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A Marice Houston Mystery by Dellani Oakes

Having just moved in with her fiance, Kris, Marice isn’t too happy to be given an out of town job. She has been sent to Daytona Beach, Florida. There’s been a huge sting operation, and the local FBI is under scrutiny. The Marshals have been called in to oversee prisoner transfers.

Things get sticky when Marice and her team are ordered to transport the ringleader, China Finetti, from Daytona Beach to a federal prison in Kansas City. Someone sets a car bomb, injuring Marice and Butch—and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Everything seems to point to China Finetti pulling the strings from prison—if so, how do they prove it?

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Excerpt from Room 203

Almost immediately after their arrival, the Marshals are pressed into service. Marice and Butch grab the short straw, and end up transferring an extremely dangerous criminal named Wong Chi. She’s been kept at the state prison in Daytona, because she’s too much for the county jail to handle. On the interstate, heading to north Florida, the team picks up a tail.

Aileen picked up the radio and connected with someone. I couldn’t hear the conversation clearly, but it seemed she was setting up a pit stop. I wondered how she would handle it, figuring that like us, she would make secure arrangements. I wasn’t disappointed in that. Outside Jacksonville, we drove to the nearest Florida Highway Patrol office and stopped. We were let in the back door, and our prisoner was allowed the chance to pee as she’d requested. With the extra officers around, we were also able to get a pit stop. I felt much better afterward.

Back in the van, the miles groaned away. If boredom can kill, this would about do it. Instead of letting myself get lazy, I played mind games, counting red cars versus white cars, collecting car tags, and such the like. It was while playing that game, I noticed that the same silver sedan had been getting closer.

“We’ve got company,” I said sharply.

Teague glanced at the mirrors. “Where?”

“Silver four door coming up on our left.”

“I see him. Am I clear to the right?”

“Make a hole,” Aileen said. “Go.”

He scooted right. Horns blared and there was a screech of tires. No crash followed, but traffic slowed. The silver sedan was stuck in the jumble of cars. Gunning the motor, Teague rushed up the highway while Aileen got on the radio once more. Minutes later, two highway patrol cars pulled up, one to our left, the other behind us. Another roared up from the rear and the one on the left moved ahead as the third car took its place.

“He’s back,” I called, seeing the silver sedan coming up behind us like Mad Max.

Something flashed orange and the cop behind us swerved, spinning crazily. He stopped, perpendicular to both lanes and the silver sedan dodged around him, hardly slowing.

“One cop down,” I yelled. “Can this tub go any faster?”

“Not really,” Teague growled through gritted teeth. “I have an idea. Taking a detour,” he said, heading off the road to an exit that looked like it was hardly ever used.

There was virtually nothing around, except for a rundown looking convenience store and a tobacco shop. Teague slowed only slightly, making a sharp right turn, heading north into the woods. We hung on for dear life, getting slung all over the interior. Wong Chi didn’t look quite as smug as she had, when the silver car first showed up.

“What are you doing?” Aileen yelled when Teague made a hard right into what looked like a solid stand of trees.

“Trust me. This is family land.”

“What family?”

“Tube.”

It made no sense to me, but it must have to Aileen, because she stopped fussing and hung on. Soon, the van rumbled to a stop at a wide metal gate. A cattle crossing lay across the road, a stream running under it. Aileen hopped out and opened the gate, swinging it shut behind us. She didn’t get back in the van. Instead, she stood on the running board on the driver’s side. A moment later, I saw why, when she hopped down to do another gate. We went through three more before coming to a clearing. A sturdy log cabin greeted us.

“We’ll switch up cars and head back. While I do that, you check that bitch for bugs. There’s a magnet in the shed over there.” He pointed to a large red object on a shelf.

Butch ran over and got it, while Aileen and I went over Wong Chi once more. Unless she had a tracker on her clothing, or under her skin, she was clear. To be sure, we ran the magnet over her.

“If I could, I’d strip you down and make you finish the trip naked,” Aileen said as we lifted the prisoner into the second vehicle.

This one, while more comfortable than the transport van, wasn’t nearly as secure. It was a rebuilt sporty shorty that had been gutted of bucket seats, carpeting and other niceties. There were a couple wide seats in the back and we found a place we could hook up the shackles, and strapped in. The way the seats were, one of us had to sit by Wong Chi. It wasn’t a very pleasant spot to be, since we were getting tossed around like a football player’s brain. There was no sign of the silver sedan, or the cop cars.

“More company,” Butch called.

“A red Ranger and a black Charger?” Teague asked.

“Yes.”

“Those are our backup.”

“If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure. The Redneck Irregulars,” he stated, as if that cleared it up.

Apparently, for Aileen, it did. She relaxed slightly as we took off once more. This time, instead of going on the Interstate, we took back roads. Some were no more than dirt tracks, but they led to our destination just as well.

©2019 Dellani Oakes