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2 – Mongoose by Aaron Kruse
3 – Mongoose by Aaron Kruse
4 – Mongoose by Aaron Kruse
By Aaron Kruse
5 – Mongoose by Aaron Kruse
6 – Mongoose by Aaron Kruse
Published by www.offthebookshelf.com
Copyright 2004 by Aaron Kruse All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Published in the United States of America
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This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between the characters in the book and any person living or dead is purely coincidental. I have tried to be true to geographical details, and to details of the law. Where I have failed I apologize.
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To my wife for her love and support, and her efforts to research all the details.
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Blackmail! The envelope left on the seat of her car left no doubt that somebody had stalked her, watched her activities, and photographed her most intimate moments. And the threat was explicit. Share the wealth, or be exposed. Your family will be humiliated at school, at home and at work. Jill had seen nothing wrong with her activities. It had all been a casual lark, but the pictures put it in a more sinister context, and not only her parents but her sisters were threatened. The thought of her family humiliated – of turning their backs on her – was unacceptable. She had no choice but to give in to the demands for at least a while. What the blackmailer doesn’t count on is that Jill is no ordinary girl. She’s spent years developing special skills, not least her own courage. Few know the real extent of her capabilities. Now she must reach deep inside to find the strength to apply those skills and neutralize this threat. This blackmailer has stepped into something he doesn’t understand, but will soon regret. Promise.
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Chapter 1 When Jill McClelland slid the three 8x10 glossy photos from the brown manila envelope, she did not at first understand what she was looking at. Held like a printed page, the first photo was a profile shot of a naked woman facing a naked man, not quite face-to-face, her knees drawn up around his ribs. His back was pressed against a wall that appeared to have a kind of fuzzy covering on it; his mouth was open a little and his eyes were closed. Her dark hair was in a ponytail which sloughed loosely around the right side of her neck and then stood straight out from her, pointing at him as though the hair were a stiff brush. The photo was blackand-white, seemingly poorly developed because it had a slight greenish tinge, and the woman was straddling…. “Oh, God!” she croaked. The envelope and pictures splatted against the passenger side door of the car. The brown envelope and two photos dropped to the seat and one photo slithered down between the seat and the door. She had found the envelope on the driver’s seat of her car when she left school for the day. It had apparently been slipped through the crack she always left at the top of the window, a measure taken against the May heat that increased daily even this far north in California. Sacramento was temperate compared to southern California, but that did not mean cold.
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She’d walked out of the school building this Tuesday into the bright sun of mid-May, full of thoughts of her high school graduation and her summer, and of her plans for that evening. Every day was one long enjoyable challenge for Jill, especially the challenges of sports and classes; she ended each day pleased to be going again to the home she shared with her parents and younger sister. Her older sister, Melanie, was married and living a few miles away in Sacramento. Mel was a frequent visitor to the house – the McClelland family was close. On this day Jill had intended to beat both her parents home and bake an apple cobbler for the whole family to enjoy. Now, she sat huddled against the driver’s side door of the car, arms hugging her own breasts and her knees drawn tightly against her arms. The air at the top of the car was hot, but frigid worms crawled through her intestines and coiled in her stomach. She wasn’t breathing although her heart was thumping against her ribs and chest. The boy in the picture was Herb Anderson, the captain of the football team and her current boyfriend. The Friday before, they’d been in the back of his SUV in a secluded alcove at The Point, with Herb’s head against the tailgate and her seated on top of him. He’d had his back arched a little and had been making that peculiar little almost-snoring sound he made when they made love and which always made her laugh. Somebody
