The breeze flowing in from outside flirted with the drawn curtains at the open window, displaying a world of darkness beyond the director’s home office. A large mahogany desk sat between two windows facing the door.
All was quiet in the cozy room, but it was only the calm before the storm.
Purity Drug Rehab Center’s director, Brian Ward, lay in front of his desk on the plush carpeted floor, hand limp, chest still.
A soft knock was heard at the door, then a woman’s voice called, “Brian, dinner is ready.”
Silence was the only reply.
“Brian?” A click signaled the turning of the door knob, followed by the entrance of Beatrice Ward, Brian’s lovely wife. “Brian, dinner is on the table and-” she halted mid-sentence, seeing her husband lying prone on the floor. “Brian?” she cried out, the guttural sound pushing through her throat.
Blood drained from her face, leaving it pasty white. Kicking herself into emergency mode, Beatrice ran to her husband’s side. “Come on, Brian, wake up! Don’t leave me!” She shook his arm, jostling his body.
She placed two fingers over his wrist, searching for a pulse. She felt a steady, albeit light, pressure thump against the weight of her fingers.
Hands shaking, Beatrice reached for the phone on the desk and called for help. She was told an ambulance would be there shortly.
While she waited, Beatrice went to the desk to retrieve his insulin. She pulled the sleeve of her husband’s shirt up and injected the medicine.
Leaving the syringe on the floor by Brian’s still form, she ran shaky hands over her husband’s face. His lips, she noted, were turning blue. “Come on, Brian! Please!” Tears trailed down her cheeks as they clogged her voice. “Don’t leave me! Brian! You can’t leave me!”
Sirens were heard wailing in the distance. Her heart stuttered in terror.
Beatrice left her husband to meet the paramedics at the door. She didn’t give them time to introduce themselves, but grabbed the arm of the man nearest her, pulling him to Brian’s office. He winced as her nails dug into his arm. “He’s back here. I think he’s going into a diabetic coma. He’s not responding to me.” She swallowed a sob. “I gave him an insulin injection when I found him. I don’t know why he didn’t give himself one before he passed out.”
“Ma’am, how long has he been like this?” Cash, the man she had grabbed, dropped his gear on the floor beside Brian’s still form.
She stood back, wringing her hands with worry. “I don’t know. He’s been in his office for hours. I’d finished making dinner and was calling him to eat when I found him like this.”
Cash checked the man’s pulse and began giving him CPR while his partner, Colton, was getting out the defibrillator pads and placing them on Brian’s chest and left side.
“Clear!” Colton said, checking to see if his partner wasn’t touching their patient. He double-checked to make certain neither he nor Cash was in contact with the unconscious man.
Colton pushed the button on the defibrillator, delivering a shock and stopping the heart. The hope was that the body’s pacemaker would then help Brian’s heart to regain the correct rhythm.
Sitting back on his heels, Colton gave his partner a grim look, “He’s stable for now, but we need to transport ASAP.” He turned to the distraught woman. “We need to get your husband to the hospital.”
She nodded her agreement and immediately replied, “I want to go along.”
Colton nodded, “Of course.”
The blaring siren of the ambulance parted traffic, as the emergency vehicle made its way through the city. Colton was busy in the back, setting up an IV of fluids, trying to dilute Brian Ward’s glucose levels to bring them down.
He glanced over at Mrs. Ward, who was running a tissue under her eyes and wiping her nose.
“We’re doing everything we can, Ma’am,” he said, trying to comfort her.
She simply nodded her head, worrying the tissue in her hands. Beatrice rocked back and forth, murmuring under her breath, “I can’t lose him. I can’t lose him. Dear God, I can’t lose him.” A tear streamed down her cheek unchecked.
The ambulance pulled to a stop, and the back doors flew open. Orderlies tugged the gurney out and gently set it on the ground, rolling it towards the emergency entrance of the hospital.
Colton jumped out and offered his hand to Beatrice, who was scurrying down the tight aisle of the ambulance.
She barely gave him notice as she took his hand, quickly releasing it once her feet hit the ground. She ran into the emergency waiting room, following her husband and other emergency personnel.
