A midshipman's six-story fall onto a plaza at the United States Naval Academy is classified initially as an accident. The Academy's administration-none-too-affectionately called the 'Dark Side' by the midshipmen-attempts to brush the ensuing controversy under the rug. But a bizarre twist complicates what might otherwise be a tidy cover-up, and pulls Midshipman first class Julie Markham into the incident in a highly embarrassing manner. Suddenly there are rumors of homicide.
Julie's flawless reputation, high academic standing, and athletic achievements make her an unlikely suspect, but her father, Ev Markham, an Annapolis graduate who is now a professor there, knows the extremes to which the Dark Side will go to protect the Academy from scandal. Fearing Julie will be sacrificed to appease the rising public outcry, he hires high-powered attorney Liz DeWinter as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service begins an investigation.
Meanwhile, Jim Hall, the Academy's civilian security officer, explores a trail of violent pranks in the locked subterranean tunnels connecting the Academy to Annapolis proper-tunnels that lead to an unsolved murder. But as he follows, Jim finds himself becoming the quarry instead of the hunter, pursued by an ingenious predator whose dark secret is hidden deep beneath the Academy's pristine grounds and sterling traditions.
Darkside is a twisting, relentless thriller by an Annapolis insider-simply, Deutermann at his best.
|Publisher:||St. Martin''s Publishing Group|
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About the Author
P. T. Deutermann is an Annapolis graduate who retired from the Navy as a captain, to begin his writing career. He is the author of seven previous novels. He lives with his wife on their family farm in Georgia.
P. T. DEUTERMANN is the author of many previous novels including Pacific Glory, which won the W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction. Deutermann spent twenty-six years in military and government service, as a captain in the Navy and in the Joint Chiefs of Staff as an arms-control specialist. He lives with his wife in North Carolina.
Read an Excerpt
By P. T. Deutermann
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2002 P. T. Deutermann
All rights reserved.
The ashen-faced cook was close to hyperventilating. He was sitting at the first table inside the mess hall, hands clamped down on spread knees, eyes bulging wide open, staring straight ahead, as if not wanting to see the red stains all over his whites.
"Hey, man, it's okay," Jim Hall said. "Just take it slow. Breathe. No, slower. Deep breaths. Slower. Yeah. That's it. Take a minute. It's gonna be okay."
The cook, a pudgy white guy in his forties, didn't respond, but he began to get his breathing under control. Jim looked at his shoes. He, too, did not want to dwell on the cook's gore-spattered uniform. He imagined he could smell it, and felt his stomach do a small flop. Finally, the cook looked up at him.
"'Okay'? Okay? Hell it will," he croaked. "It was like ... like he was trying to fly."
"The guy? It looked like he was trying to fly. I saw him. One split second. Arms wide, like one of those high divers, you know? His eyes were closed, though. Like he knew."
Well, no shit, Jim thought. Of course he knew. Doing a swan dive from six stories onto flagstone? Yeah, the dude probably knew.
"Young guy?" Jim asked. He'd seen the body. It was actually a reasonable question.
"Yeah, probably a plebe. I mean, like, a really young face."
Jim nodded. He tried again to shut out the image of the wreckage out there in the plaza between the mess hall and the eighth wing. Wait till the breakfast formation gets a load of that. He felt his stomach twitch. People had no idea.
He made a couple of notes, waiting to see if the cook had anything more to add. Then he heard one of the EMTs outside call in the DOA code. Got that right, he thought. The semirigid cook now had beads of sweat all along his forehead, and his lips were turning a little blue. Jim stepped over to the double doors and called the EMTs to come over. One pushed through the doors of what was formally called King Hall, the Naval Academy's hangarlike mess hall. The cook looked like he was about to flop and twitch on them.
Jim motioned with his chin. The medic took one look and went right to work. Then a short, scowling Navy captain came through the doors and signaled that he wanted to talk to Jim. And here we go, Jim thought, closing his notebook. Here we go.
As he headed back through the doors, he wished the NCIS agents would hurry the hell up. He definitely did not want to deal with Capt. D. Telfer Robbins, the commandant of midshipmen, all by himself, no way in hell. And he really didn't want to see any more of that mess out there in the plaza.
