The gruesome discovery of a woman's corpse in the small tourist resort of Point Jove, Missouri draws Sheriff Josh Wolfe, a widower who enjoys tinkering with his award winning hot rod, into the most perilous case of his career. Hounded by the townsfolk and media, Wolfe exhausts every conventional method for solving the crime. The investigation comes to a standstill. Then, four more residents disappear. Everyone is convinced Rhone County is harboring a serial kidnapper who chooses his victims by chance. Wolfe believes the people are not only related to one another but are somehow tied to the last surviving member of the county's namesake. Time is not only running out for Sheriff Wolfe but for his lover, dissatisfied wife of a homebuilder, held against her will at the Rhone family's abandoned sawmill where spilled gasoline awaits a lighted match.
Excerpt from Chapter 1
It was her uncanny likeness to Adele, his adoptive sister, that made him stare at her. She sat to one side of a barstool with an arm propped on the padded edge, nice legs crossed beneath a short denim skirt. She sipped a margarita; checked out the Saturday night crowd in the intimate saloon setting. Smiled and waved at anyone she knew.
Jim took a seat at the end of the bar. He slid a pack of Morilos out of his shirt pocket. One by one, the single men honed in on her only to get shot down. He lit a cigarette to curb a satisfied smile. The slow moving couples on the dance floor reminded him of his brief stint as a deckhand on a cargo ship and the way the vessel rocked side to side on the rolling sea in advance of a storm. He loved it, even when he was almost swept overboard by a crashing wave.
When a barman with ERIC on his nametag approached, he ordered a shot of off-brand bourbon. A rock glass was plunked down in front of him. Jim paid for the drink with cash. He flicked ashes into an empty peanut bowl. Downed the cheap whiskey that displeased his palate.
Tilting a hat back on his head, he cast a furtive glance in her direction. The lights winked at her auburn hair when she tossed her head back to knock long strands from her shoulder. She looked at him, her eyes twinkling with carefree interest. Glossy red lips beckoned him with a playful smile.
He stood. An older man staggered toward her. Jim realized the effort to go unnoticed so he could keep coming back was about to end.
“Hey, sugarbritches. How ‘bout a dance?” The man wobbled on his heels, trying to remain upright.
“No thanks.” She tried to ignore him.
“Aww, c’mon now, don’t be that way.” He danced a silly jig. Failing to make her smile, he took hold of her jean jacket and pulled her close. “Give us a little kiss, then.”
Jim shoved the man. He stumbled sideways, tripped and fell. The bouncer yanked the intoxicated fool up off the floor, and escorted him to the manager’s office.
Eric poured a shot of the good stuff. “On the house,” he told Jim.
A hat tip. Jim turned his attention to the woman. Ever so slowly, his smoldering gaze took in her petite physique. He thought he saw her shiver. Lowering his eyelids he smiled into his drink. Swallowed hard. Dragged a thumb and forefinger down the sides of his mustache.
“My hero,” she gushed, jokingly.
“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice low and husky in tone.
“Yeah. Wanna dance?”
“Sure.” He lifted the black felt cowboy hat long enough to rake his fingers through dark wavy hair. Extended a hand to help her step down off the stool. “What’s your name?”
He frowned; somewhat disappointed it wasn’t the answer he expected. Nerve endings tingled. He squeezed his eyes shut, just as fast reopened them.
Her impatience amused him. He took her to the dance floor. They swayed to a mournful country western song. Her breathing went deeper, grew warmer. Had he been searching for a woman only for sex she would’ve—
His eyelids flew open.
He kissed her, tasting lime and candy apple. Breathed in the musky scent of her perfume. “Why don’t we go someplace quieter Adele, er, Vera?” He murmured sweet nothings in her ear. Followed the curve of her neck with his tongue, gently nibbled on her earlobe. He cupped her ass and pressed her body closer to his. She moaned, too loud for comfort.
He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and guided her toward the exit. Both bartenders had their backs turned. The sound of Jim’s Western boots slapping the wooden floor echoed through the hallway. He rushed her past the restrooms. Pushed in a metal rail and unlocked the self-closing rear door.
