ETWG First Chapter Book Awards: Expect Deception by JoAnn Smith Ainsworth
August 2, 2016
Expect Deception by JoAnn Smith Ainsworth is a Finalist in the Mystery/Thriller category of Published Books for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.
Just when US WAVE Livvy Delacourt thinks she and her team of psychic Nazi hunters are ready for whatever The Reich can throw at them, Hitler adds a spy to the mix who also happens to be a wizard.
Now dark magic is being used to attack US facilities, and Livvy must match wits with the evil wizard, whose objective is to destroy Operation Delphi and all her team. If she fails to ramp up her psychic powers, she may perish—and perhaps cause the US to lose the war with Germany while she’s at it.
An emotional journey through paranormal realms, Expect Deception is a fast-paced, suspenseful tale of what happens when US Navy psychics pit themselves against their Nazi counterparts.
Award-Winning First Chapter
Philadelphia, PA, May 1943
The clock struck ten o’clock that Wednesday morning. A clairvoyant, a medium, a crystal ball reader, a seer of ghosts and a nurse with healing hands sat around the polished, antique table in the Hamilton House mansion library, now their conference room. The stormy weather that heralded America’s entrance into the war had finally passed. Balmy breezes crept through the opened French doors allowing exit to a flagstone patio and extensive estate grounds. They—the Operation Delphi team—were the White House’s top secret psychic defense against Nazi mind control. They were attempting to raise their psychic powers to new levels. Distractions could wreck the experiment.
“Stay focused, people.”
U. S. WAVES Lieutenant Olivia “Livvy” Delacourt rolled her shoulders and shook out her hands before raising one hand to push back a bobbed strand of brunette hair still curled from the dampness of a morning shower. Beneath the starched, white-cotton collar of her uniform, she massaged a spot of tension at the nape of her neck. She and her team were attempting to coerce U. S. Navy Commander Barrington Drew, III—“Trey” to most everybody—to act against his better judgment.
Livvy glanced at their goal written in white chalk lettering on the blackboard—Get the boss to eat hardtack. Skeptical engineer that he was, Trey wouldn’t be a cinch to manipulate into eating food he despised.
The stakes were high.
British spies had picked up rumors that Hitler’s inner circle of occult practitioners was capable of disrupting war preparations purely by mental suggestion directed against U. S. citizens. To combat this, President Roosevelt established the ultra-secret The Watch Committee. In turn, and under the supposed oversight of the Navy, the committee created a U. S. occult team named Operation Delphi.
A second mission, but just as important, was to psychically search for Nazi spies who infiltrated cities and towns along the East Coast, especially in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. In this, their team had had some success. A few weeks back, they’d zeroed in on German spies, resulting in their capture. But that success was a drop in the bucket compared to what must be done to win a war.
Visions normally came willy nilly to Livvy. As a Delphi operative, she must invoke clairvoyant visions at will. If rumors were true, they were neophytes compared to their Nazi counterparts and had a lot of work cut out for them.
“We need to get this right.”
Livvy spoke aloud, as much to fortify herself as to spur on her team. She rubbed her hands together, the resulting friction creating physical warmth even as it drew sustenance from the ethers. She aligned her eyes to a crammed, floor-to-ceiling bookcase directly in front of her. Unfocusing her physical sight, she relied instead on her psychic third eye. She’d just begun dropping into a meditative trance when eighteen-year-old Isadora Turgenev distracted her.
“Holy moley, if stage mesmerizers can force people to do things, we should be able to.”
Looking like an ancient priestess invoking an oracle, Isadora waved her slender hands above her family’s crystal ball. The wide, wrist-length sleeves of her silk robe shifted dramatically with the movement. In day-to-day living, she was the facility’s receptionist and those hands carried out mundane typing tasks and logged in visitors and deliveries.
“Child, we’re not stage hypnotists.”
John Clifford’s deep bass conveyed a no-nonsense perspective. White haired and slightly stooped, his elongated skeletal frame seemed to disappear into the wallpaper like the ghosts he sought.
Despite his ethereal look, Livvy knew that John was anchored to this world by an abundance of common sense. Callused hands were testament to a lifetime of cabinetmaking and affirmed his cover story as the facility’s handyman and carpenter. Also, his work on the framing of a small sailboat, being built in the end garage on the estate for Chief Michael Posner of Operation Delphi’s security staff, was another diversion to convince neighbors of the benign, quasi-military nature of Hamilton House and the Delphi staff.