He scanned the small crowd outside. As the Naval Academy's civilian security officer, he was nominally in charge of the scene until the Naval Criminal Investigative Service people showed up. There were the Academy's own police, a couple of Annapolis cops, and some shocked-looking naval officers. The impatient captain was waiting for him next to his official sedan, rising up and down on the balls of his feet, a cell phone in his hand and anger bright in his eyes. Jim resisted the urge to page the NCIS office again, just as the 6:30 reveille bells began to ring throughout the eight wings of Bancroft Hall. He was pretty sure he knew exactly what the commandant was going to say to him.CHAPTER 2
Everett Markham, full professor of international law and diplomacy in the Political Science Department, Division of Humanities and Social Studies, United States Naval Academy, banged his head on an open cupboard door and dropped his coffee mug, all in one graceful move. He swore as he batted the offending door shut, rubbed his head, and groped around the darkened kitchen floor for the mug, which, fortunately, had been empty. He couldn't find it.
This is what it's like to turn fifty, he thought. Need coffee in the morning just to get stereo vision, and every supposedly inanimate object in the house knows it and lies in wait for you. Or, you could turn on the damned light, he said to himself. But that would hurt my caffeine-deprived eyes. He realized he was doing this a lot these days, talking to himself, even holding some fairly detailed conversations in his head on the most absolutely inane topics. He gave up, turned on the kitchen lights, opened one and then the other eye, and spied the mug lurking next to the center island. He managed to plug in the tiny Krups coffeemaker without executing himself, rubbed the back of his head again, and went out to the front porch to see where the village idiot had thrown his Washington Post this time.
Ev Markham was a widower. He lived alone in a large two-story house overlooking the head of Sayers Creek, which was an inlet of the Severn River just upstream of the Naval Academy. The house had belonged to his parents, and he'd grown up in Annapolis, in the shadow of the Academy. Like more than a few such kids, Ev had been mesmerized from an early age by the proud ranks of midshipmen bedecked in blue and gold, the midweek parades, the boom of the saluting guns, the thunderous Army-Navy game pep rallies, choral recitals in the cathedral-like chapel at Christmas-time, and those big mysterious gray ships anchored from time to time out in the bay. His father, who had served in the Navy during World War II, had been a doctor with good political connections in both the capital and in the Yard, and he'd eased the way for an appointment for Ev, who had graduated from the Academy himself in 1973.
He retrieved the plastic-wrapped newspaper out of an injured camellia bush, frowned at the broken branches, summoned visions of retribution, and then went back into the house. Maybe if he put up a piece of piano wire across the sidewalk, say about neck-high, Einstein might slow down long enough to put the paper somewhere near the front porch. But then he remembered that the paperboy was no longer a boy on a bike, but an elderly Korean gentleman driving a little Japanese pickup truck. And besides, there never had been sidewalks. He plodded back to the kitchen, poured a mug of coffee — into the cup this time — and went out onto the back porch, which overlooked two hundred feet of lawn and trees descending to the creek. Two sincerely ambitious Yuppies were straining at their oars as they sculled out from the other side in their fancy singles. The water was perfectly still, and they cut through the foot-high mist like competing phantoms under power.
His lawyer and best friend, Worth Battle, harped incessantly on the subject of Ev's living alone in a house so full of family memories. Worth also kept trying to set him up with lady friends, but, with the possible exception of one really nice lawyer, none of them had raised even a spark of interest. He smiled at the thought of going through life with a name like Worth Battle. Back when they had been plebe-year roommates at the Naval Academy, Ev had appreciated all the hell his roomie caught for having such a name, because it deflected a lot of fire from himself. As early as plebe summer, they had speculated that one day Worth would have to become a lawyer, if only to get even.
The problem was, Ev loved the old house. He lived in it mortgage-free, and now, with five wooded acres directly overlooking Sayers Creek and within healthy walking distance of the Academy and the state capitol, it was worth a small fortune. But more than that, he'd grown up here. It was the only home he'd ever had. It was also the only home his daughter, Julie, had ever known, and during the past four years, it had allowed him to see much more of her than did most parents of midshipmen. It was a place she could bring her friends and classmates, a place where they could act like normal college kids once in awhile instead of spit-and-polish tin sailors. But since his wife, Joanne, had died, he'd seen less of Julie than he'd have liked. And when she graduated in a few weeks, he'd see nothing of her except for the occasional Christmas leave, as she dropped into that same naval aviation pipe he'd been in for so long. The irony did not escape him. Pretty soon, there'd be nothing but memories here. Good ones and not so good ones. Then he might actually have to decide.
