Monday, July 18, 2016

James Moushon – The Cajun Ghost - New Mystery

New Release: The Cajun Ghost
Author: James Moushon
Genre: Mystery



James is a self-published Mystery Writer and Author Advocate. He is the creator of the industry blogs: The eBook Author's Corner, the HBS Author's Spotlight and the HBS Mystery Reader's Circle.

The Cajun Ghost

A Jonathon Stone Mystery

Author: James Moushon

AVAILABLE
Amazon 


ARIZONA SENATOR AND U.S. SENATORIAL CANADATE, TAD CLOSEN SHOT DOWNTOWN PHOENIX DURING PARADE

CIA Agent Jonathon Stone’s purchase of an old rifle from a gun dealer leads him on a search for the owner of the gun. When he finds the owner, a Cajun gun for hire, he discovers that he was one of the shooters in downtown Phoenix the day Senator Ted Closen was assassinated.

The rifle purchase leads to a chain of events that threaten Stone’s CIA cover, his life and puts the CIA Long Beach undercover operation in jeopardy.

As the search accelerates, fellow agent Carol Haney joins Stone on a journey that goes from California to the French quarter in New Orleans to Phoenix to the mountains in Northern Arizona.

Jonathon follows the trail through murderers, land barons, politicians and the mob to find the truth about the Cajun Ghost and the murder of Senator Closen.

Excerpt from The Cajun Ghost

Chapter One

July 4, 1986 – Phoenix, Arizona

The dark, rugged looking man knelt near the fourth floor window of an office building with his rifle at the ready. There had been a light rain in the morning but the sky was starting to clear as a large crowd gathered along the parade route below. It was monsoon season in the desert. A brisk wind moved the sounds of the people and the slow rumble of the motorcycles around the canyon of high buildings like an amphitheater.

He had built a cave of boxes around the window, creating a makeshift-hiding place. He gazed at the park across the street looking for his spotter. They had told him that the lookout would be easy to see but so far he hadn’t appeared.

His gaze was interrupted by the grind of the elevator’s motor in the back of the large, vacant room. He stood his rifle against the wall and picked up his clipboard and started toward the middle of the room. He knew that as long as he appeared to be working no one would question him. Someone had moved the elevator to the third floor, right below him. He needed to be on guard.

He returned to his shelter and looked back out the window. It wouldn’t be long until his target would be in sight. He had been a gun for hire most of his adult life after the Marines but his age was catching up with him. God, he was over fifty.

He had a clear view of the street in front of him but there was a large tree in the park that could be a problem. Some of the people sitting in the park waiting for the motorcade were looking up toward him. He moved back slightly from the window.

His plan was simple. Follow the plan. Eliminate the target. Evacuate the location. Get in position and protect your back.

Moving from one side of the strike area to the other, he checked the large room behind him and then returned to the half open window.

He wasn’t a regular employee so any hard questions would end the op but he was in a uniform with an ID provided by his client.

Again he went on alert when he heard loud voices close by. He left the window quietly, listening for the location of the conversation. It was right below him he decided. It was probably the workers who had moved the elevator to the floor below. He returned to the window.

He had been told there was a backup shooter somewhere along the route. If discovered, stop and get out. He knew all he had to do was just squeeze the trigger. Take the shot. Police the brass. Take the rifle. Execute a calm exit. Mingle with the crowd. Become one of them. Meet at the airport for his pay day.

The plan rang in his mind. He had over a hundred kills since leaving the Marines but this seemed different.

Soon his target would approach the kill zone from the west. He knelt sideways by the windowsill to avoid facing the sun. He tried to stay motionless as his heart started pounding.

This was a big opportunity and he couldn’t miss it. This meant big bucks and the kill shot was worth a bonus. That would be the icing on the cake. The birds on the roof kept flying and returning, as the noise below got louder. The glare of the sun on the window would be gone soon.

His rifle was locked and loaded. He could see the target coming from his left now as the noise from the crowd increased.

He would be patient. Take the best shot. He would be shooting down on the target. He had taken shots many times over a hundred yards. This would be much shorter. He looked to his right but the lookout still wasn’t in sight. The guy could be hidden by the trees in the park.

He could handle this by himself he thought. He would know if he hit the target. He didn’t need the spotter to tell him that.

Now he was ready to take the shot. The target had passed below him and turned left onto Central Avenue. He was moving away with his back fully exposed. The tree could be a problem but the bullet would fly right through the leaves. The rush was tremendous. He tried to control his hands. He pulled the trigger.

