Genre: Women's Crime Fiction
Heat Level: Sensual
Set in present-day Raleigh, North Carolina, Shrike is the story of one young woman's overcoming tremendous physical, emotional and logistical adversity to defeat evil incarnate. When Taryn Spire and her best friend learn that some banking executives plan a cybercrime to embezzle funds from the North Carolina State Fair, the adventure begins. A botched attempt by the perpetrators to silence them permanently leads to a dramatic transformation for Taryn - watching a television program featuring a video clip of a shrike with its prey destines her to become a crime fighter. With the help and the love of an unlikely ally (a motorcycle salesman), Taryn, as her alter ego, dispenses a unique type of justice.
“Ms. Spire? This is Smith Worley from the North Carolina State Fair. I hope I’m not bothering you on a Sunday.”
Between having to drive a vehicle foreign to her and the horrifying vision she had at her parents’ house, Taryn had forgotten all about COMDEP812 and the fact that Smith Worley had yet to return her call about the offshore bank. She switched to her professional mode. “No sir! No bother at all! Thank you for calling me back.”
“A thousand apologies. I made a note to call you on Friday, but I had several meetings that were called in a hurry, and the reminder to call you got buried in my briefcase until I went through it today.”
“That’s quite all right, sir. I bet you have been busy lately.”
“In any event, in answer to your question, I did some digging and we do not deal with nor have we had any business relationship with The Premier Bank of Micronesia.”
Taryn’s blood ran cold and the phone quivered in her hand and against her ear as the worries she had left on her doorstep when she left for Graham crept back into her psyche like nerve gas. She moved her lips but the import of the information she had just received did not allow her to form words.
“Ms. Spire?” Worley was wondering if the call was dropped when she did not respond.
“I’m sorry, sir,” stammered Taryn. “I was making some notes in my project log.” It was not totally a lie - most of what she did on any project was kept in her head.
“I hope that answer was helpful.”
“It was. Thank you.” She was troubled by the lack of feeling in her voice and tried again with all the excitement she could muster in her disturbed state. “It was very helpful. Thank you. I’m grateful for your help.”
“I’m glad I could be of assistance. I hope to see you at the Fair!”
Taryn’s mind was screaming and she hoped her voice wasn’t doing the same. My GOD! Don’t you know what’s going to happen? Gripping the phone with both hands, she replied, “I hope to see you there too. Thank you very much again.” She ended the call and her hands, still clutching the phone, fell into her lap.
Miranda sat up. “What was all that?” She had forgotten more about COMDEP812 than Taryn had.
Taryn’s attention was fixed on a random piece of Miranda’s thick carpet. “They’re going to rip off the State Fair,” she mumbled.
Miranda scooted to the edge of a cushion and leaned closer to Taryn. “What did you say?”
Slowly raising her gaze to meet Miranda’s, Taryn repeated, “They’re going to rip off the State Fair.”
“What? Who is?”
Trembling arms struggled to push her off the chair, but in time she was successful in accomplishing that and in securing her phone back into its holster. “Tatum, Mounce and probably Mike Peebles. They are going to run COMDEP812 twice. The first time it will move the money like the state wants. The second time the same amount will go offshore. They’ll get it whenever they want.”
Scarcely able to hear Taryn speak, Miranda got off the sofa to move closer to her. She knelt and gently took her irmã by the hands. “Taryn, honey, how do you know all this?”
“That was the fellow I spoke to last week at the State Fair headquarters. One of the numbers on the test output we looked at belongs to a bank in the South Pacific. COMDEP812 showed money leaving the State Fair account and going to that bank. The State Fair isn’t dealing with an offshore bank.” Taryn gripped Miranda’s hands just a little more tightly. “That’s why Tatum wanted us to give all the COMDEP812 work to Mike. That’s why Tatum is retiring. That’s why Mike is being so nice to us, to throw us off. It’s all part of the plan.”
Taryn was starting to make some sense and that began to bother Miranda. Still, she believed she could make it all better by being positive and upbeat. “C’mon, irmã, you’ve been working too hard and you’re tired from the trip to see your folks. There’s no way they could steal that kind of money, even electronically. Internal Control would catch the double post and fix it. That’s what they do.” Miranda made sure Taryn saw her smile.
Taryn sighed and shook her head. “Nancy Mounce gets the report from COMDEP812. They have to have her help. She can do all kinds of things to cover any error up. And she can talk circles around any auditors or anyone in that bank. She’s been there forever. They’ll believe whatever crap she slings. No one will be the wiser. And they’ll all get away with it. And you and I know about it.”
It was Miranda’s turn to be chilled to the bone. She slowly let go of Taryn’s hands, got to her feet and turned away, crossing her arms over her chest to get even just a little reassurance. Taryn’s last sentence frightened her the most. If Taryn was right, they indeed had uncovered something huge. She took a few small steps and then spun to ask a question. “How much money are we talking here?”
“Millions, Miranda! Millions! The fair lasts nine days! People from all over the state and probably the whole Southeast and God knows where else come and spend millions!”
Taryn’s answer was replete with misplaced anger and the words stung Miranda. As her eyes filled with tears, Miranda whimpered, “My God, Taryn! I’m scared! What are we going to do? What are we going to do?”
SHRIKE can be found at:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shrike-jeff-carlson/1105870275?ean=9781618421937&itm=1&usri=shrike
Jeff can be found at: www.facebook.com/jarthurcarlson
"I have aspired to be a writer since my grade school days. Shrike is my first novel. I live in North Carolina's Triad. When I'm not thinking about writing, I like ice hockey and traveling. I've tried stand-up comedy too. A cat owns me; in fact, she has helped me pen three picture books featuring her and her friends (maybe she will let me publish them someday). I have a few more novels in various states of inception; I hope Shrike's success will give me the impetus to finish one of them."
Thanks for the great excerpt, Jeff! Wishing you much success with SHRIKE and your future works as well.
Good luck with the cat. *grin*
Stacey Joy Netzel