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Looks That Deceive - Sample


Did your doctor miss the diagnosis? Call Brumly, Grimshaw, and Payne. Has a medical error led to the loss of a loved one? Call Brumly, Grimshaw, and Payne. Has your doctor failed to rid you of your accursed hemorrhoids? Call Brumly, Grimshaw, and Payne. 

Their ads flooded the local television channels throughout the night and early morning and again during a myriad of afternoon talk shows, resulting in unrivaled success for the corporate partners. Their two-story office building in Ladue—an inner ring suburb of St. Louis with its population of 8,500—with its worn, but stately, red brick Georgian architecture and park-like grounds, looked as if it had occupied its lot for decades. Ladue was a neighborhood defined by its history, its classical style, and its well-heeled, country club populace; and the building radiated that character. From its ivy-covered southeast corner to the hammered copper rooster weathervane on its cupola, the building presented itself with a refined elegance that lent its occupants a sense of permanence and a genteel air of sophistication. 

Yet, within the two-year-old brick veneer, with its synthetic ivy and mail-order reproduction weathervane, there was a state-of-the-art legal firm with posh offices, chic conference rooms, a heavily secured computer network, and an unrivaled media production complex where the partners produced more than slick courtroom visual aids. Brumly, Grimshaw, and Payne, LLC had spared no expense to attain that image of gentility. 

Edward Payne glanced at his watch. Six fifty-eight. His legal assistant had just left for the evening, and he decided he would stay no longer than seven-thirty before he, too, would leave for home. The last to leave. He would have it no other way. Turning from his beautifully handcarved teak desk and matching credenza to his computer, he hit a keyboard combination that saved his current case file first to the firm’s network server and then to an off-site backup server. Data security and preservation. It was a lesson learned quickly by many companies following the catastrophic loss of the World Trade Center.

As he opened his last case file for the day, the monitor flickered. A second later, he sat bewildered, watching a strange flow of random characters march across his screen. His first instinct was to initiate an emergency shutdown of his system to prevent the spread of a potential virus, but the current of digits, letters, and dingbats mesmerized him. He couldn’t have been watching for more than 15, 20 seconds when the horizontal stream ended, and a digital clock materialized in its place. Six fifty-nine and 30 seconds. 

“What the . . .” He reached for his phone to call their network administrator. The dial tone clicked in, and he punched the first digit of the speed dial number as the clock hit six fifty-nine and 45 seconds. A new message appeared. “Goodbye Edward!” 

At seven o’clock, as he heard the second ring of the administrator’s distant phone, a fireball erupted from the first and second floor windows, and 1535 Ladue Road became a flaming memory.


Lynch Cully, startled from a sound sleep, glanced around, momentarily confused by his surroundings. His bedroom didn’t have beige walls and four old, wooden desks, their edges worn smooth by years of hard use and their surfaces cluttered, as stacks of paper fought recently-purchased computer hardware for space. Maps, charts, and a large dry-erase board sat interspersed along the walls. It took a moment to remember stopping by his office to pick up another unsolved crime file. 

His unexpected, three-day call-up to the MCS, the Major Case Squad, had turned into an unprecedented stint of three weeks of twelve to fourteen-hour days, seven days a week. This case had taken on a life of its own. Just when it seemed to grow cold, a new victim ratcheted up the political heat. Half a dozen local departments had given up detectives to the squad for extended duty. And the way things were going, those half a dozen police chiefs didn’t expect their people back anytime in the near future.

To say he looked worse for the wear would be an understatement. He worked his hands through his ruffled oil-black hair to smooth it out and then checked his watch. Twenty-one thirty hours. Ten, maybe 15, minutes had passed. If that was a power nap, who drained my battery? he thought, feeling worse than before sitting down. His lower back and neck, stiff from stretching the top third of his six-foot two-inch frame across the top of a much too small desk, ached as if he’d been there for hours. The side of his face tingled from the pressure of laying it atop his forearms. 