When they came to two double doors, Beatrice was intercepted by a nurse who grabbed her by the shoulders, making eye contact. “Ma’am, you’re going to have to wait out here. Let us do our job.”
Beatrice’s frantic eyes were large with worry as she said in desperation, “I want to be with my husband!”
The nurse’s voice was gentle, and filled with compassion. “I’m sorry, but you can’t go back there. I’ll let you know how he’s doing as soon as I can.”
More tears threatened to fall as she grasped the nurse by the hand. “Please, keep me updated. I have to know how he is.”
Having extracted the promise, Beatrice let the woman go, and sank into a nearby chair to wait.
Colton walked up to the director’s wife. “Is there anything I can get for you, Ma’am?”
She lifted her head to see the two paramedics who had transported for her husband. Her voice was hoarse from crying as she answered, “No. Thank you.”
“Is there anyone you can call to come sit with you?” Colton’s partner asked.
Her voice broke, “My daughter.” It was then that Beatrice realized she hadn’t brought her purse. “I don’t have my phone.”
Colton handed her his phone. “Use mine.”
Beatrice made the call and asked her daughter to go by their home to pick up a few things. She handed the phone back. “Thank you.” Her head was swimming from everything that had happened in the last half hour.
Colton lightly squeezed her shoulder and said, “I’ll be praying for you and your husband.”
She wiped her eyes with a tissue and said, “Thank you.”
Time was irrelevant, though it felt like Beatrice had been waiting forever to hear news of her husband. Not knowing what was happening to him drove her crazy. She paced, unable to sit still. Growing tired, she sat, but continually fidgeted with her hands.
She jumped when the doors whooshed open. The doctor, along with the nurse who had stopped her, came through, entering the waiting area.
Once she saw that they were coming to speak with her, Beatrice stood, hands clasped in front of herself.
The doctor stopped a couple of feet from her and held out his hand, his eyes somber. “Mrs. Ward, I’m Dr. Whitman.”
“How is he?” she asked desperately.
Dr. Whitman glanced at the nurse, then turned to look back at the man’s anxious wife. “I’m sorry. We did everything we could to save him, but he was in a coma for too long when he came to us.”
Beatrice crumpled to the floor, a sob tearing from her throat. “Dear God, no! I can’t live without my Brian! Please! Nooo!” The last word was drawn out as her body shuddered in grief.
Wrapping an arm around the widow’s shoulders, the nurse attempted to comfort the woman. “I’m so sorry.”
The hospital hall was filled with the anguished cries of the grieving widow.
A full moon was sneaking up behind the mountain range, a light magical feeling floated through the evening air. Anne inhaled the fresh salt air as she and Greg walked along the edge of the ocean. The sound of the waves crashing against the sandy beach filled her ears.
“How long have we been together now?” Greg asked casually.
Anne thought for a moment. “About six months now.”
She felt a hand grip her elbow, and she turned to see Greg had stopped. He gently tugged her around, so they were facing each other. His voice was gentle as he took her hands in his, “Anne, I owe you so much for showing me how to let go of my hate, anger, and unwillingness to forgive.”
Shaking her head, Anne replied, “It wasn’t me. God is the One who did the work in your heart. I was just the instrument He chose to use.”
“You were willing to point out my flawed thinking and taught me what forgiveness looked like by your example.” Greg rubbed his thumbs over the back of her hands. “My reaction to my sister’s death was to hate and seek revenge against those who took Cassie’s life, but you chose to forgive them. Your spiritual life has been healthy because of your choice, where mine was filled with bitterness and was dead.”
Anne smiled and placed her hand on his face. She felt the smoothness of his cheek on the tips of her fingers and the roughness of his stubble in the palm of her hand. “I praise the Lord you allowed Him to work within your heart.” Anne felt a feeling of thankfulness bubble up within her chest. “Now you work to do His will.”
Greg covered the hand she held to his face with his own. “During these last months, the Lord has revealed to me how much I need you by my side.” Greg shifted his feet. “You’ve helped me get right with God. You make me laugh and give me joy. You are a woman of God who wants to do what God would have her do. I see His light in your eyes. You are a beautiful, caring woman whom I am blessed to have in my life.”
