Today I’d like to welcome dear friend and fellow author Pam Champagne. A Maine author, Pam writes romantic suspense novels with enough danger to keep you riveted to the edge of your seat and sweet love to keep you turning pages late into the night. Take it away Pam …
Thank you Nina for inviting me to your blog to promote my latest release, Missing In Action.
Many of you weren’t around in the sixties and early seventies when our country was at war with Vietnam. The memories of those years still haunt me. Too many good friends and classmates were lost. I was not one of the war protestors flooding the streets. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but like Nina, I tell it how I see it. I’m ashamed of U.S. citizens, like Jane Fonda, who supplied the enemy with propaganda. It was a scary time.
When I was in college I used to go every day after classes to Chelsea Naval Hospital where the badly wounded were brought in by the dozens. I’d read to them, talk with them and listen to stories of their wives and girlfriends back home. Sometimes they’d just want to hold a warm hand.
In later years, I became involved in groups who pressured the U.S. Government to account for those still listed missing in action. Time has a way of making memories fade and many families and relatives wanted closure to the extent they accepted government proof of their loved ones deaths. Most of the so-called “proof” wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. Bone fragments near the site of a crash or a battle that even forensics couldn’t identify the DNA.
Hence, came the idea for my book, Missing In Action which is available at Amazon. And the really good news? It can be downloaded FREE July 11, 12 and 13th.
Zoe Zanardi was born with a gift. She paints pictures of people she’s never met. One day an unseen force draws her into an antique shop where she finds an old POW-MIA bracelet. Through the bracelet, she discovers her biological father, a pilot, missing-in-action, during the Vietnam War. Zoe is convinced the bracelet is communicating with her and her father is still alive somewhere in Southeast Asia. She is determined to travel to Vietnam to find him, with or without the help of Chad Stone, a private investigator and former CIA agent, who turns up at her mother’s house one day with information about her father. Coincidence? Or is there more to her father’s disappearance? Are Zoe and Chad mere pawns in a deadly game?
Zoe burrowed further under the damp sheet in a futile attempt to recapture her dream. She’d been on the beach back in Maine with the waves lapping her toes in the sand. A safe, secure haven.
“Zoe! Wake up.” The harshly whispered command did its job. She wasn’t home on the beach. She was in a hotel in Vietnam with a man hot enough to burn the morning bacon and who seemed to have the morals of Sushi before he’d been castrated.
She bolted upright. “What do you want?” she rasped, pushing her heavy hair out of her eyes. “What time is it?”
Chad backed away from the bed and glanced at his watch. “Four o’clock,” he whispered.
“In the morning?” she croaked. “Why are you waking me so early?”
His low voice had a hint of huskiness. “We’re leaving.” He tossed some clothes on the bed before putting his mouth to her ear. “We’ve got to get out of here before they realize we found the hearing devices.” Chad walked around the bedroom, checking under chairs, under the beds. “I’ve tucked what we’re taking into one backpack. Leave the other one here.”
Wide-awake now, she sat up. “What about Sam and Kiko?”
Chad barely glanced at her as he continued checking under furniture and behind pictures. “Keep your voice to a whisper. We’re leaving without them.”
Zoe’s heart pounded. Didn’t Chad realize that Kiko and Sam wouldn’t just give up and go home? “Sam can have us arrested with one phone call. He’ll put out an APB or whatever they call it here.”
Chad’s gaze finally settled on her, the gray of his eyes dark, but calm and determined. “That’s why we won’t be traveling on main roads. I’ve got a destination. Once we arrive, we’ll have new identities.”
Not traveling on main roads? New identities? Zoe swallowed hard when she saw Chad push a handgun into the backpack. Where had that come from? Zoe continued sitting in bed as she scrutinized his changed appearance. He’d shaved his beard, making him look more like the man she’d met.
“Come on,” he said. “Get dressed. We’re walking out of here in five minutes.”
No matter what he looked like, this definitely wasn’t the man she’d first met. Zoe scrambled from beneath the covers and threw on her clothes. One quick trip to the bathroom, and she was ready to roll. On their way out the door, she leaned down and grabbed her sketchpad from the coffee table. She ripped off the drawing of the War Crimes Museum and tossed it on the table. It might buy them some time.
