The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 16

Yes, this is brand new. I skipped Chapter 15 because it’s pretty much what was The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 12 (New).


The Alibi – Chapter 15

Master Chief Sonar Technician Boyd sat at the Henderson James‘ sonar station. Her right hand held a headphone snug against her ear, her left hand adjusted analog verniers on her board.

Chief of the Boat Jensen stood behind her on her right and leaned slightly forward to watch and, she hoped, get an idea of what Boyd did. “I thought all that stuff was digital now.”

Boyd kept her eyes on meters and gauges. Her fingers turned the vernier so minutely her movements wouldn’t have disturbed spider silk.

“Seaman Oyster’s been released from sickbay.”

Boyd continued her focus.

“Captain Hudon’s got a Neil Robinson with heavy duty restraints and a comm pipe where nobody will find you all picked out in case you cause trouble again.”

“It helps if you don’t talk right now. And don’t make fun of people’s names.”

Jensen folded her harms over her chest and leaned back against the station’s doorjamb. “You gave him that name.”

“I’m a bad person.”

Boyd’s eyes moved from one diagnostics screen to the next. Recumbrance? Check. Integration? Check. ABFAC Cones? Check. Towed Array? Check? Transform Analysis? Check. AI Separation? Check.

Boyd shook her head. One hand kept her headphones tight to her right ear, her other hand continued their ministrations over dials and switches.

Run another series check?


She turned to a second set of screens along a wall projecting from the sonar displays.

Jensen looked as well. “Anything on the ES-10?”

“Nothing. Unless somebody’s got something way beyond what we have, this is pure biologic.” Boyd ran diagnostics. “Or the most sophisticated ‘droppers DARPA can come up with suck.”

“What biologic out of Boston has a signature like that?”

Boyd turned back to her sonar panel. Two screens showed Sherlock’s progress analyzing the signals, one coming out of Boston harbor, the other out beyond the continental shelf.

It kept coming up blank and asking for help.

Boyd leaned back. Her eyes continued their dance over her screens. She flipped a switch and the signals came over her station speakers. “Ever hear of Tim Storms? He’s a singer and voice actor with the lowest voice on record. He can sing too low for humans to hear but elephants and whales hear him fine.”

“You think he’s singing in a shower somewhere in the Back Bay?”


Jensen came forward. Slightly bent at the waist, she supported herself by placing her hands on the control panel’s edge while she scanned Boyd’s screens. “Sounds like they’re having a conversation, doesn’t it?”

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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 14

Pretty sure this is brand new.


The Alibi – Chapter 14

Sean, always careful when he dove, prepped as before at the USS Boston memorial.

Nothing and no one.

He put on gear not usually carried on a free dive: a small tank with a thirty minute air supply, a headlamp and a backup snapped to his belt, night vision goggles, an Argonaut knife strapped to his calf, and a multi purpose camera on a chest harness.

One last equipment and harness check and he slid into the water.

At the cave mouth he checked his watch and rechecked his gear and harness.

All good.

Okay, Sean. Let’s go exploring.

He surfaced so slowly and clean it seemed the ocean hesitated letting him go, as if fearful of losing one of its own. No wake, no ripple, less sound than that caused by the tunnel’s natural pulsing with the waves and tides.

He waited, only the crown of his head down to his eyes above the waterline and at the edge where the tunnel opened to the cave floor. He rotated slowly to go unnoticed by anything living be in the cave.

Nothing save the bioluminescence of the algae lining the walls. Did this cave fill at high tide? Water seeks its own level, but to fill the air in the cave must escape.

He focused and rotated again, this time seeking areas where algae didn’t cling to the walls.

Ah! There and there. And two more over there.

His hands shifted from maintaining depth to slightly lifting until his ears surfaced.

Again, nothing. Only the sound natural to a underground, underwater cave.

The water rippled softly.

He put his hands on the edge of the floor.


The passive sonar thing from before?

No, not the same.

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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 13 (New. Newish? (and so it goes))

As I wrote in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 12 (New), rewrites are in progress.