The color in Anne’s cheeks heightened as Greg recounted what he saw in her, and she chuckled in embarrassment. As they held each other’s gaze, both could see the deep love they shared.
Greg cleared his throat and dropped to one knee, taking her hands in his.
Anne sniffed and wiped a couple of stray tears from her eyes, then slipped her fingers back into Greg’s hand, giving him her full attention once again.
“Anne Sherril, you are my world and I can’t imagine life without you. You’re the most important person to me. Will you marry me?”
Her smile widened with surprise and laughter bubbled out. Words failed her as she looked down at the diamond ring winking up at her. It was snuggled in the little black velvet box Greg held.
“Well?” he chuckled nervously.
As the shock wore off, Anne squealed, “Yes!”
Standing, Greg whooped. With his fingers shaking, he pulled the ring out of the cushion and placed it gently on her finger.
He pulled her close as they embraced. He didn’t think he could love her any more than he did right then. They stood silently loving each other and cherishing the special sweetness of the moment.
Greg pulled back to meet her eye. “I love you,” he said softly.
“I love you,” she replied. A smile bloomed across her face.
Anne was filled with glee as she thought of Greg’s proposal the night before. The diamond ring glittered on her hand, winking up at her. It felt odd wearing a ring on that finger. She knew it would take some time to get used to the new feeling.
She parallel parked, then watched for a pause in traffic for an opportunity to hop out of her car. After the cargo van, it would be clear but only for a moment. As soon as the van passed, she quickly opened the door and dashed to the sidewalk.
Peering up at the outside of the FBI building, Anne’s neck strained. She couldn’t help but smile. Anne hoped to catch Shelby on her lunch break. The news she had to tell her was too good to keep.
The doors slid open as she approached the entrance. Anne spotted Garret heading in her direction. When he looked up, the agent recognized her and greeted her with a smile. “Hi! What brings you here? I hope another drug lord hasn’t purchased one of the security systems you designed.”
“Not this time,” Anne chuckled. “Actually, I’m here to see Shelby.”
“She’s up in the office,” he told her.
“You’re welcome.” He continued on his way, giving a little wave. “Have a good afternoon.”
As Anne knocked on the open door, she spotted Shelby, red-faced, talking to someone on the phone. Her friend slammed the cell phone down on the desk, mumbling something unintelligible. She had never seen Shelby act so aggravated. Her work must be taking a toll on her, Anne surmised.
Shelby glanced up, spotting Anne. Her face brightened warmly like the sun had come out on a cold foggy morning pushing the gloom away. “Anne! How are you?”
“I’m great,” Anne replied with a smile, but let it slip as she said, “but by the way your phone call ended, I take it your day isn’t going too well.”
“Not really,” Shelby shrugged. She straightened in her chair. “Never mind that. What brings you here?”
“Greg,” she answered.
Shelby’s expression was puzzled. “Then you came to the wrong building.”
“No,” Anne laughed. “He proposed!” she said with delight, holding her hand up to show Shelby her ring.
Shelby’s pleasure bloomed across her face at her friend’s thrilling news. “Anne, that’s great!” She came around the desk to give her a hug. “I’m so happy for you!”
“Thank you!” Anne laughed gleefully.
“Have you set a date?”
“We talked about it briefly,” Anne nodded excitedly, “but nothing concrete.” She took a breath. “Will you be my maid of honor?”
“I would love to!” Shelby was exuberant.
“I was thinking of having lunch together in a few days to begin planning the wedding,” Anne suggested.
Anne stayed long enough to schedule their lunch date, then left to finish the rest of her errands.
Grant tapped on the open door as he entered his supervisor’s office. “You wanted to see me, Sir?”
The wide shouldered man looked up from the report on his desk. His blue eyes were troubled. “Have a seat, Grant,” his tone was heavy with the gravity of the situation he was about to disclose to his agent.
Grant did as he was told.
Rob Stanford folded his hands, resting them on his desk. He leveled his gaze pensively on his subordinate. “We were notified this morning that Brian Ward, the director of a drug rehab center, died either of a drug overdose or he went into a diabetic coma and never came out.”
