Monday, April 22, 2013

Orangeberry Book Of The Day - Deadly Memories by S.D. O’Donnell (Excerpt)


Who is the beautiful Jayne Doe? And why does someone want to kill her?

Ex-detective Saul Becker learned the hard way not to get involved in the troubles of beautiful women. But what else can he do when a barefoot, catatonic Jayne Doe turns up practically in his backyard? Who is she, and what is she so afraid of?

Jayne Doe doesn’t remember anything about her life before she crawled into a hollow tree at the lake next to Saul’s home.. All she knows is that she’s afraid of something—or someone.

Together, Saul and Jayne set out to uncover her past. But they are in more danger than they know, and it will take all of Saul’s skill and training to track down the past that’s stalking them.

Deadly Memories is a fast-paced novel with unexpected twists and a surprise ending.

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Genre – Murder / Thriller

Rating – PG13 (some foul language, a few short love scenes)

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Connect with S.D. O’Donnell on Facebook & GoodReads


SHE HUDDLED ON DAMP EARTH, knees to her chest, back pressed against something rough and wet, comforted by the smallness of her retreat. A thin cold film of moisture enveloped her skin. Why? When had that happened?

Honking geese broke the silence, reminded her that a bigger world still thrived, outside.

Dew. That’s what the film of moisture was.

She didn’t want the night to end, wanted to stay in the quiet, alone in the darkness, the smallness. She heard splashes, a duck’s quack, piercing yips that passed and faded into the distance.

Each sound scraped against her nerves.

Wet drops traced down her checks. Fat drops. Not dew. She heard a sob and realized it was hers.

Someone called out, “Hello?”

She gasped.

“Are you okay?”

She needed a new place to hide, one where morning couldn’t reach her. Without moving, without thinking, she escaped to a safer, even smaller place.


SAUL BECKER SURFED THE WASTELAND of early morning television, one of his more successful tactics for overcoming insomnia. When that didn’t work, he sat for hours in the dark, thoughts tumbling through his head like clothes in the dryer.

He’d finally achieved a kind of mental numbness he would have happily called sleep when a shrill noise brought him out of his chair. He yanked a pistol from the end table drawer before the phone rang a second time. Feeling like an idiot, he glanced at the clock as he picked up the receiver. It was seven thirty.

“What?” he said, his voice like gravel.

It was his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Blackstone. Her voice sounded an octave higher than normal as she rattled off something he didn’t quite follow.

“Say again?”

He slid his custom Colt Series 70 M1911A2 back into the drawer.

“Get down here,” she said. “There’s a lady crying inside the tree.”

Saul took a moment to stretch in the cool August morning before jogging down to the lake behind his townhome. He could see the Rocky Mountains on the western horizon, the early morning air north of Denver still clear enough to make the foothills seem closer than they really were.

He worked hard to stay in shape, proud to still be lean and muscled as he edged over forty. He had fair skin, sky-blue eyes, and sandy hair with hints of red. Add his freckles, and he looked a stereotypical Irishman.

The townhomes were built on top of a hill and he kept his stride short as he ran down the trail to the lake. When he got close, he saw Mrs. Blackstone pacing beside a huge cottonwood tree. Two patrol cops watched from fifty feet away. They jerked around at the sound of his approach, hands moving toward the service pistols at their waists. Saul braked to a walk, holding his hands up, palms out.

When he was close enough to identify who they were, presuming they could do the same, he lowered his hands and called out a greeting.

“Roan. Mathews. Been a while.”

Roan’s height made Saul’s 6’4” look short and Roan was built to intimidate. Mathews was barely 5’ 10” and looked more like a geek than a cop, right down to the thick glasses sitting on the bottom of his nose.

“Becker.” Roan rubbed a hand across the stubble on his chin. His palm didn’t hide a slight frown. “What’re you doing here?”

“That’s my neighbor.” Saul nodded at the white-haired woman next to the tree, who interrupted her pacing to dab at her eyes with the edge of a thick shawl. “She called me, I told her to call you.”

“So we’ve got you to thank for this end-of-shift call,” Roan said.

“Thank the woman she found. You seen her yet?”

Mathews rolled his eyes. “We were just wondering if your neighbor isn’t quite right in her head. Maybe what we really need here is the loony toon squad.”

“Why?” Saul said.

A yawn cut off Roan’s snicker. “She pointed to the tree and yelled, ‘She’s in there.’ What would you think?”

“That the woman is inside the tree.”

Saul sprinted down the path and circled around to the side of the tree where Mrs. Blackstone waited.

“Finally.” She gestured at the tree. “Go see if she’s okay.”

Several years prior a lightning-induced fire had burned through about five feet of the trunk’s interior from the ground up, creating a hollow that still smelled of stale smoke, and a black-rimmed hole that allowed entrance.

