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Deviance: A Sylvia Wilcox Mystery (Book 7)

Deviance: A Sylvia Wilcox Mystery (Book 7)

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A friend invites Sylvia Wilcox on a relaxing, work-free vacation in the Big Easy. The fun, easy going break from reality is interrupted when a body turns up along the swampy shoreline of a lake. 

Main Tropes

Private detective, female sleuth, New Year's Eve, romantic suspense


Sylvia Wilcox tries yet again to take a vacation. Unfortunately, a dead body spoils her fun.

Intro In Chapter One

Bruce Carpenter had deliberately chosen the last shift of the day at Bayou Sauvage. New Year’s Eve always spurred a party atmosphere in the city, and the late shift was—as he’d expected—almost free of visitors. His drive to New Orleans East had been uneventful, with traffic moving at normal speeds. Since the visitors’ center was empty, he’d been able to head to his boat and spend his volunteer time on the water. The air was thick from morning thunderstorms as his boat cascaded along the water, just beneath a cloud of fog. “You can take off early,” his supervisor told him earlier that afternoon. But Bruce wanted the opposite. He wanted to push out beyond the shallow waterways and whip around in the area where Lake Pontchartrain met the salt water. He whistled softly and sailed along the edge of the Spanish moss.

Launching from an unimproved site near Crabbing Bridge Road off Highway 11, Bruce felt the familiar rise of joy he experienced every time he took to the water. The airboat glided over the calm bayou, creating gentle waves in its wake. Bruce Carpenter tilted his head to the sky and inhaled. Bayou Sauvage was one of his favorite places in New Orleans. The peace and tranquility reminded him of his hometown of Venice, a little place at the bottom of the boot, as his father often said, referring to Louisiana’s shape. Dangerously nestled up against the Mississippi River, it was a portion of Plaquemines Parish that had been the site of many environmental disasters. Hurricane Katrina had almost wiped the place off the map, and after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, his wife, Evie, had asked if they could move.

“Honey, we didn’t have nothing left after Katrina. Now the oil done come. This ain’t where we grew up,” she said in a sweet, quiet voice.

Bruce had considered putting up a fight, but when he looked into Evie’s eyes, he gave in and responded, “Let’s go near the city, then.”

Now Bruce was retired, Della was all grown up, and he was ready to get back to nature. The hurricanes would come, but now they’d just go in-land until it passed. But Evie had found friends and loved heading to the French Quarter and hanging out in all the tourist areas of New Orleans. Bruce always skipped the downtown events, making up excuses about not feeling well, or saying that he was going fishing. Evie knew what he was doing and suggested that he find his happy place. Bayou Sauvage was exactly that. It was his oasis.

As a retired cop, the preserve was happy to have him. Not only was he a fourth-generation fisherman with extensive experience in bayous, but he was also trained as a law officer. Even though the bayou was quiet and safe, the surrounding neighborhoods were not as peaceful. There were several places close to Sauvage that attracted outsiders. It was in Louisiana’s best interest to keep the tourist industry safe. Party bus rentals and people traveling to see the Fisherman’s Castle increased the number of people in the area, but the preserve had mostly saved this side of the lake, keeping development from taking over the breathtaking landscape. As Bruce and the other volunteers worked on re-foresting projects, the likelihood that Bayou Sauvage would remain natural and uninhibited increased. Even with saltwater intrusion, the place was still wild and free from the unfettered build-up of houses and businesses that had struck other parts of the state. 

The airboat skimmed over the water towards St. Tammany Parish. Bruce kept his speed moderate as he drifted through the Rigolets Strait before mashing the accelerator when he emerged in Lake Borgne. The evening was clear and warm, and the clouds from the afternoon thunderstorm had cleared. Seagulls quacked in the background while Bruce daydreamed about the night’s festivities. He was excited to see his sweet daughter, Della, who was flying in from Baltimore for a week’s stay. Evie was at home whipping up a huge spread that included crawfish etouffee and beignets. After he finished his shift patrolling the bayou, he’d head home for a good time with cousins and friends. Bringing in the New Year with loved ones was so much better than spending the night chasing drunk party goers. Why didn’t I retire earlier, Bruce thought, a smile creasing his lips. After twenty-five years as a cop, retirement felt like a new lease on life. Now, he volunteered at Sauvage Bayou, took long walks with Evie, and spent evenings in his backyard, watching the moonlit water. Life couldn’t have been any better. 

Since it was his last round for the night, Bruce headed down toward Shell Beach to get a better look at the breathtaking sunset. Hues of purple and blue filled the sky, pushing Bruce further into a daydream about his childhood.

“This is God’s country,” Bruce said, easing into a soothing nostalgia. The rest of the world fell away and Bruce barely noticed a small boat in the distance, humming across the water. The occupant threw a hand up while careening by. Bruce caught the name of the vessel, Sea Witch, out of the corner of his eye, but didn’t take the time to get a good look at the boat. He threw a hand up, acknowledging the fellow seafarer. Further downstream, a tugboat hugged the edge of the shoreline. It was a little more than a dinghy, and the boat rocked and bobbed wildly. Bruce, lost in a daydream about the coming evening, didn’t notice the potentially dangerous situation. The figures on the boat stumbled and struggled to keep the vessel afloat. Bruce absentmindedly threw up a hand as he cruised past, missing the waving of arms high above one of the tugboat occupant’s head.

As he careened away from Shell Beach, he saw an object bobbing in the water close to the shore. A swath of trees and grass divided the lake, but Bruce was sure there was something out there. Just go home. You ain’t a cop anymore, he thought, but old training dies hard. Bruce steered the boat toward the bobbing item. It was December, so it wasn’t a gator, but it was a large… creature of some sort. Bruce fished his wireframe glasses out of his shirt pocket with one hand, holding his gaze and slipping the spectacles back onto his face. The lump was being dragged under the Spanish moss and pulled toward the shore. Continuing the approach, Bruce saw a woman. Her black tank top clung to her chest, her eyes wide. She was fishing something out of the water.

“Don’t move a muscle! I tell ya, I’ll shoot! Retired cop here! I’m trained and ready!” Bruce yelled, grabbing the Holland and Holland Double Rifle from the rack behind him. The 45 in the tackle box would be better, but the jolt of adrenaline had put him in fight-or-flight mode.

The woman stopped moving, but she continued to clutch the edges of a white shirt that was worn by… a body.

Bruce kept the gun trained on the woman.

“Turn around. Hands up! Face the shore,” he yelled, grabbing his cellphone the moment he saw her back.

The small woman slowly let go of the shirt but grabbed it again when the water started pushing the body away from her. Bruce’s finger twitched against the trigger, but he held back. Don’t shoot. She doesn’t want the body to float away. Would be best for her if it did. Odd, Bruce thought. The woman’s shoulders heaved up and down as she scrambled for the body. Bruce yelled for her to get her hands in the air.

“I’ll put one in ya if ya hesitate!” he yelled.

The woman reluctantly lifted her arms above her head. Bruce’s heart raced as he watched the body slowly drift away.

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