China Gold

Book DescriptionChapter OneReviews

A famous historian is brutally murdered on Florida’s Casey Key. The murder weapon is a samurai sword that a Japanese colonel surrendered to Professor Hunter McCoy’s grandfather at the end of World War Two.

With evidence mounting against him, Hunter’s dad is arrested for the murder. As they search for the truth, both McCoys are drawn deeper into an increasingly elaborate web of deceit.

Working out of the basement of a convent in Wuchang during the war, Dr. Li Qiang Chen, a Chinese country doctor is believed to have discovered an extraordinary medicine capable of preventing the development of diabetes. The missing research notebook of the long dead physicians may be inadvertently linked to a convicted Japanese war criminal.

When Hunter becomes convinced that finding the notebook is the key to clearing his dad of the murder charge, he teams up with Billie Chen, Dr. Chen’s great-granddaughter. Almost immediately, Hunter finds himself enmeshed in a continuing series of lies and misdirection that only deepens his dad’s apparent guilt in the eyes of the law and potentially threatens everything Hunter holds dear.

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Chapter 1 

Cabin on the shore of Lake Superior

Upper Peninsula of Michigan


Hunter McCoy stared at the empty shelf on the wall trying to grasp the unthinkable. His dad, Ed McCoy, murdering a man—and then beheading him.

No way.

Yet the samurai sword the Japanese colonel had surrendered to Hunter’s grandfather so many years before was obviously missing. Was it possible someone had used it that morning in a grotesque murder fifteen hundred miles away?

No, he thought, answering his own question again. Not possible.

For the past four years, from the time Hunter had purchased the cabin in Michigan for his dad, the sword had been on that shelf. He’d never kept it anywhere else. Now it was missing, and his dad had been arrested for beheading a man with it, in Florida.

Ed McCoy had used the one phone call they’d given him to reach Hunter. Unable to hide the anxiety in his voice, he’d told him that two Sarasota County Sheriff’s detectives had come to their house on Casey Key that morning and arrested him for the murder of a man called Scott Harrison.

During the brief call, he’d explained that he and Henry and two neighbors had recently formed a local men’s book club, and they’d been reading the new book by a famous World War Two historian and author, Scott Harrison, entitled Surrenders In The Pacific. One of the scenes Harrison described was the Japanese colonel surrendering his airbase and presenting his sword to Hunter’s grandfather at the end of the war in China.

His dad told him that Harrison had been found murdered at his home on the key the night before just a few miles away from their rental house. He’d been beheaded, and a bloody samurai sword was left at the scene. They told him that Harrison’s calendar showed an appointment with Ed McCoy along with his Casey Key address and phone number for about the time of the murder. Even worse, the police told him his fingerprints were on the sword.

Hunter experienced an uneasy sense of impending doom. This was no coincidence. The man beheaded by a sword with his dad’s prints on it was not just anyman. The guy had written a book describing, in detail, the surrender involving his own grandfather.

Hunter promised his dad he’d get a flight to Florida as fast as he could. He called Sawyer International Airport, just south of Marquette, but the best he could do was schedule a two-stop flight the next morning at 11:45, arriving in Sarasota at 8:23 p.m.

Next he called his friend detective Wally Osborn of the Sarasota Police Department. He explained what had happened and told him he’d be arriving there tomorrow and asked if he could recommend a good lawyer for his dad. Wally said to check with him when he arrived, and he’d give him a name.

Finally he called Henry and told him he’d be there tomorrow night.

With his dad’s prints on it, the sword probably was his. Still, Hunter couldn’t leave until the next day anyway, so to make sure it really was missing and hadn’t just been misplaced somewhere, he decided to do a thorough search.

If Hunter had one skill, beyond all others, it was finding things that were lost. If the missing sword was here and not in Florida at a murder scene—he’d find it.

He planned to do a complete check of the entire property. He’d also look for any signs there might have been a break-in. If the sword wasn’t here, someone obviously had gotten in and taken it.

