Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Omnimystery News: An Excerpt courtesy of JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

We are delighted to welcome author JoAnn Smith Ainsworth to Omnimystery News today.

JoAnn opens the first book in her Operation Delphi series with Expect Trouble (BookBaby; March 2016 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we are so pleased that she has agreed to share the first chapter from it with us.

— ♦ —

Philadelphia, PA, 1943

U.S. WAVES LIEUTENANT OLIVIA "LIVVY" DELACOURT abhorred being late. It was doubly frustrating to be late on the first day of a new assignment.
  Tension pressured the nape of her neck. This morning — without warning — the Navy Department jerked her from a challenging assignment in Cryptology, transcribing enemy phone conversations, and reassigned her — of all things — as driver to a naval commander overseeing the formation of the top secret Joint U.S. and Allied Intelligence Project. Livvy hoped there'd be something "intelligent" about her assignment. She preferred working her brain, not her foot on a pedal.
  Armed with only one week of driver's training, she gripped the Super Deluxe '42 Ford's steering wheel like she was doing battle with Old Man Winter himself. March had come in like a lion to a country enveloped in a world war and gave no hint of going out like a lamb. A relentless wind whipped up dirty snow from Germantown Avenue's icy cobblestones to mix with moist flurries that stuck to the windshield. Ice coated the tree branches and hid on snow-blanketed sidewalks. Clutching the steering wheel, Livvy sent a prayer heavenward that she'd get this metal behemoth and herself safely to her new headquarters.
  Clank, clank, clank. The snow chains attacked the metal fenders, making her head ache. She scrunched up her eyes and wrinkled her forehead in concentration. She was looking for an estate with a wrought iron gate and a Pennsylvania flagstone fence around its five acres of land.
  She guided the heavy '42 Ford through the opened gate and onto the unplowed driveway stretching toward the three-story mansion known as Hamilton House. At one time, her family could have afforded a place like this — before the Crash of '29.
  No smoke rose from the chimneys. No lights beckoned. The grounds under a blanket of snow and ice looked abandoned.
  What a welcome.
  Livvy followed the tire ruts made by a single car with a lower belly that had scraped off the top layer of snow. When the tracks veered off toward the garages, Livvy stayed on the main drive. She pulled to a stop next to broad steps leading to the multi-columned porch of her new — and impressive — headquarters. She took the car out of gear, set the brake and turned off the engine.
  Before pulling on her navy blue wool gloves, Livvy glanced at her wristwatch and her stomach tightened. Fifteen minutes late. She'd get chewed out. Oh, well, there was nothing she could do about that.
  An expected blast of bitterly cold air hit her when she stepped out into ankle-deep snow. She leaned into driven snow to mount the steps to the front door. From the corner of her eye, she saw that her bobbed, brunette hair — where it escaped from under her cover — had curled tightly from the damp. Her glasses and wool overcoat had acquired a dusting of snow while crossing the driveway.
  Bedraggled. What a first impression.
  Inhaling a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and pushed the doorbell. No sound. She pushed the bell again. Nothing.
  "I'll have to get that fixed."
  She knocked loudly.
  The door opened with an alacrity that startled her. The rigidity of the uniformed man towering above her made her feel she should click her rubber-booted heels. She tried to see his face, but snowflakes got in her eyes. She blinked and saluted. "Lieutenant Delacourt reporting for duty, sir."
  A disembodied voice growled from the darkened doorway. "You're late!"
  Livvy's jaw dropped. She recognized that voice, one she hadn't heard in almost ten years. The voice belonged to her colossal high school crush — Barrington Drew, III — Trey to his friends. Sadly, she wasn't one of them.
  In all the morning's haste — saying good-byes, moving her things out of her desk in Cryptology and packing her belongings in the barracks — she'd never asked about her new commander. Besides, a war was on. She was trained to accept without question whomever the Navy threw at her and to do her duty as required. Who would've guessed the new boss would turn out to be her teenage heartthrob?
  Her heart pounded with the remembered agony of unrequited feelings for the handsome and wealthy senior — youthful daydreams not based on reality. It wasn't as if he'd spare a glance for a plump, impoverished and bespectacled freshman when he was already dating Livvy's first cousin, the ultra glamorous Gwen.
  Peeping through snow-encrusted lashes, she could see that the thin-as-a-rail high school playboy had added muscle. Wavy black hair — now cut military style above the ears — framed a wide forehead and laughing eyes that, in the past, seemed continually amused. Right now they didn't look amused.
  "Wait here while I get my overcoat." He turned abruptly and walked away.
  Livvy flushed beet red, humiliated. True, she'd lost some weight since her teen years and a uniform might act as a disguise, but come on. There should be some glimmer of recognition. She'd barely regained her emotional balance when he reappeared with a briefcase clutched tightly in his gloved hand.
  "Let's get going or I'll be late."