The shot flew through the air and hit the target. The windows rattled and the building shook with a noise that sounded like an explosion. The pigeons above flew away with a loud, rushing sound. The target had slumped to his left.

Sirens started whaling and the roar of the motorcycles filled the air. The crowd below was falling to the ground and running in all directions. Mothers were grabbing their children while others ducked for cover. It was complete chaos.

He thought he heard another shot but with all the noise, he wasn’t sure. He paused a second then started his escape.

He moved quickly to the rear of the room toward the elevators. He broke the rifle down and put it in his tool box. The elevators were still on the floor below. He had no time to bring one up to his floor so he headed for the backstairs with the tool box in one hand and the clipboard in the other.

Halfway down the stairs, he heard loud talking. He ducked into the empty lunchroom just before a policeman with a drawn gun entered. He needed to stay calm. He tried not to change expressions as the officer approached him. The cop quickly checked his employee badge. Then he nodded and rushed by him. The employee uniform and badge had worked.

He had been trained if you have something in your hand you don’t appear out of place. He moved to the vending machine, bought a coke and headed down the backstairs to the first floor. He proceeded to the front of the building toward the main entrance. Only one person was left in the office and she was talking to a policeman. He was trying to look natural and not rush. The police encounter had been too close.

As he got to the entrance of the building, he heard loud screams and saw people moving in all directions. He moved into the crowd as a policeman approached him. He hoped he didn’t have to pull the pistol hidden under his shirt. The officer rushed right by him, brushing his shoulder as he passed, and entered the building as the ex-marine took a deep breath.

He had been told that the rifle was untraceable. He thought for a second. He had picked up his brass. The plan was right on schedule. And it seemed like everyone was focused on the parking deck across the street.

He walked quickly into the park and like a ghost, disappeared into the throng of people.

The next day, the local Phoenix paper’s headline read:

ARIZONA SENATOR AND U.S. SENATORIAL CANADATE, TAD CLOSEN SHOT DOWNTOWN




Author Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers

Website: James Moushon - Mystery Writer
Author's Blog: eBook Author’s Corner
HBS Author's Spotlight
Twitter: @jimhbs
E-Mail: james.moushon@gmail.com
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Google+: Check Out Google+
Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Post with Profile + Interview: HBS Author's Spotlight

Amazon Author Profile




Author Description: James Moushon is a Mystery writer and an Author Advocate.

Starting over 15 years ago, he helped lead the startup of the electronic forms industry in the creation, conversion and usage of electronic forms by supplying that industry with a continuing source of published literature, software products and training seminars.

In 2003, Moushon changed his focus to ebooks and their development.

He is the author of the Jonathon Stone Mystery Novels. He has published three books: 'Black Mountain Secrets', 'Game of Fire', ‘The Cajun Ghost’ and 'Operation Alpha Dog', a collection of short stories all featuring Jonathon Stone, CIA undercover agent.

He is currently wearing two Hats. He is a mystery writer and a book publishing blogger. You can find his blogs at:

HBS Author's Spotlight
The blog's purpose is to help authors get exposure in the book publishing industry. He has interviewed and showcased over 450 authors to date.

HBS Mystery Reader's Circle
The HBS Mystery Reader's Circle provides information about the latest novels and what is coming next from a collection of Bestselling and Outstanding Authors in the Mystery, Thrillers, Historical Fiction and Crime genre.

eBook Author's Corner
The Corner is a collection of Author advice and studies including Marketing, Social Media and other major topics created to help writers in today's ever changing world of book publishing.

He has spent the majority of his adult life developing computer systems and thinking about writing mysteries.





Author's Book List

 
Operation Alpha Dog - A Jonathon Stone Mystery
Operation Hidden Truth
A plea bargain turns deadly and a known gun runner is the primary suspect. Jonathon Stone becomes involved with the FBI to try to catch the elusive terrorist. With espionage and government secrets in play, the DHS suddenly becomes a problem. Jonathon needs to be on top of his game for this op.

Operation MisdirectionA female CIA agent is found dead in a motel in Long Beach and her husband, a Long Beach detective, quickly becomes the prime suspect. Jonathon Stone is given the task of investigating the murder of one of his own. His findings reveal the dead agent’s unscheduled trips to the Middle East, a cover up by the FBI and espionage.