Lynch arose from the desk, still wobbly, and pulled his keys from his pocket. He unlocked a nearby file cabinet, opened the second drawer, and rifled through the cramped jumble of manila folders. He sighed in frustration. The file he needed wasn’t there. He released his breath slowly, took a deeper breath, and started at the beginning of the folders once again, taking care to move through them one by one, more slowly this time. Ah! There it is. I’m more tired than I thought. 

He slid the folder up and out from between its neighbors, opened it to assess quickly its contents and, satisfied, closed and relocked the cabinet. Back at his desk, he placed the file in his open, overstuffed briefcase and with more effort than he thought it should take, snapped closed the case, and prepared to head back to the MCS’s temporary headquarters. No, what he needed was to drive home and go to bed, in his real bed, not on a couch that, like his desk, would award him a stiff back and sore shoulders come morning should he fall asleep there. The file would be there for review over breakfast, a meal he planned to enjoy for the first time in three weeks.

Lynch was three yards from his car and a night’s sleep when he heard the click of the electronic door lock behind him.


He stopped, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath before turning to respond. It was his supervisor, Bob Janick, a good cop, mediocre detective, and astute politician who had played his cards close to his vest and pulled an ace from someplace dark to move up to team leader. The two men’s styles were about as compatible as a breast-baring costume malfunction at a Pentecostal tent meeting, but he knew why Janick tolerated him and continued to grant him excellent ratings on his yearly evaluations. He made Janick look good. Their team’s solve rate was the best in the county, due largely to him, the wunderkind, Lynch Cully. Yet, their arguments frequently threatened the thin filament of camaraderie connecting them.

Lynch had never been the compliant child, but he disliked being described as rebellious. Among the first signs of his defiance was his refusal to use his first name. That was his father’s name, not his. At the age of 30, he wasn’t even sure where the name ‘Lynch’ came from, other than it was most likely what his father wanted to do to him during some really rough teenage years. Gifted in mathematics and the sciences, he resisted the harangues of his parents to utilize his intellect fully, as they defined ‘fully.’ His physician father had encouraged him to follow in his medical footsteps, while his university professor mother was a bit more broadminded. Still, they had both blown aneurysms when he chose police work. To them, this was yet one more mutinous act, but he saw no future in a profession hamstrung by insurance companies and government. 

Criminology, Psychology, and Investigative and Forensic Science interested him, and human behavior mystified him with its unpredictability, its range of emotion, and its sometime moral depravity that could lead to grave mistreatment of others. More importantly, he had a gift, one that made him perfect for his current assignment. Rebellious? No. Independent? Yes. The term ‘maverick’ suited him and he embraced its roguish undertone. 

Lynch turned to face his team leader, who had caught up to him. “Hey, Janick. What’s up?”

“We are. Got a probable homicide we need to check out. You want to follow me, or ride with me?”

“Now? Look, I’m on loan—”

“Yeah. I know. I know. You look like you’ve been run hard and put away wet, and I figure you need more than a good night’s sleep. But your boss at the squad wants you to check into this one. Fire’s out, and our presence is requested.”

“Fire? My case has nothing to do with arson.”

“Maybe. Or maybe now it does. You’re the guy who sees things no one else sees, right? A lawyer got toasted, along with his entire building.” Janick started for his car. “Coming with me?”



Amy Gibbs sat at the antique, round maple table in her breakfast nook and sipped her Slim·Fast breakfast. The kitchen was spotless, for a change—a sign of her not cooking in over three weeks, not of a penchant for housekeeping. Unlike the kitchen, the rest of her modest threebedroom ranch home, purchased three years earlier in the community of Saint Peters, reflected her “penchant” for housekeeping. Friends teased about her “early landfill” style of décor.

Despite their opinions, her home was her dearest symbol of freedom and independence. She had been in college while her father completed his last tour of military duty overseas, but she lived with him for a long, quarrelsome year when he retired to the city and she started her nursing career. She wanted to spread her wings of adult autonomy, yet he clung tight. A widower and single parent for over a decade, he had displayed enough empty-nest angst for several sets of parents, and retirement had added to his anxiety. So, to help him “move on” and to regain her sanity, she moved out to share a home with two friends for two years before striking out to buy her own place. This was it, her castle.