  Trey brushed past her and out the still-opened front door. He rushed down snow-covered steps, leaving it to his lieutenant to close and lock the door. Locking it against what, she didn't know. The place looked barren of furnishings. She pushed at the bridge of her horn-rimmed glasses to settle them more comfortably on her nose before pulling the mansion door shut and listening until the lock clicked into place.
  Darn. She'd expected more courtesy from a man of Trey's social standing. Then she gave herself a mental slap. Commonplace courtesies weren't part of a wartime society. Courtesy was extended by rank, not gender or social standing. Her duties as a lowly WAVES lieutenant included opening doors for the male officers, not vice versa.
  When she turned around, Trey was already climbing into the back of the sedan, which was layered with snowflakes. She'd need to be quicker in the future. He slammed the door closed before she could make her way down the slippery steps.
  Since her former heartthrob hadn't recognized her, she wondered how to act. After opening the driver's side door, she lingered overly long. She heard, "What are you waiting for, Lieutenant? You're letting the warm air out."
  Good grief. Just like her mother.
  "We need to get going or I'll be late for my first assignment."
  She could sympathize with that problem.
  Livvy climbed behind the wheel, thankful the Ford still held the heat generated on the trip to Hamilton House. She turned the key, depressed the clutch, got the car into first gear and inched down the snowy driveway toward the street. There were no tire tracks for her to follow on the way out.
  "Where to, sir?"
  "We're headed for NAMU."
  "The Naval Aircraft Modification Unit north of Philadelphia in Warminster. It's the former Brewster Aircraft Factory."
  Livvy had her map out and ready on the front seat. She stopped the car at the gate to study the map.
  "Never mind that." His tone was curt. "I have my own map. I'll give directions."
  She pursed her lips. How long would he continue to snap at her?
  She heard Trey unlock his leather briefcase. In the rearview mirror, she watched as he spread a map across his lap and put a finger on their position.
  "Left or right?"
  "Right. Keep your eyes on the road. I'll watch for street signs."
  She pulled out onto Germantown Avenue and headed back toward Johnson Street in the direction she'd come.
  Livvy glanced in the rearview mirror. Trey wore a disgruntled expression as if she were the source of every setback he'd ever experienced. Great. Make her more nervous than she already was, why didn't he?
  "Bear left on Washington Lane."
  Livvy made the turn without sliding on the ice. The driving teacher had harped continually about how to drive on snow and ice.
  "Has anyone told you about your assignment?" His voice was matter of fact, without a jot of friendliness.
  "No one, sir. Early this morning, I was ordered to pack all my gear and drive to Germantown. I don't even know where I'm staying tonight."
  "You'll be quartered at Hamilton House. We both will. "
  Her new assignment had a bright side. Too bad regulations forbid hanky panky between officers.
  "We'll be quartered with two naval intelligence men who'll police the grounds. They should be there by the time we get back."
  From what little she saw of the property, Livvy decided all the security men would have to do was glance out the window now and then. The unbroken snow would speak loudly that no one was sneaking up. Who'd want to, anyway? The place was almost bare of furnishings. Any secrets were probably locked in that briefcase the commander was clutching, not back at Hamilton House.
  "If I may ask, sir, what are we doing this morning?"
  "I'm interviewing the civilian manager of a naval aircraft factory. I'm an engineer."
  As if she didn't know! The engineering slide rule and two drafting pencils lodged in his left breast pocket were major clues.
  "I've been assigned to uncover any plant vulnerability to saboteurs. You'll take shorthand notes."
  "I've been assigned as your driver, not a clerk." Blast it. She must break herself of the habit of speaking before thinking — and contradicting her boss on top of it.
  "You're assigned as my aide. I need to get a secure facility up and running quickly. Driving is only one part of your duties. The Navy needs your business skills."
  Halleluiah! Some "intelligent" work after all. When they stuck her in driving school, the military wasn't being stupid like she first thought. Driving was an add-on to the whole package. Losing Cryptology for this project wasn't a demotion. It was a promotion. With this opportunity, she might be the first in her Sarah Lawrence College graduating class to set up an office. She smiled. A definite feather in my cap.
  "What about paper and pencil?" Trey asked. "I have extras if you need them."
  As if a Sarah Lawrence graduate would get caught without her notepad and sharpened pencils. "I always carry supplies."
  At least she got one scrap of praise out of him.
  "Turn left on Old York Road and follow the Route 611 signs all the way north to Warminster. There are no more turns to worry about."
  Much to her relief, he didn't sound irritated anymore.
  She settled back in the seat as they travelled their slow and noisy way toward the NAMU facility. She heard Trey pull a batch of papers from his briefcase and glanced at him in the rearview mirror.
  "I need to study these drawings." He put his head down to focus, leaving her to the challenge of getting them safely to Warminster. She secured her grip on the steering wheel and continued her battles with the monster-sized car and Old Man Winter.

