I Love to Write!

Inge-Lise Goss, Author

BURNING WATER: A Gwynn Reznick Mystery

A lethal conspiracy spirals out of control as

more people are silenced in its wake.



Gwynn Resnick returns as a rookie private

investigator and goes undercover at an oil company

that’s central to her assigned case. Ingratiating herself with a tough crew of oil field workers, she unravels the connecting threads linking murders and mysterious disappearances. Money shortages and illicit affairs point to multiple suspects. Gwynn faces mortal danger as she gets closer to discovering the truth and her cover slowly disintegrates.

“Through an intricate weaving of characters, the thrill of suspense, and expected danger, Inge-Lise Goss devises an alluring novel. Burning Water is a complex book that keeps the reader deeply engrossed as the plot intertwines with a more devious plan.” —Peggy Jo Wipf, Readers’ Favorite Reviewer


“Burning Water melds subgenres: part hardboiled detective, part romance, part police procedural, part existential, and part crime-solving.”—
Vincent Dublado, Readers’ Favorite Reviewer


"The pace is energetic and engaging.”—
Kimberlee J. Benart, Readers’ Favorite Reviewer

PROLOGUE

 When Harris arrived for a last minute Friday night meeting, he saw two trucks with H&E company logos, and a souped-up red pickup parked along the gravel road. Scratching his formidable jawline, he climbed out of his truck while noticing the earlier downpour had displaced gravel and a section of the plank walkway in front of the office trailer.

Trudging through the mud and muck, Harris heard a sudden loud cracking noise that sounded like someone chopping wood. He glanced around the supply trailer, but didn’t spot anyone in the dimly lit area.

As soon as he reached the metal steps that led to the office trailer door, he scraped the soles of his boots against the lowest step’s edge and watched chunks of mud drop to the ground. Entering, his eyes fixed on Uri, a newly acquired stepson of a company partner. The college kid had called him to attend the meeting.

“Where’s your new stepfather?” Harris plopped down in a chair.

“He ain’t new no more. Been married to Mom almost a year.”

Harris grimaced. College hadn’t improved the kid’s grammar. Thinking one of the company trucks belonged to the partner, he asked, “Is he around here someplace?”

“Nope. On his way.” The kid got a beer out of the fridge.

“There’s a mess outside. After the storm, why didn’t you get Jack to stretch out planks of wood on the missing section of the walkway?”

“Done that.”

“Well, he hasn’t done it.”

Uri shrugged. “How many times you expect me to ask him?”

“As many times as it takes to get the job done. Who came in the other company truck?”

“Don’t know.” The kid took a swig of his beer.

“Besides your stepfather and me, who else is scheduled to attend this meeting?”

The kid shrugged again and then eyed Harris up and down. “Why’d you do it?”

“Do what?”

“You know what.”

“Wasn’t me, and you know damn well who it was.”

“Fess up, man.”

“Nothin’ to fess up.”

Uri stood. “Better think it over before they get here.” He crushed the empty beer can, threw it in the trash, and walked to the door. “Gotta check up on Jack.”

Watching Uri leave, Harris thought that Uri had to know the identity of the culprit, but also thought the kid wasn’t all that smart. Does Uri completely lack common sense? Harris still couldn’t figure out why the partner wanted to meet way out here instead of at the office in the city and wondered if Uri had given him the wrong location. He heard banging sounds coming from outside and went to the window. Seeing the backs of two men laying out planks, he guessed the kid probably had it right. 

Harris grabbed a soda from the fridge and drank it as the noise outside continued. When he no longer could hear any sounds drifting into the trailer, he opened the door. Not seeing anyone, he yelled, “Uri, Jack?”

After waiting for an answer, he closed the door and checked his watch—8:25 p.m. Since the meeting had been scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Harris pulled out his cell phone and called the main office. The kid might’ve given me the wrong location.

“H&E. May I help you?”

Recognizing the voice of the middle-aged receptionist, Harris asked, “Audrey, is there a meeting going on there?”

“No.”

“Was there a meeting there earlier?” Harris asked, assuming he had missed it.

“No.”

“Is Ellsworth in?”

“Heavens, no. He left here at five sharp, anxious to get home to the new Missus.  I’m just staying a little late trying to catch up on some accounting. Harris, is there a problem?”

“I thought there was a meeting tonight. I must’ve written it down wrong in my calendar.” Harris knew if he claimed that Uri had given him the wrong information, it would end up being his word against Uri’s and he had more important battles to fight.

“Let me check Mr. Ellsworth’s calendar. He does have a meeting set up for Tuesday evening and your name has been penciled in. He probably expects you to attend. I’ll ask him on Monday and let you know.”

“Thanks, Audrey.”

Feeling irritated that Uri had screwed up and not given him the right day, Harris pushed his cell into his pocket and headed out the door. He saw orange cones lined along the wood planks to keep people from straying from the repaired walkway.

As Harris strode on the planks, he noticed the souped-up pickup, Uri’s vehicle, and the company truck that had been parked next to it were gone. A loud clanging noise caught his attention. He swung his head in that direction and saw a silhouette, smoking a cigarette, in the shadows by the supply trailer. “Jack, is that you?”

“No,” replied a tall, muscular man, decked out from head to foot in cowboy gear, stepping out of the shadows.

Harris knew his adversary well and assumed he was the reason behind Uri’s call to tell him to come to a meeting that had never been scheduled with the partner. Instead, it was with the man walking toward him, the culprit responsible for the deed Uri had asserted that Harris had committed. “What’s the plan here? Are we going to duke it out? Must admit, I still can’t figure out why you did it. Enlighten me.”

To prove his innocence, Harris had secured information that showed the real guilty party, and had planned to reveal it to the partners when his uncle returned from a business trip. Seeing his enemy’s steely eyes boring into him, Harris figured somehow the guy had learned there was evidence that fingered him. 

Keeping an eye on the culprit, Harris picked up his pace along the planks. The muscular man had a reputation for brawling, and Harris knew the bully could easily beat him to a pulp. He slightly tripped when his feet landed in an open space between the wood planks. Then came a loud click and snap as the teeth of an animal trap pierced through one of his leather boots into his skin.  He pressed his lips together to prevent a moan from escaping, but at the same time feeling relieved that his boot took the brunt of the teeth, preventing them from hitting his bone.

Bending down to pry the trap open, he sensed the bully hovering over him. “’Fraid you might have lost the fight, and this is how you plan to make sure that doesn’t happen?”

“Never planned to fight.”

“Then get me a crowbar,” Harris said, trying unsuccessfully to force the contraption apart. He noticed puddles of oil were in the mud surrounding his boots and the trap. Fear shot through his body as he recalled the cigarette in his enemy’s hand. He attempted to free his foot from the boot.

“You think you can escape that way?” taunted his enemy, holding a crowbar in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. “You’re not going to need this.” He tossed the crowbar and dropped the cigarette by Harris’s feet.

“This is how you plan to handle your problem?” Harris fixed his eyes on the cigarette that appeared to have been snuffed out in the mud and oil.

“From where I’m standing, it looks like you’re the one with the problem.”

Suddenly, flames rose around Harris’s boots. “You won’t get away with this!” He tore off his shirt and attempted to extinguish the fire with it.

“Don’t count on it.”

 “My uncle will see you hang for this!”

“Not likely. Paid plenty for a good alibi.”

As flames shot up to his bare chest, Harris moaned and shouted obscenities at the man backing away from him. The hot ripping pain consuming his body intensified. The last sound he heard was an ear-piercing scream coming from his own throat.


 

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