BY: RICHARD EDDE
Grant Collins is a man tormented by his past and it may get him killed. Returning to his hometown of Trinity to attend his mother’s funeral, Grant finds himself drawn into the local politics. A large corporation is attempting to bring a nuclear power plant to the town. And the stakes are high—including the murders of a number of citizens opposed to nuclear power. As Grant begins to unravel the mystery behind his mother’s unfortunate accident, he finds himself a target in the life-and-death struggle for wealth and power in Trinity.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Trinity by Richard Edde, Grant Collins is a soldier wounded in combat and sent back to the US for medical treatment. When his mother dies in his hometown of Trinity, he goes home to the funeral and discovers that his mother’s death might not have been an accident. In fact, a number of people opposed to having a nuclear power plant in Trinity have fallen victim to mysterious accidents recently.
Like most of Edde’s books, the story is intense, thought-provoking, well written, and hard to put down. You won’t want to miss this one.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Trinity by Richard Edde is the story of greed, corruption, and the struggle for political power with a wounded hero caught in the middle. All Grant Collins wanted was to attend his mother’s funeral in peace. Her death is just another blow after his being wounded in combat in the Middle East, returning home to struggle with both physical and emotional scars, and finding that he doesn’t really fit into civilian life anymore. But when he tries to get closure by finding out more about his mother’s fatal car accident, he is pulled into a dangerous web of intrigue as he discovers that opposing a nuclear power plant in Trinity is bad for your health—in more ways than one.
Trinity is both a mystery and a thriller, combining intrigue, suspense, and fast-paced action that will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
The phone call came out of the blue and the voice on the other end told him his mother was dead. It was a call that forever changed his life.
Grant Collins woke in a cold sweat. It was the same nightmare. The one that haunted him since Iraq.
He sat on the side of the bed, rubbed his temples. His palms were damp and his pulse pounded in his head. He reached for the bottle of water on the night table and swallowed several large gulps. The apartment was dark, quiet. Only the ticking of the regulator clock in the living room pierced the silence.
Tick, tick, tick.
Like the time bomb in his head ticking away the time before the inevitable explosion.
Grant sauntered to the small living room and stared out the window that overlooked Bethesda and the Potomac River. In the far distance, beyond the lights of the city, was the black void of the river, and he could barely make out the lights of traffic along the George Washington Parkway. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and collapsed in a chair, trying to calm his racing pulse.
In the dream, he was back in the town of Nasiriyah, located along the banks of the Euphrates River 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. He was a member of the Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade and had seen sporadic fighting as his unit pressed toward the capitol. When his unit missed a turn, they suddenly found themselves involved in a nasty firefight.
Grant’s nightmares began that day.
The marines found themselves stranded on what became known as Ambush Alley, being attacked on all sides by Iraqi forces using small arms and mortar fire with RPG and Iraqi tank support. It was a fight they hadn’t expected, at least not there. Through the smoke and haze, Grant saw a car full of small boys heading in their direction. It looked like a dilapidated Ford but he couldn’t be sure.
He saw the driver clearly. The car slowly approached the convoy in the midst of sporadic gunfire. He shot a glance up and down the column but nobody noticed the approaching car. Grant yelled a warning but no one seemed to hear.
The car was closer now. There were guns sticking out of all its windows. The boys looked as if they were ten to twelve years of age, it was hard to tell in the smoke and confusion. No one had stopped the car, it kept approaching at a crawl. He could tell there were no uniformed Iraqi soldiers within the car. So why did the boys have the guns? What were they doing here? Were they combatants? He had no way of knowing.
He tried to yell a warning, command them to turn around but the warning died in his throat. Please stop! You don’t belong here! What kind of parents would allow their children in a war zone?
But the car kept advancing on the column. Now their rifles were pointed at Grant’s Humvee.
Without another thought and using a reflex more out of fear and training than anything, he fired his grenade launcher at the vehicle. It disintegrated in a ball of fire with a thunderous explosion.