He clasped her hand in his, led her to an old black van parked at the edge of the woods on the opposite side of a gravel driveway beyond the reach of the security light. She smiled up at him. He tightened his grip.
Determined to protect the natural beauty of Eagle Rock Lake from homebuilders, while also protecting his lucrative meth lab and pot farm, Stan Barstow sets fire to newly built lakeview homes to scare away prospective buyers. To gain fortune and fame, he films the wanton destruction with the intention of making a docudrama to sell to Hollywood. Kyle Barstow very much wants to relocate to Chicago, and become a part of a forensics task force as a crime scene photographer. He offers to make a recording of the burning buildings in order to hone his skills in film and digital photography. To finance the expensive move to Illinois, he becomes involved in Stan's drug business, without his knowledge or consent. When one of the brothers is shot and killed, the other moves quickly to think up a new get-rich-quick scheme, unaware that someone knows his secrets.
After his brother is murdered, Kyle Barstow comes up with a new get-rich-quick scheme so he can leave Missouri forever. He starts by convincing Shelby Adair to help him extort one million dollars from her wealthy parents. The plan is simple. Make believe she's been buried alive. Send the first set of GPS coordinates and a ransom note to the Point Jove Sheriff's Department. Instead of risking capture from collecting the money, they would break into the Adair's safe that Shelby assured Kyle contained more than a million dollars. While the authorities are busy stumbling around in the dark searching for a kidnapped victim that does not exist, he and Shelby would quietly disappear. Their plan begins to unravel when a severe thunderstorm rips through Rhone County causing major damage and confusion. The capped PVC pipe containing the final clue is swept away in rising floodwaters. Rusty Nichols grows suspicious when there's no further contact from the kidnapper. He then learns that not only is his girlfriend, Shelby, missing but also her ex-boyfriend, Kyle Barstow. In a senseless act of backwoods justice someone is shot, then set on fire. Betrayal and revenge become an obsession. A shooting in a motel room leaves one person bleeding to death on the floor, and another fleeing to Mexico with stolen money.
Our Award-Winning T-Bucket
Dubbed "Bad Attitude"
Featured in SMOKE ON THE WATER
The Making Of The Hellfire Trilogy * The trilogy is one continuous story with several subplots. About 440 single-spaced pages. About 200,000 words. * Smoke on the Water was intended to be a stand-alone mystery novel that was inspired by actual events. * I loved the characters so much I planned to write six to eight more books, and call it the Point Jove series. * The first book was originally titled The Cabin. A quick search at the local library revealed 26 titles containing the word Cabin. * I went through a dozen titles before going with Smoke on the Water. * A TV docudrama about an arsonist inspired Fire Flicks. The title spawned the trilogy, ending the idea of an ongoing series. * The title Ashes of Vengeance came from a 1920's movie. * SOTW is a stand-alone. FF and AOV are not. * The cover art has been changed four times. * Point Jove, Missouri is a fictitious place. * I can't say who the antagonist was modeled after without revealing the identity of the antagonist. * Preston and Julie Terrace were named after the characters portrayed by Henry Fonda and Bette Davis in the movie Jezebel. * Sheriff Joshua Wolfe could be the actor Sam Elliot at age 53. * Paige Cole-Denham is someone close to me [but not me]. * Realtor Willard Wiley is a lot like the character Deputy Barney Fife. * When I worked in retail I met a creepy, unsmiling, elderly couple named Drama and Dru [their names were on the personal check used to pay for their merchandise]. * The church in the movie Jeepers Creepers inspired the description of the church in Ashes of Vengeance. * Degotoga is a Cherokee word that means, "standing together". * I used the colors Gray, Red, and Black (smoke, fire, ash?) throughout the trilogy without realizing it. * I am one of the characters in the trilogy. I'll never say which one. * Peridot Past: Peridot is my birthstone. * I used to have an English springer spaniel. Someone poisoned him. His memory lives on with this trilogy.
Copyright 2011-2013 Sharon A. Austin All Rights Reserved