"Without knowing who to trust, you're already dead" 

In 2010, a badly injured, unclothed woman is found with the mutilated remains of a special forces team in Afghanistan and brought to a field hospital. Before anyone can determine who she is or why she was there, high ranking military Chaplain Gabriel (Gabe) Wingford arrives to give her a U.S. Military identity and take her out of the country.

Moving to 2014, Gabe is retired and serving as police chaplain in Utica, Oklahoma. Angeline (Angie) has no memory of her existence before encountering Gabe. She is exceptionally perceptive and working as an investigative consultant for the police department.

When a pregnant woman is murdered, Gabe and Angie discover she is a patient of Utica's groundbreaking fertility clinic that is working miracles for women who are unable to conceive. As the investigation progresses, they discover dark forces are behind the DNA research and a battle between Heaven and Hell is underway for the soul of Utica with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

 

Chapter 1. Afghanistan

“Say again Whiskey Tango Three.”

“We spotted remains.”

“From Rogue Seven?”

“There’s no sign of uniforms or equipment, just body parts, everywhere.”

“Taliban devils,” cursed Colonel Jacobs.

“It has to be them,” said Corporal Clark the twenty-four-old radio operator.

Removing his hat while rubbing his close-cropped hair Jacobs mumbled, “Not again.”

“What do you mean, Sir?”

Ignoring Clark’s question Jacobs said, “Pull the file on Rogue Seven. I have death notices to write.”

“Yes Sir.” As Clark retrieved the personnel records, several bursts of static, then an intermittent voice transmission came through the overhead speaker.

“One alive, but ...”

Jacobs listened for ten seconds, then keyed the microphone and said, “One of ours?”

More long seconds passed and Jacobs was about to call again when the broken transmission continued. “No ID … what’s left … barely ... trying to ... language … can’t understand … ”

“Don’t wait for medevac,” said Jacobs. “Bring him in now. We’ll have a translator standing by.”

After two minutes of silence Whiskey Tango Three replied, “Not sure a translator will help. She’s not Afghan. She’s one of ours, but I don’t understand the language.”

When the Corporal’s eyes met the Colonels, Clark said, “There were no women ...”

Jacobs cut him off, keyed the mic again and said, “No more chatter until you arrive. Is that clear?”

` “Yes Sir.”

Glaring at Clark, Jacobs said, “That goes for you, too. Not a word to anyone. Understand?”

“Yes Sir.”

Jacobs stepped outside the communication center into the chill of a mid-winter afternoon with the sun sinking below distant mountaintops. Observing the eighteen structures surrounded by a twelve foot, three-stage security barrier comprising this forward outpost in Nimruz province, the veteran commander looked skyward for a moment, and then went back inside to call central command.

The beat of rotors pierced the silence of darkening skies twenty minutes later. Three medics, one male and two females stood by the landing pad in a corner of the base to receive the patient. When the aircraft touched down, the copilot stepped out and opened the side door. As the medics moved forward, he pushed in front of them and took the woman from the arms of the gunner. Her fair skinned arms and legs dangled limp as her dark hair was blown in all directions by the rotor wash.

As the gurney passed through the med center doors, Jacobs saw a flight jacket covered her and he took hold of the copilot’s arm.

He looked at Jacobs and said, “She tried to talk, but it was gibberish. I speak Pashto and Russian and couldn’t understand any of it.”

“We’ve got her, son. Take the crew to my quarters and don’t say a word to anyone until I get there.”

“Yes Sir,” he replied, saluting, then hustled back to the chopper.

Chief medical officer Stan Kinnerson placed his stethoscope on the woman’s chest. After a few seconds he said, “Breathing is shallow and unrestricted. Trauma one.”

Jacobs said, “Keep the staff treating her to a minimum, and I need an assessment of her condition.”

“Yes Sir, Colonel.”

The three medics accompanied Kinnerson into the trauma room as other members of the staff stare briefly before returning to their duties. Kinnerson returned in five minutes and said, “She’s stable, but still unconscious. Do you know her?”

“No. What else?”

“She has bruising all over her body, but not from fists, a gun barrel, or anything I recognize. The most serious injuries are deep gashes on her upper back, but there’s virtually no bleeding. It’s almost like something was, well, I’m not going to speculate. I took the required DNA sample and we’re doing a head CT and x-rays of her body. Nothing seems broken, which is a miracle given all the bruising. Did I hear the chopper crewman say she was talking?”

“Nothing understandable.”

“I’m sure she’ll need something for pain, although I’m reluctant to give her anything until she wakes up. We’ll finish the exam, clean her up and keep a close eye on her. What’s our next move, Colonel?”

“Command is sending someone.” Looking at his watch Jacobs continued, “I’m going to debrief the chopper crew. Send for me if she wakes up before I come back.”

“Will do, Sir.”

 

Inspiration to write Welcome to Utica. While working on ideas for follow up stories for One Drug, I became inspired to create a story set in Tulsa with a plot twist beyond anything I’ve previously written. I received permission from several friends to use their names as characters, as well as well known Tulsa businesses, and put the iconic Golden Driller on the cover to identify it as a Tulsa story.

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