They continued fighting that day after receiving reinforcements, eventually subduing most Iraqi resistance. But the faces of the children haunted Grant for the rest of his deployment. What were they doing on that road? Why were they fighting?
Slowly his heart rate returned to normal, his breathing became more regular. He took another drink from the water bottle. It was all he needed–no sleep before his drive in the morning. He didn’t relish going to a funeral. Especially this one.
It was his mother’s funeral.
The phone call notifying him of her death still echoed in his memory. It was difficult to put it away.
He glanced at his watch. Four a.m. He was awake now, sleep was impossible. He decided to shower and pack for the trip to Trinity. His therapy sessions at Walter Reed Medical Center would have to wait a few days until he returned.
The road alongside the Dogwood River mirrored the river’s serpentine course through the fertile southern flatland as it paralleled the Savannah River before finally joining it northeast of the city of Savannah. Dominated by spreading live oaks, towering cypress and tupelo trees in the Lower Coastal Plain, the surrounding woodland stretched for miles on both sides of the river.
There were other river-swamp species including such canopy trees as green ash, overcup oak, swamp black gum, and water hickory, and such understory flora as saw palmetto, swamp dogwood, and swamp palm. The vegetation was verdant and lush. It was an overcast day, threatening rain–a perfect weekend for a funeral.
Hoping to make Trinity before dark, Grant’s foot kept a steady pressure on the accelerator of his rental car. After leaving Savannah Hilton Head International Airport earlier in the afternoon he crossed Interstate 95 then watched as dark clouds billowed lower, matching his mood. He wasn’t happy about missing his therapy sessions, for he had made remarkable progress since leaving the Marine Corps. His large frame had been pressed uncomfortably into a narrow seat on the flight down. Now he was tired, hungry, late.
Grant hated funerals. He had seen plenty during the Gulf War when his buddies were honored before their bodies were shipped back home to their relatives. Those helmets resting on their rifles were skeletal reminders that they had paid the ultimate price. This funeral was particularly distasteful for it was his mother’s. Her death was unexpected, the result of a freak car accident a week earlier. A police sergeant made the phone call and he had arranged the details by phone with the funeral home. According to his mother’s wishes she was to be buried next to her husband, Grant’s father. It would be a simple graveside affair.
Helen and her husband Herbert settled in Trinity shortly after the Second World War. Located on the banks of the Dogwood River northeast of Savannah, Trinity was a small rural community, its only claim to fame was the community college where his father had worked. His parents raised two boys, Grant and his younger brother, Eric, who at the age of eighteen, had died of a heroin overdose. That left Grant to carry on the hopes and aspirations of his parents. Herbert was a quiet man with almost no sense of humor but his saving grace was that he believed in work and taking care of his family. The man worked in the maintenance department at nearby Trinity Community College and earned enough to send Grant to college. Herbert had a fatal heart attack at age fifty-seven leaving Grant and his mother alone. Life insurance provided by the college allowed Helen the luxury of not having to work so for the past ten or so years Helen lived the life of a comfortable widow. She kept the family house as always, bowled in her ladies league on Wednesday evenings. She went to the Presbyterian Church every Sunday.
It had taken Helen a long while to adjust to life after Herbert’s untimely death. Even though there had been admirers during the following years she was never romantically involved with any other men. And that was the extent of her life after his father died until around a year ago. In one of her letters she mentioned she had become active in a group protesting the development of a nuclear power plant outside town.
Grant visited his mother several times a year and at Christmas but he never really liked returning to Trinity, for it never seemed to grow, in spite of the college and influx of new students each year. The town had its share of eccentrics and busybodies like old Mrs. Parsons, a widow who lived in a big two-story house close to the river and Newell Quisenberry who served as the town’s village idiot. He chased young boys off his lawn with a pitchfork someone said he stole while a patient in the state sanitarium. But most folks were harmless enough and Trinity was a slow-moving, easy-going Southern town with very little crime. Still, with all its Southern charm it had an air of backwoods affectation that made him feel uncomfortable. So it had been in his youth and so it had remained during the ensuing years.