Livvy was still a block away from the NAMU complex when the first waves of nausea hit her. A metallic taste flooded her mouth. Insidious buzzing — like millions of bees hovering over a clover patch — flooded her head.
  Oh, no. I don't need this.
  A psychic attack was coming on. Her heartbeat increased and her breath caught in her throat. Her hands sweated, causing the steering wheel to slip from her grip so that she lightly sideswiped a snow bank.
  "Watch what you're doing." Trey barked the command from the back seat.
  Livvy groped in her standard-issue WAVES handbag for a pillbox and swallowed two aspirin tablets without water. She worked up enough spit to take the taste out of her mouth while she clung desperately to the steering wheel. Usually, her clairvoyant visions pertained to something happening in her life. Why would driving a naval officer to a meeting start one?
  She mentally created psychic roses, building up a psychic barrier, and flung them to the outer rim of her aura until energy roses surrounded her head-to-toe. This trick, taught to her when a teenager by her mother, saved her time and again and continued on since her mom's death. Livvy prayed it would work today.
  Trey spoke as she slowly entered the NAMU gate. "Ignore the main building. They'll be in the inventory shed around back."
  Livvy maneuvered the car past a series of buildings until she came to the back lot and a small brick warehouse she thought considerably larger than a shed.
  "Ten minutes to spare." Trey seemed relieved.
  When she pulled into an empty parking space, dark and sinister energy struck her sharply in the belly. "Ooof," she said before she could stop herself.
  "Something wrong, Lieutenant?"
  "No, sir."
  She dragged herself out of the car and around to the passenger side to open the door for the commander. A man in a business suit came out of the NAMU building and greeted them.
  "Paul Lesisko, civilian plant manager."
  Trey introduced himself and his lieutenant. Nothing dramatic happened when the man shook Livvy's hand. The manager wasn't the source of her upset. Nor did she pick up negative vibrations from the men standing around outside. Something else was going on. She wished she knew what that something was.
  Livvy stood by while the men talked and gestured. By holding the psychic barrier in place, she was relieved to find that the buzzing in her head gradually subsided until only the slightest ringing in her ears remained. Livvy pulled her glasses off and rubbed the bridge of her nose to relieve the tension before resettling the glasses on her nose. She checked her thought processes. Unclouded — and just in time, too. The men were entering the brick building and she needed to take notes on the inspection.
  She pulled a shorthand notebook and pencil from her handbag and scurried after Trey and Mr. Lesisko. Stopping a short way from the men, she flipped open the shorthand pad. She dated a clean page and glided the pencil across the page, leaving behind swirls and lines as shorthand notes of the men's conversation. She trailed after them in the drafty warehouse, shivering as she wrote, and barely succeeded in keeping the negative energy at bay.
  "These are overflow parts from the main factory warehouse." The manager described the bin tags that marked which inventory was critical and which was not.
  Trey asked questions on the age of the building and the various renovations. His slide rule was in and out of his pocket several times while he studied the structure. He asked for a set of blueprints and other engineering data to take with him after the inspection tour. The plant manager gave an order to a worker nearby, who left for the main building to develop a set of blueprints. By the time Mr. Lesisko told them they were just about done in this building, Livvy was more than ready for a trip back to Hamilton House in a warm car.
  "There's only an add-on room in the back to see," Mr. Lesisko said.
  The closer Livvy got to the bins at the far end of the warehouse, the more her pores released sweat and her head pounded. Even with protections in place, a full-blown psychic episode was returning. The trauma was more intense than any she'd ever experienced. She clenched her teeth as a brown fog drifted before her eyes. She swayed on her feet.
  Trey caught her elbow. "Are you all right, Lieutenant?"
  "Fine, sir." She gritted her teeth. She wanted to yell she was under attack by evil spirits, but they'd think her crazy. She'd learned over the years to keep her clairvoyance a secret closely guarded by family and friends.
  Mr. Lesisko made a brief comment on the stock stored there and then said, "We're finished here."
  Livvy stopped taking notes and packed up her notepad. Something bad was imminent. She had to get everyone away.
  "Excuse me, Commander. There is something wrong with me." She touched her head where the headache was the worst. "I need some fresh air."
  "Would you like the plant nurse to take a look at you?" the plant manager asked.
  "I'd be grateful, sir."
  Mr. Lesisko ushered them toward an exit door. "This way to the infirmary."
  She followed the men toward the exit.
  Just then a blast rattled the building. Something crashed against her head and shoulders and threw her to her knees, causing ripples of pain and flashes of light before blessedly knocking her out.