“He only needs to take one bite!” Isadora spoke with the impatience of youth.
“Which he’ll refuse to do.” Middle-aged and short in stature, Garrett Alterman was a medium by talent and—despite wartime food rationing—a seeming magician at creating gourmet meals. He’d spent years as a requisitions clerk for the Navy before being recruited for Operation Delphi and seemed to know everybody along the East Coast who had anything to sell or barter.
“You heard our beloved commander at breakfast, ‘Hard as bricks. Won’t touch the miserable stuff’—and this after I was up at five to bake a fresh batch!” Incensed, Garrett’s mouth hardened into a straight line.
John pointed to the silver tray containing the hard tack and also a cinnamon apple tart. “What he’ll do is pick his favorite. That apple tart will be in his mouth as soon as he gets through the door, you wait and see.” John’s lower lip pushed out, as if avowing his words.
Isadora looked up from her crystal ball. “Golly, let’s not be negative.”
Garrett shifted his weight in the wing chair he preferred to the straight backed chairs around the table. It was set in a corner between the row of black walnut bookcases and the French doors. “Maybe we’re making things too hard on ourselves with that tart on the same plate.”
Livvy gazed with unfocused eyes at her team. “Reminder, everybody. We need that apple tart. We’ll only know our psychic powers were successful if our beloved commander bypasses the tart and eats the hardtack.”
“If we keep talking about it, I’ll eat it.” Garrett’s rotund figure attested to his love of food.
John stretched as if loosening kinks in his back. “Let’s not waste time.”
“That’s right, my dears.” Muriel Evans was a semi-retired R.N., whose starched, white nursing cap perched precariously above a netted bun of gray hair rolled at the nape of her neck. She’d been recruited to Operation Delphi because of the healing power in her hands and her ability to discern past events using those hands. She was rubbing Trey’s monogrammed handkerchief between her fingertips to connect with his kinetic energy. “Let’s not dilly dally.”
Livvy tapped unpolished fingernails on the conference room table. “Down to business, crew.” She adjusted horn-rimmed glasses against the bridge of her nose before dropping into a deeper meditative state. Her feet in their Navy-issue shoes were flat on the floor as she sought an energy anchorage in Mother Earth.
Before being assigned to Operation Delphi a few months back, Livvy’s clairvoyant experiences consisted of aura readings for friends and an occasional—unsummoned and unwanted—prophetic vision. Since joining Delphi, she’d learned to conjure precognitive visions on demand.
A shiver raced down her spine. Did they have what was needed to take on this mental fight with the Nazis? She was unsure, but there were no others. It was up to them. Her small team must wage psychic battles and be the winners.
With anxiety adding an edge, Livvy’s mind probed outward from where she sat near the antique library table. She searched the ethers for traces of energy belonging to her handsome superior officer who’d been her—“still secret”—high school crush, as well as a family friend. Discovering a wispy trail of translucent yellow energy, she created a stronger mental connection by dispatching repeated, telepathic communications. “Make Trey eat the hardtack.” The energy message sped across the wispy trail as if on a supernatural highway. The message carried with her plea the aroma of her gardenia perfume.
She waited, and waited some more. Where was he? What was he doing?
Releasing her will power from the mystical bonds that anchored consciousness to her physical body, she allowed her spirit to drift upward as if riding a sunlit cloud. From ceiling height, she dispatched a mist of spiritual wellbeing to her physical body which sat dutifully on the straight-backed, conference room chair. With a mental tug on the silver cord connecting body to spirit, she drifted through the wall and along the back hallway.
Dragging the silver cord and probing ahead with rainbow-colored tendrils, Livvy glided closer to Trey’s office. Her spirit effortlessly slipped through the office wall and drifted leisurely across the ceiling, then floated downward, stopping behind the high-backed, black leather executive chair where Trey sat. Livvy knew that the comfortable chair and his rosewood office desk were a gift from his politically prominent, industrialist father, who was also a member of The Watch. A lined, yellow, legal-sized pad rested on the leather-bound, desk blotter and had some notes written in ink.
From this close vantage point, Livvy reached out tendrils of mental willpower to tug on his aura and to entice him into the conference room.
“Make Trey eat the hardtack.”