Speeding along the two-lane road, Grant noticed the river on his right and through the cypress trees he saw a large flock of egrets take flight from the far shore and head southeast toward the Savannah. He was weary from his flight and the drive seemed to never end. He hoped his mother’s best friend, Mrs. Bullock, would be waiting at the house and give Grant a key. Before leaving DC, he called her and the woman cried for a while but said she would be there when Grant arrived. Staying in the family home was a sight better than any motel in Trinity.
Mrs. Bullock had only sketchy details of his mother’s accident. It seemed that Helen ran off the road and hit a bridge abutment killing her instantly. Her car was an old Ford so there was no air bag to save her. She was dead at the scene. He hoped there would be time to go by the funeral home and say goodbye to her. The thought produced foul-tasting bile to creep into the back of his throat and burn his tongue. He grabbed for the bottled water nestled in the center console and took a long gulp.
He switched on the car radio and pushed through the selector buttons in search of some relaxing music but finding none, turned the radio off and allowed his mind to wander. High school in Trinity was a monotonous time for Grant with him playing basketball and the clarinet in the band. It was funny, he thought, that during those days he never gave much thought to what he would become when he grew up. His parents didn’t provide much guidance on the subject, just go to college and study something, anything. Mostly, he enjoyed fishing with his friend, Billy Weaver. During the summer months they would fish, camp, and swim, not caring about the nearing responsibilities of adulthood. After graduation, Billy went to Vo-Tech in Savannah and Grant enrolled at the local college.
Grant’s father usually sat in his easy chair after work, silently reading his newspaper, rarely saying more than a few words to the family. He wasn’t abusive, just not interested in what Grant and Eric did in school. In retrospect, Grant now realized his father was clinically depressed and his condition worsened after Grant entered college and Eric had become addicted to heroin when he was sixteen. His brother always seemed to have the wrong kinds of friends around. When Grant tried to tell him he was heading for trouble, Eric blew up and lashed out at him. It was his first indication that something was seriously wrong with his brother. They didn’t have much in common as Eric wasn’t scholastically or musically inclined. He just hung out with his friends. Where he obtained the drugs, Grant never learned but one night his brother didn’t come home. The police arrived at the house with the sad news. Eric, his happy-go-lucky brother, had been found dead in an abandoned cabin on the river north of town. After that, his father took to his room, rarely making an appearance, even for supper. He died of a heart attack while at work as he neared his fifty-seventh birthday.
When his father died, Grant quit college and got a job. He told Helen that college was wasted on him. He worked as a laborer, a carpenter, an electrician’s helper. Then one day he up and enlisted in the marines. After leaving Parris Island he was trained in advanced infantry at Camp Geiger then shipped to Iraq during the US-led invasion.
He came home a changed person.
However, Trinity hadn’t changed much. He pulled onto Trinity’s familiar main street, a narrow affair with diagonal parking in front of the various shops. It was late afternoon and most of the stores were closing, people leaving downtown and heading home. Grant drove through town and headed east toward the river for two blocks then turned on Elm Street. The houses were fifties style and all looked similar while large elm trees shaded the street. A dog barked in the distance.
The family home was near the end of the road on a cul-de-sac. It was a whitewashed affair with wooden steps that led to a large covered porch. Two tall windows bordered the front door. A detached garage stood to the house’s west side and Grant noticed the lawn needed mowing.
He parked his rental car in the driveway, sauntered up the steps with his overnight bag, and was about to knock when the door opened.
A short, plump woman wearing an apron greeted him. She wore her graying hair pulled into a bun behind her head. Dark eyes looked him over.
“Grant?” she said from behind the screen door.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, squinting through the screen.
The woman opened the door and stepped aside.
“Come in, son,” she said. “It’s your house. “I’m Hazel Bullock, your mom’s friend. We talked on the phone.”
“Yes,” Grant said, stepping into the living room. He gave the room a quick once over, satisfying himself that everything looked the same as during his last visit a year earlier. “Thanks. Mom spoke of you often.”