Livvy came to with a massive headache. She was on a narrow cot in the NAMU parking lot, covered with a wool blanket. The damaged structure was a safe distance away. The building still stood, minus a number of window panes. Smoke seeped out openings. A fire engine and several police cars were parked close to the entrance, engines running. A number of cars and pickup trucks clustered nearby. Men milled about and talked in groups, most chafing their hands and stamping their feet to keep warm.
  "What happened?" she asked.
  "She's awake," someone said.
  Livvy turned her head enough to see a gray-haired woman kneeling by her side. She wore a starched white cap and had a netted bun at the nape of her neck. The name on the NAMU badge pinned to her uniform overcoat pocket said she was Nurse Evans.
  "Take it easy, dear. Nothing's broken, but you had a nasty bang on the head." The nurse held up one hand with some of her fingers bent down. "How many fingers do you see?"
  "Right you are."
  Livvy realized some of the blurriness when counting the nurse's fingers was because her glasses were missing. Her heart speeded up when she realized she didn't have a backup pair with her. She couldn't do her job without them. Panic rose.
  "My glasses."
  "They're okay," Nurse Evans said. "I have them."
  "I need them to drive."
  "No more driving for you today, Missy. You need to rest."
  "But …"
  "No buts about it, my dear. We may need to send you to the hospital."
  "But …"
  The nurse put a finger over Livvy's lips. The touch had a strangely calming effect. Livvy felt an affinity with the woman.
  "Do you feel any nausea?"
  "Not any more, but I'm cold and have a headache."
  "You're still in shock, dear. I'll get the ambulance driver to bring more blankets."
  Nurse Evans shouted to the driver to bring two more blankets. She rummaged in her medical bag and brought out a bottle of pills and a small canteen. She tapped two pills into her hand.
  "Here's aspirin to take the edge off that headache."
  Livvy waited until the nurse settled two more blankets around her before again asking, "What happened?"
  "Someone planted an incendiary device in the storage building."
  So that's what the psychic attack was all about. No wonder the assault was so intense.
  "Are the plant manager and the commander all right?"
  "Minor scrapes and bruises, mostly. They tell me a section of an empty wooden bin fell on you. That's why you have a big lump on your head."
  Livvy touched her head and the growing lump under her scalp.
  "I have an ice pack and some hot, sugared tea coming from the cafeteria, dear. You'll feel better in no time."
  "I must report in to the commander." Livvy tried to get up, but her body wouldn't cooperate.
  "Stay right where you are." The nurse clucked her tongue like a scolding mother hen. "If the commander has anything to say, he can darn well come here to say it."
  Livvy closed her eyes and drifted to sleep. She'd sort it all out when she woke up.

— ♦ —

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth
Photo provided courtesy of
JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth experienced food-ration books, victory gardens, and blackout sirens as a child in WWII. These memories help create vivid descriptions of time and place, which makes a participant in a fast-paced journey through paranormal realms as U.S. psychics hunt down Nazi spies. Ms. Ainsworth lives in California. She has BA and MAT degrees in English and has completed her MBA studies. She has published five previous novels.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

— ♦ —

Expect Trouble by JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

Expect Trouble by JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

An Operation Delphi Novel

Publisher: BookBaby Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

Opening herself to ridicule by revealing she's clairvoyant is the last thing U.S. WAVE Livvy Delacourt wants, but when Uncle Sam needs her skill to track Nazi spies, she jumps in with both feet.

Join this emotional journey through paranormal realms of fast-paced suspense and supernatural battles as U.S. Navy psychics pit themselves against their Nazi counterparts.

Expect Trouble by JoAnn Smith Ainsworth. Click here to take a Look Inside the book.


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