She stared at the paperbound Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support, or PHTSL, manual opened across the tabletop, reviewing yet again the sections on field immobilization and intubation of head trauma patients. Her brain couldn’t absorb anymore. Normally, she didn’t doubt her medical abilities, but . . . She flipped another page and arose to pace the floor, mentally reciting the steps involved in rapid sequence intubation. 

The phone rang. She didn’t need any interruptions, so she glanced at her Caller ID before picking up. The trauma center?

“Hey, girlfriend. You ready?”

“Hi, Macy.” Macy Johnson was one of her closest friends, having worked together for over a year in the E.D., the Emergency Department, of Mercy Medical Center, a regional trauma center. 

Amy, still walking a tight circuit between the table and farthest counter, mulled over Macy’s question before answering. Despite five years of experience as an Emergency Department and Critical Care nurse, the concept of pre-hospital care was a new dimension in her healthcare universe. She had always appreciated the paramedics, bringing patients into the E.D. immobilized and splinted, airways secured, blood samples drawn, and intravenous access established—most of the time. But she had never fully recognized their working conditions. For her, the lighting was nearly always ideal, the supplies readily on hand, the conditions clean and dry. Now, reflecting upon her work over the last two months, she had a newfound respect for the people who worked in all weather conditions, across all forms of terrain and water to deliver the ill and injured to the hospital.

“I don’t know. I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” I’d better be, she thought. 

Eager to start her new job, she’d been flying the third seat on their medical air-evac runs, and assisting the active team. 

“Quit pacing!”

“I’m not—”

“Yes, you are. I can tell.” 

“Macy, I just have to qualify on today’s testing, or they’ll drop me from the flight roster altogether.” The lack of certification could force her back to the Emergency Department, a prospect that stirred mixed feelings. She sighed. “Do they still need per diem nurses at the E.D.?”

“I won’t answer that question because you won’t need the work. You know this stuff inside out, forwards and backwards, girl. You’re gonna do just fine. Why, my cousin Damian took that

course last year, and—”

“Thanks, Macy. I’ve heard this one already.” Macy always compared life to events within her ubiquitous family. “Wish I was as convinced.”  Amy leaned over the table and stared at another diagram as she talked, then looked up at the clock on the microwave. She needed to cut this conversation short.

“Well, I’m convinced. I’d wish you good luck, but you don’t need it. Look, I get off work at three this afternoon. I’ll meet you at Yancy’s to celebrate. I’ll be there about four-thirty, waiting.


“Okay. Thanks again for the encouragement. I have to get going.”

She hung up, closed the manual, and rushed to the bedroom to finish dressing. Why was she having trouble getting psyched up for this course? Growing up with four brothers had toughened her. In high school and college basketball, she’d always thought of herself as a competitor. She worked hard and played hard. Why couldn’t she approach this course as she did a game? 

Maybe because this wasn’t just a game. 

In reflection, the MedAir System, with its fleet of a dozen 206L-4 LongRanger IV and 430 helicopters, was her ideal job. They handled mostly critical cases—major trauma, time-critical cardiac patients, and the like—and rarely played “taxi” like the ground units. And she was flying. Her father, Andrew Gibbs, had been an Army Lieutenant Colonel and aviator, and she could remember watching the airfields as a young child, pretending she was soaring above, through and below the clouds with him. He had relished teaching her to fly the small single-engine Cessna he still owned and pampered fifteen years later, and his passion had infused her. In the air, he was no longer a father struggling to relate to his sole female offspring, but a companion and mentor, sharing his skill and zeal with her.

Twenty-five minutes later, she entered the von Gontard Conference Center at Mercy, heading toward the PHTLS course. She wandered past a row of vending machines, her eyes straying toward a pack of powdered donuts. Was it just the stress of the course, or had she metabolized her high-energy “meal” in a meager 30 minutes?

“Hey, Amy!”