Grant furrowed his brow. “Sir, did I hear you right?”
“I’m sure you did.”
“Why aren’t they sure of the cause of death?”
“The man was a diabetic. It looks like his medication was switched with the drug kronilan.”
Grant stiffened. “Why would his medication be switched out for a schedule one stimulant drug? And who would do such a thing?” he asked.
“It’s your job to figure that out,” Stanford said, handing over the file.
“Yes, Sir.” Grant accepted the file and stood.
He exited his supervisor’s office and headed for his own. In his office, Grant took a seat and lifted his feet to rest them on top of the desk as he opened the file and began reading the details of the director’s demise.
Coming to the end, Grant flipped to the coroner’s report. With the information from the autopsy report, he went back over the case. One thing stood out in his mind – the wife was the one who had administered the injection. It was possible that she unknowingly gave the drug to her husband believing it to be his medicine. Or, she could have administered the drug on purpose.
The sound of footsteps nearing drew his concentration away from the file. Grant raised his head to see his partner, Josh McKenzie returning from lunch.
“Bring anything back for me?”
“A BLT from Ma’s Café and a strawberry shake as ordered.” Josh set a white bag and cup in front of him.
“No problem.” He settled himself into his chair, nodding to the open file in front of Grant. “We got a new case?”
“Yeah, we did.” Grant ran a hand around his neck and squeezed a tight muscle. “This one is different. I’ve never had a case like it. A drug rehab director, who was diabetic, died because his medicine was apparently switched out for kronilan.”
Josh gave him a doubtful look. “You’re pulling my leg.”
“It’s the honest truth.” Grant grabbed the file and plopped it onto his partner’s desk. “Take a look.”
Josh took a moment to read it, then gave a low whistle. “You weren’t kidding.”
“The only thing we have to go on is the wife. We need to check her out. We need to be careful when questioning her. If she’s innocent and she thinks we’re accusing her of her husband’s death, it’s going to get sticky.”
“Isn’t that the truth.”
After a while, Josh glanced at his partner as he filled a coffee cup. “I’ve got the 4-1-1 on Beatrice Ward.”
Grant looked up from what he was working on. “Let’s hear it.”
Josh came around to his desk, setting the cup down, and picked up the paper with the needed information. “It says here Mrs. Ward is sixty-seven years old; she was married to Brian Ward for five.” He mumbled to himself as he read further down the sheet. “According to this, Beatrice Ward is a model citizen.” Josh lifted his eyes from the paper to his partner. “She’s clean.”
Grant tapped the desk with a pen in thought. “She had the opportunity to replace the medicine with the drug. I still say we should ask some questions.”
“Suit yourself.” McKenzie held up his left wrist to check the time. “Do you want to fit that interview in today?”
“I’ll give her a call to see if she can meet with us.”
“Right.” Josh released the paper in the air, letting it drift down to rest on the surface of the desk. He prepared to move on to another aspect of the investigation.
With raised eyebrows, he eyed his partner. “Yeah?”
“What kind of insurance did Ward have?”
“You think Beatrice didn’t want to wait for her inheritance?”
Grant shrugged his shoulders. “It’s a possibility. People have killed for less.”
Josh picked up the paper containing Ward’s widow’s information. “He was insured for $500,000.”
“That’s nothing to sneeze at,” Grant commented.
Josh was still scanning the page. “There’s something here about a family trust fund that she might have wanted to get her hands on.”
Grant typed something and ran a search on his computer. “I thought the name Brian Ward sounded familiar. Now I know why.”
“He was a physician. He did a medical study and won a famous medical award for it. It came with a monetary gift.”
Grant named the amount as Josh was taking a sip of coffee. When Josh heard the sum of money, he fought to keep from spewing the brew out of his mouth. He quickly swallowed. “That is substantial.”
“Eighteen months later he married Beatrice.”
“Hmm. That does sound like she could have married him for his money.”
“It would definitely sweeten the deal,” Grant agreed.
