Conduct Unbecoming is the second Teague McMurtry Mystery. A year has passed since the frightening events of The Ninja Tattoo. Teague gets a call from an old girlfriend, Aileen. She asks him to look for their friend, Nadeya, who has disappeared. Teague begins his search with the help of his friend, Jasper Waters. By strange twist of fate, Jasper finds Nadeya first.
As he approached the door, he prayed for inspiration. It was going to take some fast talking for Nadeya not to freak out and kill him. He raised his hand to knock. Rethinking his position, he moved so he wasn’t standing directly in front of the door, but slightly to the side so the thick, log wall protected him. He tapped lightly and waited for a response. The curtain over the tiny window moved aside imperceptibly. Only someone trained to be observant would have seen it.
Jasper faced the window and smiled. “I’m Jasper Waters,” he said quietly. “I’m a friend of Teague’s. You hid on my boat.”
The door opened a crack and one dark, wary eye peered at him. “I remember you. What?”
“May I come in? The skeeters are pretty nasty and they’re feasting on me.”
Nadeya took a step back, leaving barely enough room for Jasper to squeeze through. She shut the door with her foot and slammed him against the wall, one hand pulled up at an uncomfortable angle behind him. She did a thorough frisking of him, leaving no areas untouched, before letting him go. She stepped out of easy reach, eyeing him with a neutral expression.
“I just want to talk,” Jasper said, holding his hands slightly from his sides.
“You’re a cop. Why should I talk to you?”
“Because I don’t think you killed that man on the beach. We’re both friends of Teague’s, maybe we could build on that.”
“Teague has lots of friends. . . .”
“No, Teague knows every damn body, but there are only a few of us he calls friends. You’re one of them—He told me what happened to your fiancé.”
She tightened up. Jasper took a step back, raising his hands.
“Would he share that with just anyone?”
Nadeya’s lower lip trembled slightly and she blinked hard. Jasper caught the hint of a tear in her eyes.
“He wouldn’t unless he knew I would help. You think I drop what I’m doing and run everyone out to a crime scene just cause I’m nice? Teague and I trust each other and I’d like to extend that courtesy to you, if you’ll let me.”
She stared at him several minutes, sizing him up. She gestured to one of the two chairs near the window. “Want some water or instant coffee? It’s all I’ve got.”
“Water would be good, thanks.” Jasper sat.
Nadeya got two bottles of water out of the mini-fridge and tossed him one. Jasper caught it with a grin. His left hand gripped it as he twisted it open.
“Nicely done. Now you know I’m a lefty.”
Nadeya smirked. “And you’re not armed. I could have taken your head off.”
“Yup, but I trusted you wouldn’t. And I thank you for that.”
She nodded as she opened her own bottle. “So, you’re here, talk.”
Jasper told her what he and Teague had figured out about the man on the beach. He even told her about C.L.A.D.
“Bits and pieces, nothing concrete. What do you know?”
Nadeya looked furtive. “I shouldn’t tell you. We could get in a lot of trouble.”
Jasper held his hands out, palms up. “Who am I gonna tell? Except maybe Teague. Look, the more we know about this, the better. What do you say?”
She looked away, biting her lip. “I don’t know much more than you do. They intended it as a new interrogation technique. It’s supposed to be a way to reprogram people’s minds.”
“Like brain washing?”
“Kind of. More sophisticated, but still a way to break them. I know that someone else got ahold of it though. They were using it on us!” Anger flared in her eyes.
“Us—as in you personally?”
“No. But some of our soldiers. There was a captain I heard of, they tried to kill him off in a raid, but he took out everyone who attacked his convoy. They stole his memories and gave him a fucking medal.”
“Shit! How do you know about that?”
“The subject came up as they tortured my fiancé,” she mumbled.
“Oh, Nadeya, I’m sorry.”
“I know that. Next to Teague, you’re the only man I trust.”
Jasper exhaled sharply. “That’s quite a compliment. Thank you. I know you can’t possibly feel safe here. Would you like to come to my house?”
Her eyes grew hard. Jasper pressed his lips together, shaking his head.
“I’ve got a hell of a security system. Even you would have trouble sneaking through. I’ve got a couple acres around my place so I can see trouble coming and I’m armed better than Fort Knox. I’ve got a guest room with your name on it.”
Nadeya relaxed. “And leave this luxury accommodation?”
“I’ve got more to drink than water and instant coffee. I’ll even throw in breakfast.”
Nadeya’s smile was shaky. Taking a deep breath, she tried to smile again. Tears welled before she could stop them. She didn’t trust her voice, so she nodded.
© Dellani Oakes 2015