Operation AdriftAn empty cargo ship suddenly appears in the LA Harbor. Problem: apparently there are no passengers or crew. Jonathon Stone finds out that the ship was abandoned at sea and the CIA had been tracking the vessel from the Far East. The op seems to be stalled until Jonathon gets information from an unexpected source which leads him to a terrorist plot on American soil.

Operation Red DragonJonathon Stone’s plans for a quiet gambling experience is interrupted by the sighting of a known gun for hire from Mexico. A casual weekend in the desert for Jonathon changes into an apparent assassination plot. With the FBI and the Secret Service involved, Jonathon tries to apprehend the elusive hit man before he can do damage.

Operation RunawayNSA information leaked by a spy sends Jonathon Stone and his fellow agent, Chuck Chun to Hawaii to stop the flow of information. Is our suspect a whistleblower or is it espionage? Their assignment: neutralize and stop the flow of information. At a luau in Paradise, they get help from an unlikely source before Jonathon and Chuck can complete their mission.

Operation DeadlineA hit and run death of a man on the CIA’s watch list sends Jonathon Stone on another op. This time he teams with FBI Agent Jodi Shannon. They quickly find out it was a planned murder and the victim was part of an investigative reporter’s study of a Middle Eastern student group. Then, a second murder with a similar MO occurs and Jonathon is sent in a different direction.


Order the Book From:
Amazon  



 
Game of Fire - A Jonathon Stone MysteryAn explosion and fire rocks a Southern California mall and it is quickly determined it is arson. The timing of the incident is special because it interrupts the Tet New Year’s Festival and Parade in Little Saigon, an area just east of Long Beach.

Had the old wounds of Vietnam been opened again or was there a different game being played?

Enter veteran CIA Agent Jonathon Stone. Already in pursuit of the gun-running Minh family, he connects with a special FBI task force to assist in the investigation of the explosion and Minh quickly becomes their number one suspect.

Stone teams up with FBI Agent Jodi Shannon to pursue the people behind the arson fire. Jodi is a serious, no nonsense agent who leads the FBI Arson Task Force. While she fights to solve the mystery, she also fights Stone’s advances. As always, he tries to mix business with pleasure.

As the game takes its twists and turns, Stone’s assignment leads to a shootout in Las Vegas and a car chase down the coast of Southern California.

Jonathon Stone battles his love for gambling and drinking and the ladies to help solve the Mystery of the Game of Fire.


Order the Book From:
Amazon  



Black Mountain Secrets - A Jonathon Stone MysteryCIA Agent Jonathon Stone goes undercover to help in an FBI investigation after a fellow agent is murdered on the Colorado River.

Stone continues the agent’s investigation of suspects who are stealing top-secret documents from a secret Army base in the middle of the Mohave Desert. The trail leads him from the rugged Black Mountains of Nevada to Laughlin, a gambling oasis on the Colorado.

As things heat up in this desert paradise, Stone dodges bullets and attempts on his life until he reaches the ultimate showdown. Jonathon Stone truly needs lady luck on his side to catch the spies and get through this ordeal alive.

Mystery Writer James Moushon brings to life Jonathon Stone, an undercover CIA agent assigned to the off the books CIA division – DOT.

He throws Stone right into the middle of action. As the mystery unfolds, Stone uses his wealth of knowledge and keen analytical mind to complete his dangerous assignments, while at the same time battling his love for gambling and drinking and the ladies.


Book Trailer: Black Mountain Secrets 



Order the Book From:
Amazon  



Amazon. Available for a LIMITED time for 99 cents.

Author Recommended by:
HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:eBook Author’s Corner
Mystery Reader’s Circle

Monday, May 23, 2016

New Romance from Dariel Raye!





Destiny’s Favor (Orlosian Warriors Bk. 2)
Destiny’s Favor synopsis


His world shifted the moment she was born. Now, nothing can stop him from making her his.

Imagine meeting a man who looks like an angel, wings and all? What would you do if this man told you he existed with only one purpose – to claim you and only you?

Destiny Carter is a feisty, take charge, Rubinesque beauty with a tough façade, who finds herself in that age old quandary, “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” A string of lackluster relationships leave her hopeless and ready to settle…Until she meets Japheth, the man her fiancé claims is his best friend! Japheth’s arrival is heralded by an attack on Destiny’s life, and instinctively, she knows this is just the beginning.