Grant stopped at the traffic light several blocks away from the DEA office. “I wasn’t able to get a hold of Mrs. Ward. I hope she’ll be home when we get there.”
Josh replied, “Let’s hope she will be cooperative, if she is.”
Before the light turned green, Grant took a drink from the soda he got from the vending machine at headquarters.
Josh watched his partner and made a face. “You know that stuff’s not good for you.”
“This?” Grant lifted the can of Dr. Pepper.
“Drinking water all the time gets boring. A little something now and then won’t hurt. You’re too much of a health nut.”
“I don’t drink only water.”
“That’s all I see you drink, besides coffee, that is.”
“I drink tea, and flavored water,” Josh replied.
“Yeah, teas that are sweetened with sugar or corn syrup.”
“Hey, there are drinks that are sweetened with honey.” Josh pointed to the can Grant held. “There’s a whole lot more bad stuff in that thing than in the beverages I drink.”
“Whatever.” Grant shook his head good-naturedly.
“Plus, my wife makes some pretty good kombucha and other drinks.”
“Ugh, don’t even mention that stuff!” Grant pulled a disgusted face. “So gross!” He faked a shiver.
“Hey, it’s good stuff!” Josh stood up for the fermented tea.
“Nasty!” Grant shook his head.
Josh laughed. “You didn’t give it a fair shot!”
“That’s okay with me,” he chuckled. “You can keep it!” he said, slowing down to park in front of the Ward residence.
Both men walked up the driveway. Grant straightened his tie as he approached the house.
Josh pushed the button on Beatrice Ward’s doorbell. He tucked his hands into his pockets as he waited to be shown into the house, sparing his partner a glance.
A few moments later, the door opened to reveal Mrs. Brian Ward. The elderly woman could pass for his grandmother. Her short white hair was permed and she wore a dark gray, straight, mid-calf length dress fitting for an older woman. The outfit was finished off with a pair of black kitten heeled shoes. Her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. Her eyes were weary and held deep sadness. They were red and puffy. She must have been crying, Grant surmised.
“Can I help you?” she asked. Her voice was shaky and her chin quivered. Beatrice dabbed a tissue under her eyes.
“Mrs. Ward?” Grant took a small step forward.
“We’re from the Drug Enforcement Administration,” he held out his credentials. “I’m Grant Rourke, and this is my partner, Josh McKenzie.”
She shifted her feet, eyeing them quizzically. “What is this about?”
“We are here concerning the circumstances surrounding your husband’s death.”
“Brian?” she noticeably relaxed her shoulders, opening the door a little wider.
“Yes, Ma’am. May we speak with you for a moment?”
“Of course.” She opened the door and stepped back to let them enter.
Grant stepped across the threshold and instantly smelled the warm inviting fragrance of vanilla. Leading them into the living room, Beatrice said, “Excuse my messy house. Usually I keep it impeccable, but with my husband’s passing, I’ve not kept up with the cleaning as well as before.” She lifted her hands, then let them fall as if to show her devastation.
“That’s understandable,” Josh sympathized, noticing the piled dishes in the sink across the wide room in the kitchen. Used tissues were left on a flat surface here and there. “We’re sorry for your loss.”
Beatrice sniffed and nodded in acknowledgment. She gestured to the couch in the living room to the right of the door. “Won’t you sit down?” She took a seat in one of two chairs across from the couch.
Once they were settled, she asked, “You said you have some questions for me?”
“Yes.” Grant cleared his throat. He would try to be as tactful as possible. “We read the report that the police took. It seems that your husband’s passing may not have been a coincidence.”
“Not a coincidence? What do you mean?” Beatrice leaned toward them. “My Brian was a good man and helped many people.” She reached for the tissue box on the end table.
“We don’t doubt that, Mrs. Ward.” Josh shifted on the couch.
“Can you tell us what time you found your husband in his office?”
“I suppose it was around 6:15. I remember because I had fixed a roast that night. Dinner was late. It took longer to cook than it should have.” Her chin trembled, and she brought her hand to her heart as if it physically pained her to talk about the night she lost her husband. “If I had started it earlier, it’s possible that I would’ve gone to Brian’s office sooner and been there in time to save him.”