Is anything else missing?

He started outside and walked the perimeter of the two-acre property. The cabin was on the shore of Lake Superior between Marquette and Big Bay, between County Road 550 and the lake. A single gravel driveway led from the county road to the cabin which was on a cliff overlooking the big lake below. There were three outbuildings: a two-car detached garage, a small shed, and the new free-standing sauna that Hunter had just finished building as a surprise for his dad.

Most of the property was covered with tall pines, and the ground was reddish-brown with fallen needles and cones. He circled the property, slowly working his way inward. The first building he encountered was the new sauna. Nothing unusual there. Next was the tool shed. Nothing missing or out of the ordinary. Similarly, he found nothing exceptional when he examined the garage and his dad’s car.

At the house he walked the perimeter, examining doors and windows for signs of tampering or a break-in, again finding nothing. He checked the alarm system. It was working perfectly. He knew his dad had successfully activated it before leaving for Florida six weeks earlier, because it had been armed when he’d arrived three weeks ago. Thinking of one more check he had to make, he called the monitoring company they’d been using for the security system.

“PeninsulaMonitoring, how can I help you?” the serious male voice answered.

“This is Hunter McCoy at Rural Route 42, off County Road 550. I need you to give me a continuity report.”

“Of course. What period of time are you talking about?”

Hunter gave him the dates for the three weeks when no one was supposed to be at the cabin—from the day his dad had left for Florida with his best friend, Henry Lahti and set the alarm to the day Hunter arrived three weeks later and found it still armed.

“Our records show only one interruption during that period, on September twenty-first, from 1:05 p.m. until 3:16 p.m.”

“Did the alarm go off?”

“No, sir, it was a coded entry.”

There it is. Someone disarmed the system, got in, and took the sword.

“No other interruptions?”

“No, sir. That’s it. Is something wrong?”

“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”

Hunterhung up and had to conclude that someone, somehow, got the security code, shut down the system on September twenty-first, spent two hours at the cabin, took the sword, then rearmed the alarm and left.

But he figured two things were seriously wrong with that scenario. One was the two-hour time frame. The cabin was small. The sword was highly visible. It would have taken an intruder unfamiliar with the cabin no more than a few minutes to find it. What was he doing the rest of the time? The second and possibly more serious problem was how had the intruder gotten the code in the first place?

Putting that disturbing thought aside for the moment, he walked to his dad’s room and looked around again. Had the intruder taken anything else? He searched the cabin again. Of course, he wasn’t familiar with all of his dad’s personal stuff, but he tried anyway. Though even if he did manage to identify something, it was always possible his dad had taken it with him to Florida. After all, he, and Henry were going to be down there for several months.

Hunter finished his search, unable to identify anything else missing.

Before going to bed that night, he recoded the alarm but didn’t sleep well. He knew his dad wasn’t a murderer. Someone was clearly trying to set him up. But who would do that, and even more confusing—why?

When he finally drifted off to sleep in the early hours, his dreams shifted to an old nightmare he’d hoped was long behind him, the devastating episode of the clandestine raid he’d led as a Marine captain to a cave in the mountains of Pakistan to abduct the terrorist leader Mahmud e Raq. The raid had been successful, but his younger brother, Sergeant Gary McCoy, one of the team members, had been killed, and to Hunter’s everlasting shame, he’d been unable to find and return his body.

In the morning he awoke in a sweat, shaken by the nightmare. For years after the event at the cave, he’d been haunted by the image of Gary being lost in the mountains and his failure to bring him out. He’d vowed that never again would he let anyone in his care be harmed in any way.

Over time, he’d come to realize that his need for putting himself in harm’s way—the frequent “Find-and-Correct” work he did when his duties at the medical school allowed it—was somehow an inner search to atone for his failure to save his brother.

Now it was his dad in desperate need of his help. He silently vowed that he wouldn’t fail again.