The month of July saw chapter juggling to avoid timeline conflicts, lots of editing, plus several new chapters in what I’ve already shared and, of course, stuff you’ve never seen.

God, I hope it’s worth it.

The Alibi – Chapter 13

Irene Casey smiled back at Professor Red “Gentleman John” Willmette as she took her seat in Forensics 517, an advanced lab with the prestigious title Forensics Materials, Standards, and Guidelines.

517 was the only course Willmette taught because he created the department some fifty plus years ago, had academic, government, industry, and law enforcement connections covering the globe, and was the Erdös of the Forensics community. Investigators evaluated each other by their Willmette number: Did you co-author a paper with Willmette? You were a Willmette-One. Did you co-author a paper with someone who was a Willmette-One? You were a Willmette-Two. Go to any conference and the floor was saturated with Willmette-Tens, -Elevens, and -Twelves, and you couldn’t get a teaching position in the field unless you were a Willmette-Six or better.

A recognized authority in several forensic disciplines, he created Semiotic Forensics, what some people called Environmental Forensics, and he always laughed when he heard the term. “Yes, we investigate the environmental system, but derive meaning from recognizing every element in a given environment is a sign, consciously or non-consciously chosen by the individual – from the petty crook to the white-collar likes of Madoff – to enhance their experience of the event under investigation.” Known as “Gentlemen John,” he lived the hobo life for six months to learn the language of their signs in order to solve a cold case.

Which he did.

And brought down an organization that made The French Connection look like a toddler’s soccer game.

Despite several attempts on his life.

Nobody did that kind of thing anymore.

But now?

Now he was everyone’s favorite uncle who knew all the funny stories about the family and neighborhood, and if you took 517 be prepared to laugh hard and work harder.

Lab benches ringed the room, the center taken up with the standard classroom desk layout, and he had people sit alphabetically, but by first name, not last, so Irene sat dead center of the fifteen students joining her.

Willmette, who had to dip his head when going through most doorways, reached down and rapped his knuckles on the desk. “Let’s get started. We’re going to have a guest with us today, and this guest,” he checked his watch, “in addition to a resume too long to recount in detail, is a member of CSAFE, a Senior Policy Advisor to the National Commission on Forensic Science, and a Senior Fellow at OSAC.” He checked his watch a second time and glanced at the door. “Yes, any minute now…”

One of Casey’s classmates nudged her. She wrote in the top margin of her notebook “CSAFE NIST Center of Excellence in Forensic Science. OSAC Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science.”

Willmette loosened his bow tie. “Why don’t we all continue with our lab work until our guest arrives. Ladies and gentleman, to your benches.”

Casey and the rest moved to their research stations. She kept some of the communion wafer she picked up that night she let Captain Romantic off the hook and analyzed it the best she could. She took a different tact than outlined in the manuals – look for compositional analogs. What were the communion wafers like?

Footsteps hurried down the hall. Willmette stood by the door and spread his arms like P.T. Barnum introducing Gargantua, the world’s largest gorilla.


A petite woman, just over half Willmette’s height, mid-fifties woman with close cropped, strikingly blonde hair and a deep Mediterranean complexion stopped in the door way. She supported herself with one hand on the doorjam, looked up at Willmette and smiled. “How late am I, sir?”

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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 12 (New)

We skip ahead a bit because chapters 8-11 are pretty much rewrites of previous material and do you really care at this point (if you do, let me know)?

This chapter, however, is brand new and is necessary to establish a thread I make use of later in the story (no worries, you haven’t seen where yet).

The Alibi – Chapter 12

Ginni Lister blinked a few times. Her eyes wouldn’t focus at first. Something beeped above her, the rapidity of the beeps increased as her awareness grew. A light blanket covered her, between her and the blanket a clean, fresh-smelling sheet. Her head rested comfortably on a not too-giving pillow. Her left arm rested beside her and above the covers. With in IV inserted and taped in place.

She sat up. Walls painted a soft azure. A nightstand with a beautiful floral arrangement. Some of her personal things on a semi-commercial looking bureau with a vanity and mirror on top.