Amy looked past the robots of temptation, glad for the diversion away from the white carbohydrate hip padding. A paramedic she knew well from the E.D. and more than a few Happy Hours with fellow nurses, met her halfway to the classroom doorway. 

“Hi, Brad. Ready to get this over with?” 

 “Did you see this?” He reached behind and pulled out a section of newspaper tucked into his pants at the small of his back. He quickly unfolded and refolded it to a specific article, and then handed it to her. “Read.”

Amy took the paper and scanned the morning edition’s front page. The headline, “Lawyer killed in fiery explosion,” spread across the top of the page. Beneath it was a photo of a two-story brick building in flames, fire trucks and firemen at its side working to contain the fire. She began to read the story, and as she moved past the fold of the paper, she saw the small photograph of a familiar face. Edward Payne. Ambulance chaser no more, she thought, putting two and two, his image and the headline, together. She continued to read.

“The plague of late night television. We’d be up at night after a run, too keyed up to sleep, and this guy’s ads took more airtime than the latenight movie. Read between the lines.” Brad pointed to a particular paragraph in the article. “Newspeak, straight from the police manual on subterfuge reporting. Sounds like someone toasted the guy on purpose.”

Amy read the paragraph and nodded in agreement. Subtle, but obvious to anyone with even a little bit of knowledge of how the police dodged simple questions. By tomorrow the case would be clearly marked both arson and homicide, and the detectives unfortunate enough to get saddled with this one would be dragged before a dozen high muckety-muck political types putting on the pressure to solve the murder faster than “CSI’s” weekly 42-minute resolutions. The case file had peptic ulcer written all over it.

“And . . .” Brad moved to turn the page. “. . . you done with that part?” He didn’t wait for an answer and flipped the page over far enough to reveal another photo of the scene. “Check the photo.”

Amy scanned the grainy black-and-white image but saw little more than the same building from a different perspective. Her face must have shown as much.

“You don’t see it, do you?” He pointed to one side of the photograph. Three men standing near a fire department vehicle. “Look closer. Familiar? Isn’t that a certain detective? An old boyfriend perhaps?”

Amy’s stomach churned, and it wasn’t hunger. She focused on the three men in the picture, and a slight smile eased across her face.

Brad stood up tall and smiled. “Yeah. I thought you’d like that. Deserves a case like this one.”



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Looks That Deceive.


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Looks that Deceive – Copyright © 2013 by Braxton

DeGarmo. All rights reserved under International and PanAmerican Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book onscreen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of Braxton DeGarmo.


Paperback and eBook Edition Publication Date: May, 2013

Second edition: September, 2013

Third edition: June, 2015 (new ISBN) 

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-943509-10-2


This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogs are products of the author’s imagination and are not construed to be real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The use of real places and companies is done to add a sense of reality, but the circumstances surrounding such use is also fictional. The employees of such companies, their actions, and their comments are fiction and should not be construed as implied or explicit endorsements by or the beliefs of said companies. The use of public figures, such as politicians, is also done for the purpose of realism. Actions or comments attributed to them may be fiction, but may also come from public records, such as their own writings.

Cover design by Rocking Book Covers


This book is for all of the EMTs, paramedics, nurses and pilots who are involved in pre-hospital care, both flight and ground crews. You do make a difference. 


As always, I again want to acknowledge and thank my dear wife, Paula, and my multi-talented son, Braxton, for their valuable proofreading skills, help and encouragement. Also, Lenda Selph proved to be essential for her proofing skills.

Many thanks to my editor, Patrick LoBrutto, whose suggestions made editing this book the most challenging one yet. I think you, the reader, will appreciate the final result.

I’d also like to acknowledge Carolyn Mundy-Shucart, RN, and the original flight crews of Air-Evac Lifeteam 23 based in Troy, MO – Pilots: Rich Dufour, Don Smith, Theo

Kulczak and Bill McEntire; Medics: Bruce Shucart and Bobby Gray; Nurses: Chris Hummel and Kim Sauerwein. Although retired now, Carolyn and these others were the original inspiration for the medical air evac characters in this book.