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had gotten a camera up against the side window of the SUV and had gotten not only her body and face but his, at least enough to recognize both. She’d been intent on her effort, leaning forward toward his face, and he’d been lying with his eyes closed and his mouth open. The first sight of the photo, when she had finally realized what it was, had been shocking. Her first thought now was of something her friend Janet liked to say: “Sex is like pizza – great stuff, but messy in the making.” And her second thought was that while sex is a wonderful sharing between two people, the act itself is unlovely, even ridiculous in appearance and conduct. Looking out the windshield at the other kids walking to their cars, trying to draw a shaky breath, Jill was as confused as she had ever felt. Cars were pulling out and nobody was looking her way, nor could she see any strangers. She unfolded in a lunge, legs driving down into the foot well, and retrieved the photos and envelope, digging down between the door and seat and feeling for the photo that had fallen there. A folded sheet of white paper jutted from the envelope like a tongue. The photo she fished out from alongside the seat was the one that had first shocked her. Frigid worms continued to crawl in her belly, but she steeled herself and looked again at the photo. It must have been shot with some kind of artificial light and both she and Herb had that greenish color. What was apparently a wide-angle lens distorted them a little, but certainly not to the point that
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they and the act in which they were engaged could be mistaken. Her long dark ponytail gave her a little-girl look of innocence, in counterpoint to the act she was performing on the boy. Child whore. The other two photos were of her with two previous boyfriends, one with her kneeling on top of the boy and one underneath with her legs clenched around his middle and her heels digging into his buttocks. In that one he was holding himself up on his arms and she was laughing, eyes closed as though in the greatest delight. Shame flushed her face with heat. She had begun to experiment with sex two years before, and while she found it pleasant enough, it wasn’t anything for which she’d miss a sporting tournament or an evening with her girlfriends. The boys enjoyed it more than she, by far, and once she liked a boy enough to go with him for a couple of months she was willing to satisfy him at the end of their evening’s date. All told, she supposed that she had had sex twenty times in two years. But the three photos gave a condensed history that made her look wanton and crude – a tramp. The worms crawled and her face burned; shivers ran down her spine, and the skin on her back and arms itched. The parking lot was nearly empty as she looked again for the person who had dropped the pictures through her window, fully expecting to see one of the rougher boys lingering alongside the building or in his car and watching her. Nobody was watching her. She slid the sheet of paper from
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the envelope and unfolded it. It was plain white paper and, while she was no expert, looked like it had been printed in a computer font. The letter read: ‘Jill, I would be foolish to tell you not to be frightened, as of course you will be. Who wouldn’t be, having had their secrets splashed in their face like this? I can only tell you that I will not harm you, so long as you do as I say. I want very much to meet you, and as you can see I have been preparing for this moment for some time. The photos you’ve seen are just a sampling of the collection I have assembled on you. On video, with sound effects, you are really stunning! While my collection is not as extensive as I would like, it is revealing of a secret life that you lead, one which your father doubtless knows nothing about. I have seen you in church with him, sitting beside him and holding his arm as you come out. You look so sweet. And I think that the way he comes to cheer you at gymnastics matches is a fine thing. I have seen you look first at him as you walk off the floor. I want you to think for a moment of his reaction to a photo album of you sent to his place of work, showing you in some of your better positions with all of your partners. Also, pictures like these could be placed in a variety of bathrooms at the high school and at his place of work and that of
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your mother, with directions to call their work numbers for an appointment with you. I doubt you want that to happen, and neither do I. You are just too precious to share with anyone. I will not ask for very much. I only want you to meet me once a week and give me what you give your other boyfriends. In a couple of years I will set you free, but for at least two years I want to know you as these others have. I will let you think about this until this coming Sunday. From now on, reserve Sunday afternoons for me. At one o’clock this Sunday, be at the public telephone on the corner of 5th and Applegate Way. Have your car handy, do not bring your cell phone, and do not call anyone or bring anyone with you. I am watching. Regards,’ The letter was unsigned. It dropped into her lap as she sagged in her seat. He’d done more than follow her and photograph her. He’d also learned enough about her to know that of all the people in the world whose esteem she valued, her father topped the list. Bob McClelland was a muscular man, 6’2” tall, 210 pounds, sandyhaired and with laugh lines that showed prominently around his eyes and mouth. He had spent a career as a machinist in the navy and upon retirement at the age of 38 as a Senior Chief had moved his family from the
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