Voices. Briggs? She followed the voices to a door, a window from slightly above handle-height to the height of a tallish man let her see into a brightly lit and similarly painted hallway.

Briggs stood there. He nodded and talked to someone she couldn’t see. He glanced through the glass, saw her staring, excused himself from whomever he talked with, and entered her room.

“How you doing?”

“Where am I?”

He pulled out his phone and swiped, tapped, swiped. “You’re in recovery. You got out of ICU about two hours ago. The anesthetic is wearing off. You remember what happened?”

She pushed herself so she sat up against her pillow and kept her eyes on him. “I was giving you head. That’s the last thing I remember.”

Briggs nodded. “You started gagging.”

“You must be so proud.”

He paused for a moment but only to focus on a message on his phone. “You turned blue and passed out. I called our building’s emergency services. They stabilized you and got you here. You remember any of that?”

“Where’s here?”

Swipe, swipe, tap. “Topsfield. North Shore. A clinic I know. One where I can trust everyone. You feeling alright?”

“When can I leave?”

Tab. Tab. Swipe. “They’ll probably want to keep you in for observation for at least another day. Want to get the doctor?”

“Personal friend of yours?”

Lane looked up from his phone, shook his head, and went to the door. “Your welcome. I’ll expect you back at work the day after you’re released.”

“You mean they won’t tell you as I’m walking out the door?”

He opened the door and put his phone back in his pocket. “Don’t worry. Our insurance covers everything.”

She listened as the clacking steps of his bespoke shoes died in the hallway and lay back in bed. “Thanks, Briggs. Really appreciate your concern.” She glanced at the IV injection point. Another red mark, a slight swelling, was about an inch above it. “Must’ve not been able to find the vein the first time.”

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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 8 (Yep, New)

(i can tell you right now this chapter will either get moved to a new location.
Extra points if you can guess why (leave your idea in the comments))

The Alibi – Chapter 8

Ed reached up and caressed a ripening apple. It hung like a glittered like a red and green Christmas ornament in the sun. Except for the August heat and the gnarling branches of the apple tree, Ed remembered a childhood with Christmas treats and presents and goodies and smells of baking and roasting permeating his house. He wondered what became of this brothers and sisters. Christmas was one of the few days everyone came together in the orphanage. There were times he missed it so.

He snapped the apple from its stem and bit into it. Sweet nectar of the sun dribbled down his stubbled chin, over his fingers, pooled in his palm.

Morelli’s Impala came up his dirt road. A short bed lowboy, two men in overalls in the cab, came up behind it hiding something big and roundish under a tent sized tarp. A knuckle boom crane sat at the very end of the lowboy, its crane reaching over the tarp and locked in position behind the cab.

Morelli got out of his Impala and pointed to a large shed at the far end of the road, on the far side of the orchard.

Voss shouted, “If what’s under the tarp is sensitive, better let them know that track’s rutted from tractor tires.”

Morelli called up to the lowboy’s cab. “You got that?”

The driver held a thumb’s up towards Voss. The lumper got out of the cab and stood five feet in front of the hood.

“And you damage any growing thing, I’ll put a shotgun shell into whatever’s under that tarp myself.”

Both driver and lumper gave Voss a thumb’s up.

The lumper got ten feet in fromt of the truck, turned to face it, and waved his hands to guide it forward. The driver kept his eyes on the lumper’s hands and never took the lowboy out of low gear. He let the diesel’s idle drive the lowboy forward.

Morelli came up beside Voss. “Did I tell you the Director sends her thanks?”

Voss focused on Morelli’s abdomen before looking up.

“Will you stop doing that?”

“Going to tell me what’s under the tarp?”

“You want G20 or higher security clearance?”

“And you know for a fact this isn’t going to harm my orchards?”

“I asked. Nobody thinks it could. It’s completely passive. No moving parts. Just…” Morelli stopped, looked down, cleared his throat.

“Just a lot of direcitional and distance sensing gear?”

Morelli frowned at him. “What makes you say that?”

“You didn’t do a deep background check on me once your found out who I am?”

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