The phone rang. It was Julie. Midshipman First Class Julie Markham, United States Naval Academy, he reminded himself. Soon to be Ensign Julie Markham, United States Naval Reserve.
"Dad!" she said breathlessly, scattering his ruminations with her energy. "Have you heard?"
"Heard what, Jules?" he asked patiently. Julie seemed to go through life at full burner lately, as commissioning day approached.
"A plebe. Fell. Or jumped. Off the eighth wing's roof. Into the road between King Hall and Mitscher Hall. Mega-gross. Like, fire-hose city."
"Thanks for sharing, Julie," he said, quickly blanking out the gory image. He'd seen the aftermath of a plane captain falling eighty-four feet from the flight deck of a carrier onto the pier below, courtesy of a jet engine turnup. "What do you mean, fell or jumped?"
"Oh, you know. Dark Side is saying that of course he fell; the word in the Brigade is that he jumped."
"You're going to have to lose that 'Dark Side' business once you get out there in the fleet, Julie. Your senior officers won't appreciate that stuff."
"And they do something about it, from what I've been told, which is, of course, why they're called the Dark Side."
"Yeah, but think about this: You go naval air, you're looking at almost a ten-year obligated service. By then, you'll be up for light commander. How do you make the transition to O-four if you've been calling everyone who's an O-four or above the Dark Side?"
"Oh, Da-ad," she said. "Ten years? That's eons from now. Hey, I gotta run — it's two-minute chow call."
"Rock and roll," he said, but she was already gone. He hung up the phone. It was almost amusing, he thought, how pervasively the fleet junior officer culture infected the Brigade, especially the seniors, or firsties. After the naval aviation Tailhook scandals of the early nineties, many junior aviators felt they had been made scapegoats for incidents to which a nonzero number of very senior officers had also been party. Some of these senior officers had been only too willing to offer up an unlimited number of JO careers if that meant they could save theirs from the ensuing feminazi witch-hunts. The JOs had secretly begun calling any officer over the rank of lieutenant "the Dark Side," with a cultural nod to Darth Vader of the Star Wars films. When this term filtered up to the senior officers, there were immediate and heavy-handed back-channel thunderations, which, of course, only served to cement the appellation.
He finished his coffee and went upstairs to get ready for work. His first class today was at ten o'clock, so there was plenty of time. One of the bennies of being a full prof. But maybe too much time, because as he entered the bedroom, he was struck again by how quiet the damned house was. It didn't even have the decency to creak and groan, like any self-respecting fifty-year-old house should. He felt the familiar flush of desperate loneliness that seemed all too ready to overwhelm him at moments like this. He took a deep breath and willed it away.
She was gone.
That's all, just gone. Just gone. And there was nothing he could do. He had gone through his entire life asserting control over himself and his circumstances. But when that state trooper had come to the door, stone-faced, rain-soaked hat in hand, Ev had known in an instant that those days of even keels and steady, visible purpose had just been hit by a large torpedo. Just like Joanne. Who was just — gone.
They had had the life they'd had. All the memories were banked, the good ones gaining ground, the not so good ones fading like old newsprint, visible if you really wanted to see it, but disappearing if you were willing to leave it in a drawer somewhere for long enough.
You do this one day at a time, he told himself. Just like the twelve-steppers down at AA. You concentrate on what you're going to say at the ten o'clock seminar. You focus on doing the next thing — shower, shave, get dressed. He swallowed hard as he stood there in the bedroom. He knew all the standard nostrums by heart, could hear all his friends reciting them so sincerely and earnestly. Meaning well. Trying to help. Breathing silent sighs of relief that it hadn't happened to them.
He couldn't help wanting to remind some of them.
He looked at himself in the full-length mirror hanging on the bathroom door. Just over six feet, black hair — well, mostly black — a narrow, lean face with intense brown eyes, a crooked nose, courtesy of an unruly canopy, and more lines than had been there the last time he'd looked. He'd managed to keep himself fit and trim, which, given the physical fitness culture of the Academy, was unremarkable. But the lines were deeper and the shadows under his eyes more pronounced. Funny how living alone changed things, and how the body kept score.
He sighed. Damned house was ambushing him again. Maybe Worth was right. The day after Julie threw her hat in the air at graduation was going to be emotional for them both. The day after that, once she had driven away to Pensacola and her new life, was going to be a genuine bitch.