Chad touched her arm. “Good thinking. Let’s move.”
In the hall, they moved passed the elevators and headed toward the exit stairs. Chad led, pausing to glance over his shoulder a few times. Making sure she stayed close? Zoe figured she wasn’t doing too badly for a woman who normally couldn’t function without at least two cups of strong black coffee. Must be the adrenaline.
Their footsteps sent an eerie echo spiraling down the stairwell. At last they reached the bottom, and he stopped her with his hand. He disappeared through the exit door. Zoe waited on the bottom step, the only sound she heard was blood pounding in her ears.
The door creaked open. Chad waved her outside. As soon as her feet hit the sidewalk, he grabbed her arm. “We’re going to a safe house. There’s a car waiting there.”
Zoe matched his long strides with little problem. Every now and then, he’d lean close ask if she was all right. To an onlooker, they’d look like two tourists.
She soon lost track of the turns they made. The street twisted and curved through one of the strangest neighborhoods she’d ever seen. Row after row of houses made from old tin cans. They must have been left over from the war. Most labels were in English. The cans had been flattened and nailed onto some sort of wood then fit together to make outside walls and preserved with lacquer. The sight was odd and colorful, adding new meaning to recycling.
At one of the entrances, Chad stopped and knocked. How did he know which door he wanted? They all looked alike. Perhaps he recognized it from the can of spinach above the doorknob. She almost giggled at the thought. A few doors away dogs started to bark.
A light went on. The door opened enough to allow them to slip inside. Zoe stayed behind Chad, not sure what to say, if anything at all. A Vietnamese man, whose age would be anyone’s guess, came forward. “I’m Tahn. Sgt. Jack say you come.”
Chad shook the man’s hand. “Have you got the Jeep? And maps?”
“Jeep not far away. First, you come with me.”
The two men left the room through a door on the far wall. Zoe whirled around when someone touched her arm and met the eyes of a young, doe-eyed woman. “Tea?”
Zoe smiled. “Yes, thank you.”
The woman waved her to the table. Zoe sat down and accepted the minute cup handed to her. Steam curled upwards, releasing the sweet scent of green tea. Zoe sipped the tea while she glanced around the shadows of the tiny room. Sparsely furnished, the single room served as a combination kitchen and living room and den.
Her mouth watered at the smell of food that preceded her host, who’d returned to place two more dishes on table. “Rice and pho. You eat. It good.”
Having had nothing to eat for longer than she could remember, Zoe grabbed the chop sticks and wolfed down the rice. She ate the noodles and bits of meat from the pho, a type of soup, before picking up the dish and drinking the broth. Probably wasn’t the proper way to eat it, but at this point, she wasn’t too concerned with manners.
“This is very good.” Zoe smiled at the woman seated opposite her.
Now that her stomach was full, she wondered exactly what type of meat she’d eaten. Bile rose in her throat, but she swallowed it and concentrated on the tea.
“We do anything for Sgt. Jack,” the woman offered, a smile lighting her face.
Sgt. Jack. That must be Chad’s friend. The one helping them to escape. The word escape brought a chill to her overheated skin. She and Chad were on the run in a foreign country. Not only a foreign country—a communist country.
A small hand extended across the table. “I’m Bi’hn.”
Bi’hn raised her hand and stroked Zoe’s hair. Her face seemed sad, almost as if someone had died. “So pretty.” Bi’hn picked up the scissors next to her plate.
“I don’t understand—” Zoe broke off when Chad returned to the room.
“Chad, I…” She trailed off and took a box he held out to her. A picture was worth a thousand words. Even though the instructions were in Vietnamese, she didn’t need a translator to know she held a box of black hair dye. Her gaze flew to his face.
“It’ll make for safer traveling.”
Zoe dropped her gaze and nodded. Bi’hn touched her arm. Sighing, Zoe followed her to do the deed.
Missing in Action is a story near and dear to my heart. Do you have memories of this turbulent time in history or stories of soldiers bravely defending out country today? I’d love to hear them.
Thanks so much for having me Nina.