Saul ducked inside and squatted for a minute to let his eyes adjust to the shadows. A woman sat with her legs pulled up, her arms wrapped around them, and her face buried between her knees.

She didn’t move when Saul said hello. She didn’t move when he tugged gently on her arm.

“Well?” Roan’s voice sounded muffled. “What’s in there?”

“I told you already,” Mrs. Blackstone said. “It’s a woman. She was crying.” Saul heard impatience in her answer.

“Not crying anymore.” Saul backed out of the tree. “Don’t think she’s all there mentally.”

“You couldn’t have brought her out with you?” Mathews said.

Saul shrugged. “I gave her a tug. She didn’t want to come.”

“Aw, shit.” Roan pressed his hand against the rough bark as he bent over, looking as if he had folded himself in half. He emitted a low whistle. “This is your job, Mathews. I won’t fit.”

Mathews took his turn to look inside.

“If I do this myself,” he said as he crawled into the tree, “you owe me big time.”

From outside, they heard Mathew’s grunts, interspersed with a string of curses.

“Do something,” Mrs. Blackstone said, with a light push on Saul’s shoulder.

“You know I don’t do this for a living anymore.”

“Hey!” Mathews yelled. “Need some help here.”

He’d maneuvered the woman to the opening. Saul took her elbow and held her head down with his other hand until she cleared the entrance. Once she was standing, he kept his grip until he was certain she wouldn’t bolt.

She was close to 5’ 11”, underfed, no older than her mid-thirties. Her shoulder-length pale blond hair resembled fine silk, though it was stringy and matted. Sapphire eyes with specks of gold blinked in an uneven pattern. Lines of dirt streaked across a perfect face. Even dirty and disheveled, she belonged in a class of gorgeous Saul had only seen on a movie screen.

She wore faded jeans, a dingy gray T-shirt, and a purple hoodie. No socks or shoes.

“I don’t see anything else in there,” Mathews said, flexing his back when he was out of the tree. “She seems okay except for being nonresponsive. What do you think, Roan? Call an ambulance or take her back and call Social Services?”

“We call an ambulance—one of us has to sit with her at the hospital.”

“One of us is gonna have to sit with her anyway.”

“Hanging out at the station beats the hospital.”

Roan placed his hand on the woman’s arm and took a few steps. She moved with him.

“Hold on,” Mrs. Blackstone said. “She’s barefoot.”

Roan glanced up the trail.

“Short of throwing her over my shoulder, I don’t think we have any choice here.” He shortened his stride to match the woman’s but began walking faster as they neared the parking lot. The woman stumbled.

Saul sprinted forward to catch her. The maneuver left her lax body tightly wound in his arms and he felt a memory playing hide-and-seek. It vanished before he could place it.

Within minutes of reaching their vehicle, Roan, Mathews, and the woman were gone. Saul and Mrs. Blackstone retreated up the hill to their homes.

They lived in a group of townhomes known as The Courtyard. Saul paused at the edge of the real estate’s namesake, a square yard in the middle of the U-shaped complex, hoping the sunlight would burn away the memory that had threatened him as he caught the stumbling woman.

Instead of burning away, it ripped open. Every muscle from his face to his feet clenched in a surge of rage and grief.

The woman in the park had felt like Martha.

Closing his eyes, he shoved all recall of her back into the off-limit corners of his mind.

He opened his eyes to Mrs. Blackstone watching him.

“Tea,” Mrs. Blackstone said. It wasn’t a question.

When they reached her door, they found her potted plants scattered across the ground. Some of the pots were broken.

“Well, look at the mess our raccoons have made,” Mrs. Blackstone said.

Saul bent to pick up a pot.

“Leave them be.” She slapped his hand away. “I’ll take care of it myself in a bit.”

A faint pattern in the scattered dirt looked almost like a smiley face. He startled, then shrugged. The wind must have swirled through the yard and used the dirt as canvas. He followed his neighbor inside, where he was greeted by the faint aroma of potpourri.

He waited on the sofa while she brewed one of her custom tea blends. She served his in a thick-walled mug, then sat in an armchair across from him. Her hands shook visibly and her china cup rattled against the saucer when she lowered it.

“I wonder what happened to her.” She sighed. “Poor thing. And so lovely too, wasn’t she?”

Saul grunted in agreement, happy that his neighbor’s equilibrium seemed to improve with each sip of tea. He put his empty mug in the sink and made it as far as the door before she spoke again.


He knew that tone.

“I just can’t stop worrying about her. Would you go down to the station and make sure she’s okay?”

He didn’t think she really understood what she was asking, but then he wasn’t sure it would stop her if she did. He rubbed an open palm over his stomach as it hardened into a knot and wished he’d just let the damn phone keep ringing.


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