"But right now," he said out loud, "it's shower time."
That's right, it's me. Aren't you glad? Sure you are. I've just been walking down the passageway, yelling at the chow-callers to keep their eyes in the boat, and, just maybe, they won't attract my attention. They don't want to attract my attention, because today I'm Psycho-Shark, man-killer, man-eater.
I love to look at all the pretty plebes, the live ones. Standing rigidly at attention next to the upperclassmen's rooms, clamoring like the sheep they are, counting down the minutes until morning meal formation. As if the superior beings inside the rooms didn't know what time it was. "Sir! There are now three minutes until morning meal formation! The menu for this morning is ..." Seriously dumb!
There was one who didn't get the word about me. I gave him the Look. Let my eyes go blank, opened my mouth just a little, showed all my teeth, slowed my stride fractionally, made it look like I was turning in his direction, just like a big tiger shark, perusing prey, easing past the target, then the sly turn, the effortless dip and bank of pectorals. I love it when their voices pitch up a note or two as they continue to shout out the required formula while pretending — no, hoping, praying — I'm not coming back to them.
They know, the plebes. They know about me, even if a lot of my so-called classmates don't. It's the nature of prey to recognize a predator, you see. And I am, by God, a predator. A top predator, in every sense. They get a come-around to my room, they don't sleep the night before. Especially the girls.
There's one girl they call Bee-bee, the fat girl. Bee-bee for Butterball. All quivering chins and heaving bosoms under that flushed face. Trying desperately not to acknowledge that I'm walking past. I can smell the sweat on her from twenty feet away — we can do that, you know. We have a truly excellent sense of smell. All those tiny, exquisitely tuned dermal receptors. It's a chemical thing. Just kidding, of course. But sharks can do that, so I assume the profile as much as I can. For Bee-bee, I change my sequence. Just a little. Slow down, turn my head, oh so casually in her direction, stare down at her — belt buckle, yes, and listen to her squeak. What does she think I'm looking at, her crotch? Not with that fat roll hanging over her belt, I'm not.
But you know what? I can smell her fear. She's not going to make it here. The Dark Side hates fat midshipmen. As well they should. Fat people are lazy, unmotivated. Natural prey, by definition. As I've always said, the girls can stay, but only if you remain sleek and strong.
I prowl every day. My grand passage to formation. I leave my room with just less than two minutes to get down the ladder to the zero deck and out onto the formation yard. I have it timed, you see. Right to the second. After almost four years of this bullshit, any competent firstie does. That's how I make it look so effortless, arriving at the edge of the formation just as the bells ring, always supremely casual, totally nonchalant, just like a big shark rising from somewhere down in the deep gloom, appearing miraculously alongside and slightly below a school of underclassmen. Well, what the hell, it is morning meal formation. You know, chow time? Heh-heh.
Excerpted from Darkside by P. T. Deutermann. Copyright © 2002 P. T. Deutermann. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I wish there wasn't so much babbling on about the women's legs. That, and... it's not really believable that a 21 year old being investigated in a death would decline a lawyer because she is - I'm not completely sure the author's reasoning here - arrogant?Oh, and some Goths are way smarter than ex-military special forces and NCIS all together. Yeah, sure...Pretend I'm an NCIS agent with many years experience and I know that Goths are mugging and assaulting people so, of course, it is logical that I will get drunk, get lured outside by a group of them (well, they *are* big-breasted women after all), and get my head smashed in. What am I? An idiot?But the worst part is that I was supposed to believe that a military base would hide a murder in the guise of a suicide, (okay, maybe they would) but then I'm supposed to also believe they'll try to cover up the murder of a cop? Nah... never happen. Oh, and the supervillian was so smart and so fast and so strong and so competent... maybe that's why he almost got away with it all.
Pretty good mystery and a VERY interesting read. I learned a lot about life at the U.S. Naval Academy. The storyline all hinges on peculiarities of the life of "the mids," i.e. Corps of Midshipmen at Annapolis. Deutermann creates some interesting and attractive characters and a repulsive/attractive villain.Recommended. I want to read more by this author.
Takes place inside the Naval Academy. Surrounds the death and investigation of a midshipman. The story contains a lot of details about the academy and good insights into life at 'Canoe U'. Also has interesting details of the Naval Investigative Service.