The Lady of Corpsewood Manor, Book 4 of the Craige Ingram Mystery Series
by Hawk MacKinney
In the spacious den of Moccasin Hollow, his ancestral South Carolina home, part-time PI, exNavy SEAL Craige Ingram examines a platinum brooch designed like a dragonfly inside a jeweler’s box that he has discovered at the crime scene of Corpsewood Manor. It is a remarkable piece of art…its wings and body worked in exceptional detail. Focusing toward the expected bulbous round eyes, his suspicions jar full throttle. Instead of a head, the empty sockets of a skull leer at him. His gut feelin’s tell him his SEAL buddy Grayson MacGerald’s investigation is considerably more than arson and a double murder trying to hide the theft of classic automobiles. The smoldering rubble of secluded Corpsewood Manor leads Ingram and another of their SEAL Team, Colorado Aspen ski buddy Spinner Krespinak, into a seedy tangle of smuggling crisscrossed and an unexpected encounter with a dead assassin from one of Spinner’s “closed” cases.
Slewing grit and gravel, Randall’s pride-and-joy pick’em-up truck skidded into the crowded side-street parking lot. Jammed on the brakes; smoked rubber on the four new tires he’d put on yesterday. Broad-shouldered Randall flung open his door and jumped out, his buddy close behind, motor still running. The two of them made a soccer sprint for the side entrance of the local all-night Early Bird Breakfast & BBQ Eatery. Slammed through the double doors between the two dining areas. Nigh onto every face among the usual before-sunup breakfast crowd of packed tables and booths turned in the direction of his crash and thud. Most ever’body recognized wild-spirited high school senior rambunctious soccer stud Randall McClure. Randall looked around; spotted the uniforms; hurried up to the table; blurted, "...Sheriff Doogie! Better get parish fire trucks out to Corpsewood Manor…and quick!"
Tall, robust, soft-spoken Doogle “Doogie” Eubanks had about seen and heard it all…done a good deal of the seein’ and hearin’ hisself. Born in Summerville in the north Georgia Mountains, graduated from the University of Bulldog Georgia. Married the first cuddly thing he'd had fumbling sex with…his high school sweetheart from Frog Holler. It was a solid pairing…some ups and downs, but solid. Thirteen years with the Georgia Highway Patrol, the last five cruising I-20 between Atlanta, Madison, and Thomson, sometimes farther down the road to the east. After those thirteen years Doogie had the hankerin’s for settling down about the same time his mother-in-law got sick with the beginnings of what would eventually take her. To make it easier for the wife to be near her mother, Doogie requested a transfer, and about the same time got a good offer with a sizable raise from the patrol division of Aiken County, South Carolina Sheriff’s Office. Took the South Carolina promotion and sizable bump up in his paycheck.
Moved the family to Beech Island down the deceptively lazy river dividing South Carolina and Georgia. Found a spread he liked southeast of Hamburg not far from Ingram property and Moccasin Hollow.
Coffee cup halted between saucer and mouth, Sheriff Doogie shoved back his plate of home-fried ham and scrambled eggs. Put down his hot biscuit layered with fresh churned butter and homemade blackberry jam. Leveled a steady gaze at the two gangly high schoolers. “Okay…” voice steady, easy drawl unhurried, “What’d you about-to-be-high-school-graduate big shot young bucks do this time? Get some cheap beer; start a fire to roast s’mores…fire get out’a hand?”
“We didn’t start no fires.”
Sheriff said, “I’m trying to finish my breakfast. Only decent meal me’n and the deputies here might get until suppertime, and we…”
Like he hadn’t been raised right not to butt in, Randall interrupted like the sheriff wasn’t talking, “Fire’s done spread back in the thick undergrowth. Ain’t no brush pile fire neither. Old stand of pulpwood pines done crowned somethin’ fierce…big heart of pines smokin’.”
"Randall..." Sheriff raised his voice.
Randall kept right on, "...flames shootin' out ever’where…roof, windows…top to bottom."
Stout Deputy Rolston Kearny said, "What you talking about?" knife in one hand, butter and marmalade-smeared cornbread in the other.
Randall said, "Early ‘fore sunup we were in that deer stand Papa and Uncle Ezrah built.” Words stumbling faster, “Hour or so after we got there, we heard what sounded to be gunshots over toward Corpsewood. One sounded like a shotgun. Others were heavier, maybe a huntin’ rifle. Didn't think nothing about it at the time. Figured it to be hunters. Couldn't been much more'n half hour after that we smelled smoke. First smelled like cedar and grass smoke; got thicker, an’ wadn’t no grass or hay-fire smell. Turned bad smelling, like an oil fire or burning rubber or electrical stuff. Spooked the deer. Does, couple of bucks, yearling fawns all hightailing the same direction right under our stand. Come an’ gone before an eye could blink. Smoke got real thick… hardly no wind except a few light now-and-then breezes. We climbed down. Decided we better take a look-see. Didn’t want to be caught in a fire. Hadn’t gone no distance before we spotted flames shootin’ above the trees. Tops of the flames pushing up into what was left of low-hanging river fog."
“Randall…slow down.” Doogie had been in law enforcement long enough not to be rattled easy, but he’d seen runaway crown fires eat whole mountainsides faster than man or animal could run. Moving fast in all that dry brush and thick pine mats, a fire was alive. Go through anything in its way. "What in tarnation you talkin' about?"
"Corpsewood Manor...I been tryin’ to tell you, the whole place is a goner from the roof to the cellars. Flames roaring out the whole front, trees burnin'. Didn’t see nobody. Anyone still inside Corpsewood Manor is a goner.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
With postgraduate degrees and faculty appointments in several medical universities, Hawk MacKinney has taught graduate courses in both the United States and Jerusalem. In addition to professional articles and texts on chordate neuroembryology, Hawk has authored several works of fiction.
Hawk began writing mysteries for his school newspaper. His works of fiction, historical love stories, science fiction and mystery-thrillers are not genre-centered, but plot-character driven, and reflect his southwest upbringing in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. Moccasin Trace, a historical novel nominated for the prestigious Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the Writers Notes Book Award, details the family bloodlines of his serial protagonist in the Craige Ingram Mystery Series… murder and mayhem with a touch of romance. Vault of Secrets, the first book in the Ingram series, was followed by Nymrod Resurrection, Blood and Gold, and The Lady of Corpsewood Manor. All have received national attention. Hawk’s latest release in the Ingram series is due out this fall with another mystery-thriller work out in 2014. The Bleikovat Event, the first volume in The Cairns of Sainctuarie science fiction series, was released in 2012.
"Without question, Hawk is one of the most gifted and imaginative writers I have had the pleasure to represent. His reading fans have something special to look forward to in the Craige Ingram Mystery Series. Intrigue, murder, deception and conspiracy--these are the things that take Hawk's main character, Navy ex-SEAL/part-time private investigator Craige Ingram, from his South Carolina ancestral home of Moccasin Hollow to the dirty backrooms of the nation's capital and across Europe and the Middle East."
Barbara Casey, President
Barbara Casey Literary Agency