsepower outboards which had already been trimmed up as far as possible with the jack plate without causing cavitation,

"Whatever we're doing here, let's work fast, since when the tide turns up in these shallows the water will leave here faster than we can keep up.  If that happens, we're stuck for another twelve hours."

Jake was already barefoot and wading toward the beach, followed by Dowell and Robellini.  Clifton threw out an anchor and was right behind.  When they got to the beach, Jake said,

"Let's split up.  Tony and I'll go right and you two go left.  This whole stretch is only about a mile long so if anything's here we'll know pretty quick."

The men split up as Jake suggested and walked away in different directions along the firm sandy edge of the beach right above the water line.  As Jake had forecast, each team had come to the end of the beach in less than fifteen minutes and all were back at the Contender in half an hour with no findings to report.  Since they were all now hot and sweaty from the walk, not much was said until everyone was back on board the Contender and Clifton began backing away in the shallow water.  Jake looked around and pointed back east,

"Tony, I've only got one more spot where these guys may have holed up for the night.  Let's get back outta these mangroves, get in some deeper water and run back east toward the East Cape Canal until you see a big patch of white sand in front of a little stand of Australian Pine scrub trees.  If nothin's there, I give up."

They all scanned the shoreline for the spot Jake had described and almost as soon as they cleared the line of mangroves and got into deeper water, there it was.  But it was at least a half mile northeast and separated by another several hundred yards of knee deep water.  Clifton slowed to an idle and again trimmed the engines up out of the sand,

"This time I think I better stay with the boat while you three check out the beach.  I don't want it to get stuck or float away.  Both are bad options."

As soon as the engines were put in neutral, Jake and the other two jumped back in the shallow water and began wading to shore.  Dowell got to the beach first,

"There's a pile of somethin' up there by those little trees.  May just be some driftwood and stuff but looks like a piece of cloth hangin' off one end."

The three trotted toward what now appeared to be a pile of debris, but as Dowell got closer, he called back,

"Good God!  It's a piece of human body.  This has to be what we're lookin' for.  You two look around while I go back to the boat for my camera and cell phone so we can call in the Sheriff's helicopter."

 

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Previous Releases by Don Beverly

Available now

'Cartel Connection'

Fiction

 

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'How to talk Western'

Non-fiction humor

 

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'Operation Everglades'

Fiction

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'The Ripple Effect Murders'

 Fiction

 

Available now

'Bite The Hand'

Fiction

Available now

'Birmingham Boys'

Fiction

 

New and Recent Releases

 

The fifth in the Jake McCall Adventure novel series

Birmingham Boys

 

The sixth in the Jake McCall Adventure novel series

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