Born more than 200 years ago, Japheth looks like an angel but he’s far from it. In his world, the ratio of men to women is 500 to 1, and although he’s a superior being, he’s willing to break the most sacred law of his brothers, even drink human blood, to have one meant for him alone.

When he meets Destiny, he knows she’s the one he’s been searching for. To claim her, he will have to betray a friend, risk his life, and hardest of all, humble himself enough to win her love.


Only $0.99 for a limited time
 Get a FREE review copy of “Calm Assurance (Orlosian Warriors Bk. 1) to catch up on the series now! Enter the Rafflecopter below to find out how to get your free copy + win other prizes!




Calm Assurance (Orlosian Warriors Bk. 1)
Calm Assurance synopsis
Two hearts, two different worlds, uncompromising love.

A straight-laced Nephilim-descendant and a human trouble-magnet?

When Asriel - Orlosian Warrior, descendant of Nephilim, law enforcer – is sent to guard Malina, a human with a penchant for drawing trouble like a tornado, she becomes his obsession.

With no hope of finding love in his dimension, he breaks the cardinal rule, leaving his home to protect her, but she has also drawn the attention of his enemies, and he is forced to face demons from his past. If Asriel chooses to stay with Malina, not only does he risk forfeiting his right to ever return to his dimension, but he will need her blood to survive.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble



Dariel Raye
Dariel is an animal lover who writes IR/MC (interracial/multi-cultural) paranormal and dark urban fantasy romance. She is presently writing a shifter series, “Dark Sentinels,” a reluctant hell-dweller series, “Kushiel’s Keep,” two Nephilim series with vampire-like heroes, “Orlosian Warriors” and “Cain’s Progeny,” “Lifegivers,” a paranormal romance series with a variety of beings, a crossover paranormal thriller shifter trilogy with romantic elements, “Gateway,” and an erotic fantasy newsletter serial. To learn more about Dariel and her books, visit her blogjoin her newsletter, and follow her on Amazon.



Dariel on the Web
Dariel’s Blog - Dariel’s Website
Dariel’s Newsletter - Dariel on Twitter
Facebook Page - Dariel’s Amazon Author Page
Dariel on Goodreads - Dariel on Tumblr - Dariel on Tsu



Monday, April 18, 2016

Crave your men hot, alpha, and strong? #NewRelease


Hotshot Heroes: Strong Enough to Love
Genre: Contemporary Romance Anthology/Action & Thriller
Release Date: April 2016
Authors: Mimi Barbour, Jennifer Lowery, Chantel Rhondeau, Lyssa Layne, D’Ann Lindun, and Rachelle Ayala
Length: 2200 pages!
99 cents or FREE with Kindle Unlimited


Crave your men hot, alpha, and strong? Then fall in love with Hotshot Heroes: Strong Enough to Love - 6 full-length action-suspense romances plus one bonus novella from NY Times, USA Today, and International bestselling authors. Fall in love with sexy agents, cowboy sheriffs, firemen, bikers, and more. Danger, excitement, and heart-pounding romance await the women who love these brash and protective men. Get yours today.

Purchase Links:
Global Amazon link: http://smarturl.it/HSHero

Book #1: Special Agent Maximilian - Mimi Barbour

Nik Baudin meets his identical twin – one he never knew existed. Taking over his identity, he becomes Special Agent Maximilian and gets embroiled in dangerous conflicts along with Max’s beautiful partner, Maya.

Mimi Barbour is an incredibly busy New York Times, USA Today and award-winning, best-selling author who has five series to her credit. The Vicarage Bench Series – Spirit/Time -Travel tales that have a surprising twist / The Angels with Attitude Series – Angels Love Romance / The Elvis Series – Make an Elvis song a book / Vegas Series – 6 books full of romantic suspense, humor and gritty conflicts / and… the fast-paced, edgy yet humorous romantic suspense, Undercover FBI Series. She also has numerous box collections and single titles to add to her credits. Mob Tracker is a new series she’s working on now which will be published in 2016. 




Book #2: Murphy’s Law - Jennifer Lowery

A storm strands widow Sara Sheldon and her young daughter at ex-Army Ranger Jon Murphy’s remote cabin. She’s running from her husband’s powerful family, and he’s running from guilt for what he did while held prisoner in Azbakastan. Attraction sparks, but survival is at stake. Besides, he's no’ nearly as honorable as she thinks…

NY Times & USA Today bestselling author, Jennifer Lowery grew up reading romance novels in the back of her math book and on the bus to school, and never wanted to be anything but a writer. Her summers were spent sitting at the kitchen table with her sisters spinning tales of romance and intrigue and always with a tall glass of ice tea at their side.