“It’s a shame to meet a son of Helen’s under these difficult circumstances. I really liked your mother. I moved here ten years ago and she befriended me. Would you like to look around the house or just relax? The funeral parlor is open until nine tonight. There’s no hurry in getting over there unless you want to go now.”
“I’d like to wander around the house for a while, if you don’t mind. Then, maybe eat something, I’m awfully hungry. Then go over.”
“I understand,” Mrs. Bullock said. “I fixed some stew and it’s on the stove so you can eat anytime. Unless you prefer to get a hamburger or something. “I can just sit here and read. You take your time.”
“The stew sounds good, Mrs. Bullock. I’ll just have a look about the house.”
“And please, young man, call me Hazel.”
Grant nodded. He dropped his bag near his father’s worn easy chair and walked from room to room, his mind a flood of memories as he did so. In his parent’s bedroom Helen’s vanity was crowded with pictures of him, Eric, and his father and mother. The frames were old, covered with dust. He picked up a picture of Eric in an antique pewter frame. He was dressed in a Little League baseball uniform and it brought back memories of his brother’s love of the game. There was a photo of his father when he was a young man. Wearing a suit, he looked much the successful businessman. Who would have known he worked maintenance at the college?
The wallpaper was faded, decorated in the floral design he remembered from childhood and how his father detested it. The man always threatened to put up new wallpaper but his mother wouldn’t hear of it, she loved the design. He ran a finger along the antique cherry wood bedstead where his mother slept for over forty years. Grant sat on the bed while he continued to look about the room, remembering times past. Now that his parents were gone they were times never to be reclaimed. They were just ephemeral memories. He felt his eyes moisten, a lump formed in his throat. Scenes from his younger years came flooding into his consciousness, the smells of supper that greeted him after school, the sight of his mother cleaning and polishing the furniture, his father reading the paper.
When he returned to the living room, Mrs. Bullock was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on supper. He sauntered past the tattered easy chair that was his father’s favorite–the man rarely got out of it after work. He had given him and Eric many a stern lecture while sitting in that chair. It had been a distant awkward relationship and Grant wondered why the man couldn’t have been more the father some of his friends had. Grant moved to the small dining room, sat in a chair at the square table, while Mrs. Bullock ladled large bowls of the aromatic stew. There was a platter of cornbread and a large pitcher of iced tea on the table. Sitting opposite Grant, she smiled, said grace, then passed the cornbread to him.
“I hope you like it,” she said. “I didn’t know what to fix and stew was something that could keep warm until you arrived. No matter what the time.”
“Tastes great,” he said, after a mouthful. He poured them each a tall glass of tea and the two ate in silence for a few moments.
“Mrs. Bullock, I’m sorry, Hazel, is there anything more you can tell me about the accident? The circumstances surrounding it? Where did it happen? Where mother was going? What was she doing?”
The woman shook her head. “No, not really. It was pretty bad when she hit that bridge. Strange thing was, your mother never drove anywhere very fast. And she was an excellent driver. I ought to know, I rode with her often enough.”
“She drove her car often?”
Hazel nodded. “Helen was a real dynamo,” she said. “Always going somewhere and checking on her friends. You know, seeing to it that they had enough groceries or needed a ride themselves to a doctor’s appointment or the like.”
“I remember my mother always worrying about me and my father,” Grant said. “It’s hard to believe she’s gone. You think she suffered?”
“No, Grant, I don’t,” Hazel said, pushing the plate of cornbread toward Grant. “I heard she died instantly. Such a tragedy. Such a tragedy.” Grant saw her eyes moisten and heard her voice almost break as she spoke.
“Did a lot of damage to the car?” Grant said.
“I believe it did, but you would have to ask the police. It happened at the bridge over Cottom Creek. You know where that is?”
Hazel stood and gathered the few dishes. “I’ll just wash these and get out of here, Grant. I left the house keys on the lamp table next to her chair. I’ll check on you tomorrow.”
“Thanks for being here, Hazel. And thanks for being a friend to my mother.”
“Nonsense, young man. It was my privilege.”
After the woman left, Grant found the house keys and drove over to the funeral home.
© 2017 by Richard Edde