“There’s no way to know,” Grant answered gently. He was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt in case she was innocent of her husband’s death.
She simply nodded. “I know, but I can’t seem to help thinking I could have done something different. If I had, he might still be here.”
Josh pulled lightly at his collar, betraying his discomfort in the situation he found himself in. “How long did you know Brian Ward before you married?”
“I met him about a month before he was given the AMA medical award.” A sad smile passed across her face as she thought back. “We were married a year and a half later.”
“Where did you meet?”
“I began going to his church shortly after my move from Georgia. Why?”
Grant decided to push a little. “Did you know him before your relocation?”
“No, I told you, we met at church.” He heard equal parts of exasperation and curiosity in her reply. “Why are you asking me these questions?”
Josh decided to fill her in on part of what they had learned in her late husband’s case file. “I’m sorry to have to tell you that there was residue of kronilan in the syringe you used to administer the shot.”
Beatrice’s coloring turned a sickly shade of gray and she grasped the chair’s armrest. “I gave him a drug instead of his medicine?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Josh answered. “The autopsy report stated that a large dose of the drug was found in his system.”
Drawing her white eyebrows together in a question, she asked, “But how can that be? I know I gave him his diabetic medication. I drew it directly from the prescription bottle.”
“It’s quite easy to switch that particular medication for another.” Grant sat on the edge of the couch and hung his hands loosely between his knees. “The diabetic medication is a liquid and the kronilan powder can be dissolved in water, making it a liquid as well.”
Beatrice’s gaze shot to him and narrowed in understanding. “You suspect me of killing my own husband, don’t you?” She drew her shoulders up, stiffening her spine. “How cold and unfeeling can you be? I’ve just lost my husband, and now you’re accusing me of murdering the man I love?”
“We have to check all angles,” Grant said.
“You have to agree, the timing can be a point of interest. The timing of when you met your husband correlates with the time he received his award money,” Josh pointed out.
“But I told you that I met my husband a month before he received the award money!” she cried in frustration, her eyes revealing her hurt.
Josh was quick to counter, keeping his tone even, “Yes, but even then it would have been common knowledge that he was the one who would be awarded the monetary gift.”
Beatrice rose stiffly and raised her chin haughtily. “I believe you gentlemen have overstayed your welcome. I must ask you to leave me in peace to grieve my beloved husband.”
Both men stood. Grant had to admit, if she was guilty, she was playing a convincing part.
“Forgive us for having to ask you these difficult questions, but I have but one more question.” Grant saw the woman’s defenses rise even more as his partner applied a bit more pressure. “If you didn’t change out the drug, do you have any idea how the medication was switched out for the drug?”
Beatrice bit her wrist, trying to ease the emotional pain she felt coiled up tightly in her chest. She then brought it down to tightly latch onto her other hand. “‘If?’ How many times must I tell you, young man?” The next words came through clenched teeth, “I. Did. Not. Kill. My. Husband! You should quit questioning innocent people who find themselves victims by affiliation and find the real killers!”
A few moments later, Grant and Josh found themselves standing on the porch, facing the road, the door slamming behind them. The widow’s ragged sobs escaped through the door.
Grant rubbed his neck in agitation. “We either made a really bad mistake, or she is one good actress.”
Premeditated is currently only available on Amazon, Kindle Unlimited, and my library (Cover to Cover membership required).
A Trust Betrayed, Lives Sabotaged, A Love Undaunted
Anti-drug activists are being sabotaged by the very substance they abhor.
Someone is targeting anti-drug activists and anyone that has dared to support the war against drugs. DEA Agents Grant Rourke and Josh McKenzie have been assigned to figure out who’s behind it, and take the fatal doses of kronilan off the streets for good.
But, while they work to put an end to the latest string of drug-related crimes, whoever is behind the kronilan distribution begins coming for their friends and family, including Grant’s ex-partner – former DEA Agent Greg Nelson by way of Greg’s fiancé, Anne.
Can Grant and Josh get to the bottom of this before it’s too late?
Premeditated is a fast paced, page turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat and guessing until the very end.