Today, Jennifer is living that dream and she couldn’t be happier to share her passion with her readers. She loves everything there is about romance. Her stories feature alpha heroes who meet their match with strong, independent heroines. She believes that happily ever after is only the beginning of her stories. And the road to that happy ending is paved with action, adventure, and romance. As her characters find out when they face danger, overcome fears, and are forced to look deep within themselves to discover love. 

Jennifer lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. When she isn’t writing she enjoys reading and spending time with her family. 

Connect with Jennifer:
Read more about her books on her website: http://jenniferloweryauthor.com/
Please "like" her Facebook author page! https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJenniferLowery/
Sign up for Jennifer’s Newsletter and get a FREE book: http://jenniferloweryauthor.com/join-my-newsletter/

Book #3: Blazing Hotter (Love Under Fire – 2)Chantel Rhondeau

Former bad boy Frankie Hernandez struggles to recover from debilitating injuries sustained fighting his last fire. Now this firefighter is falling for his physical therapist, Cassie Flick. When a serial killer strikes town and threatens Cassie, Frankie will do whatever it takes to protect the woman he loves.

Best-selling author Chantel Rhondeau once thought a great mystery or fantasy book with strong romantic themes was the highest level of reading bliss. After reading her first romantic suspense novel, she never looked back. Chantel is author of seven romantic suspense novels, three Christmas novellas, and the contemporary romance McCallister’s Paradise series. She lives in the western United States, and when she's not writing she loves playing cards with her family, bowling on leagues, and snuggling with her lazy kitties.

Newsletter (Get FREE ebook for signing up): http://eepurl.com/3f3jr 

Book #4: My Calling Lyssa Layne

It's taken Saylor Warner six years to recover from the death of her uncle. Jonathan “Beck” Beckerdyte has spent the last six years trying to stay out of the public eye. Following his calling leads him into the field of civil service. Beck's made it his life's mission to protect Saylor... except she has no idea. 

Lyssa Layne is a blogger turned author after being inspired by Rachelle Ayala. She enjoys hot romances and loves to shock her readers right until the final page. Lyssa enjoys chasing after her four-year-old daughter, being a tourist in her own city, and anything involving peanut butter.


Book #5: Longshot D’Ann Lindun

A sheriff with something to prove. A burned out FBI agent. A human trafficker determined to stop them both will test the limits of their endurance … but he can’t stop them from falling in love.

Falling in love with romance novels the summer before sixth grade, D’Ann Lindun never thought about writing one until many years later when she took a how-to class at her local college. She was hooked! She began writing and never looked back. Romance appeals to her because there's just something so satisfying about writing a book guaranteed to have a happy ending. D’Ann’s particular favorites usually feature cowboys and the women who love them. This is probably because she draws inspiration from the area where she lives, Western Colorado, her husband of twenty-nine years and their daughter. Composites of their small farm, herd of horses, five Australian shepherds, a Queensland heeler, two ducks and cats of every shape and color often show up in her stories! 

D’Ann loves to hear from readers! Please contact her at: mailto:dldauthor@frontier.net

Book #6: Playing Without Rules (A Baseball Romance) Rachelle Ayala

Marcia Powers hid a big secret from her ex-boyfriend, baseball player Brock Carter. She had good reason, or so she thought. Now Brock is back in town and wants Marcia back. Will he lose every dream, including baseball, when he discovers the real reason Marcia sent him away?

Rachelle Ayala is a bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. She writes from sweet to steamy and believes that everyone should find love as often as possible, even if it's within the pages of a book. Rachelle is working on a sweet series of romances with pets and firemen, Have a Hart Romances, and one full of bad boys, Bad Boys for Hire. She also writes sports romances in both football and baseball, as well as many holiday romances, both sweet and spicy.

Newsletter (Get FREE ebook for signing up): http://bit.ly/RachAyala

Bonus Book: Bad Boys for Hire: Ryker, Bad Boys for Hire Series Book #1 - Rachelle Ayala

Florist Terri Martin lives a calm and peaceful life. Maybe too calm and too peaceful because she can’t remember the last time she was in a relationship.

Terri calls Bad Boys for Hire to book herself a date for her thirtieth birthday party, but before she can hire one, she meets Ryker Slade and his bad-ass motorcycle.

