Beyond the last nature trail at Osprey State Park, past the scrubby flatwoods and nestled along the tranquil waters of South Creek, a forest of ghost orchids stood untouched for years … until now.
The murder of Dr. Payne Waterhouse, a renowned botanist and volunteer at Osprey State Park, changed everything in the park by igniting a ground swell of controversy that set in motion a series of events that placed Ranger Blaine Sterling in the center of an unsolved murder and the impending destruction of the park’s orchid forest.
Assigned to support law enforcement and protect the reputation of the park, Sterling is placed in the cross-hairs of a dangerous plot involving gambling, blackmail, betrayal and misdirection. Not until a Plein Air painting from the Lake Osprey art show put the killer of Dr. Waterhouse into perspective did the investigation advance, throwing Ranger Sterling into a life-threatening encounter in the orchid forest.
A knock on Park Manager Tony Clementree’s office door one morning changed the future of the orchid forest. Or did it? A donation of one hundred thousand dollars to preserve the orchid forest was offered. No strings attached except one condition joined to the donation. Could Tony Clementree honor that one requirement and hold on to the endowment? Only time would tell.
Yellow crime scene tape stretched across the dried grass entrance to the canoe dock at Osprey State Park. The plastic warning twisted and turned in the wind, but the message was straightforward. Police Business. Keep Back.
Behind the barrier, law enforcement vehicles from the Sheriff’s office, Florida Park Police, CSI unit, Marine Patrol and Fire/Rescue departments parked in a line along the back fence that led down to the water. A large white tent in the center of the parking field acted as the command center and was alive with a cadre of officers arranging tables and boxes of equipment. Two men in wet suits exited the tent and wheeled a hand cart with diving equipment past a red bulldozer to the canoe dock. Four other officers followed lugging tarps, portable lights, stretchers and crates of forensic materials. A sheriff’s deputy stood outside his cruiser along the main road blocking all access to the crime scene.
Approaching the park’s entrance off Tamiami Trail, Blaine put on her turn signal, downshifted the Mini Cooper into second, and slowly drove down the lane towards the ranger’s station. Large oaks on either side shaded the roadway from the early morning sun and muffled the constant hum from the highway, a welcome introduction to the natural beauty of Osprey State Park and an open invitation to all visitors day after day, all year round.
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The clock on the dashboard read 7:55 when the black Hummer turned onto Serpentine Lane; the driver switched off the headlights and slowly maneuvered his vehicle down the tree- lined street towards the fourth house on the right. The driver knew exactly where to go, he practiced many times before. If he had to, he was confident he could make the drive blindfolded, but that was only in the movies, tonight was for real, no Hollywood retakes, only one performance. At 204, the driver eased the truck to the curb, shifted into neutral, and pulled up the parking brake. The engine kept running.
A moonless black sky added an extra darkness to the night. The only light, a pale yellow glow from a streetlamp at the end of the block flickered in and out of the tree branches with each gust of wind. A damp mist pushed in off the Gulf and clung to everything with cold drizzly hands. The driver stared at the rivulets of water build along the top of the window until the windshield was completely covered with a cloud of water. One drop raced down the windshield and disappeared below the hood, a comfortable metaphor of his life that now raced out of control. How was he sucked into this insane scheme, he thought to himself. Oh well, show time, Happy Birthday Blaine Sterling.
Hurricane Floyd exploded out of the Caribbean as a Category 4 on September the 13th, with gale force winds reaching 156 miles per hour—Floyd was a monster. Headed for the Florida coast, catastrophic damage was predicted, but Floyd veered east and barreled north along the coast gaining speed and intensity. On September 16, at two-thirty in the morning, Floyd roared ashore in North Carolina. With winds in excess of 104 mph and storm surges as high as ten feet, Floyd pounded North Carolina mercilessly. Communities in the grasp of the storm’s rage were completely leveled. Two days of drenching rains flooded every river, lake and stream in the area; roads and bridges washed out, placing numerous North Carolina communities underwater and abandoned for weeks.
Floyd continued its path of destruction, barreled up the East Coast, and was predicted to slam into Long Island and batter the barrier island with 96 mph winds by nightfall.
The call from the mainland reached Park Ranger Blaine at eight o’clock in the morning instructing her to begin evacuation of Watch Hill, Fire Island; she immediately put in place the park service EEP system, the Emergency Evacuation Protocol. The National Weather Service forecasted Floyd to hit Fire Island that evening and as a precautionary measure, district office ordered all campers, boaters and day-trippers to vacate the island by five o’clock. Directed to remain on the island, Blaine was to close Watch Hill immediately and turn away all new visitors.
LOUD MUSIC is also available through the Sarasota County Library Books in a Bag Program.
A BLAINE STERLING NOVEL
A BLAINE STERLING NOVEL
"After reading the first ten chapters of Three Bridges by RJ Coons, I found this to be a very compelling adventure of a new Blaine Sterling novel.
I have enjoyed meeting the new characters, with a very interesting sense of humor in the way they are described, and a griping storyline.
"Wow, I cannot wait to read the entire book. The ten chapters you have written are an interesting and fast read. I have to admit, I seem to like this book better."
Loud Music is a good story with dramatic subplots and enough twists and turns to keep
you really interested. I can't wait for the next adventure.
August 14, 2013
LOUD MUSIC A great first novel.
November 18, 2013
What an exciting first novel. Fast paced and full of twists and turns. Very interesting characters. I was especially captivated by the nurse. A fine read. I look forward to the next adventure by a fine new novelist.