Old vendettas resurface and soon, Terri has more than she can handle when she learns that her and Ryker’s love is as doomed as Romeo and Juliet’s.

Ryker thinks he has a way out, but can Terri escape her fate, or will she find her lover dead before she wakes? 


Get Hotshot Heroes now! 

Purchase Links:
Global Amazon link: http://smarturl.it/HSHero

Monday, February 29, 2016

New Mystery/Thriller from Barbara Winkes!

Title: Amber Alert
Author:Barbara Winkes
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: February 1, 2016


~~BLURB~~
When her two-year-old niece is kidnapped, Major Crimes Detective Ann McCoy uses every bit of leverage she has with Agent Cal Davis to stay on the case. More children are missing. Their parents, like Ann’s sister and her wife, are desperate for answers.

While the investigators look at the disturbing possibilities, a pattern emerges. They find an organization hidden in plain sight that has no boundaries when it comes to pushing their agenda-even at the cost of harming families and children.

Buy Now: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01BE15V3Y/


~~EXCERPT~~
Cal sets a mug of steaming coffee in front of me.

“After this, I want you to go home,” he says, adding “Hear me out?” when I jump to my feet, ready to give him all the reasons why I shouldn’t.

“Your sister and her wife have already been interviewed, but there might be a gap that only you can close. I want you to think hard, about the cases you’ve worked, who got out of prison lately, anyone who is likely to link you to them. Find everyone who ever threw a homophobic slur at them.”

The thought makes me flinch, but I nod and sit back down. “Do you have any suspicion? I thought Martinez said the parents weren’t-”

“I don’t know yet. There were two single mothers, one gay couple, and one het. Then, Chrissie and Rachel. It’s not a pattern.”

“But…?” I prompt. It’s a world I don’t inhabit, but I hear things from Rachel, Chrissie and their friends sometimes. They are frustrated how some groups who pretend to care about faith and family, spread lies about same-sex couples and families. Usually, they don’t revert to crime. The overall lack of equality for these families has for a long time protected the hate-mongers. Not so much anymore since the Supreme Court’s marriage decision.

They might be deluded and angry, but not stupid enough to break the law--or are they? I can’t imagine them going as far as actually snatching children.

“No ‘but’. Just make sure you cover all angles.”

“Will do. God,” I say, “This is a nightmare. I worked on a couple of kidnapping cases.” “What happened?” he asks.

I take a long sip of the coffee, before I answer. “One was a custody battle gone bad. The dad turned himself in and brought back the boy.”

“…and the other one?”

“Didn’t come back.”

He lays a hand on my shoulder, squeezing gently, and I get up once more. I don’t want to get into any details, not now, not ever. What’s equally as important, I don’t want to give him any reasons to cut me off. I finish my coffee and say goodbye, picking up my keys and jacket on the way out.

As I’m driving out to Chrissie and Rachel’s, I’m pondering the homework he’s given me. Is it more than just a distraction? I’m sure Cal and his team are just as aware of any dangerous individual out there as I am, if not a lot more so. No one stands out, and there’s no one who has threatened me personally, or seems likely to do so. We’re aware of hate crimes in the area, but those are usually somewhere in between damage to property and violent assaults.

Rachel and Chrissie go pretty much under the radar, as far as I know. They don’t go out much, especially since they have Rosie. Why them? My train of thought inevitably brings me back to the most horrifying ideas. There are criminals who stop at nothing, people who think that money should buy them everything…and it does. There’s always the theory of the single offender.

Someone new in town? I park in the same spot as just yesterday, a little over twenty-four hours ago. The light has changed, and I only now realize how many hours have passed. My fears are screaming at me, It’s been too long already, but I have to ignore them. I have to go face the parents of a missing two-year-old, and I’ll have to ask them some hard questions.

Their friend Paula is with them, which gives me a pang of guilt for showing up so late. There’s nothing new I have for them, and what I’ve heard earlier, they can’t know. Everyone is subdued, so I try to bring up the subject as diplomatically as possible. I know they’ve had some heated online discussions, enough reason for me to rarely use the Internet for private purposes. There are just too many unpleasant people out there.

“I don’t know what you want, Ann,” Chrissie says. She’s tired, frustrated and scared. It’s showing.

“We don’t start that kind of dispute, and we’ve only answered a few times when somebody sought us out.”

“Lately, was there someone in particular?”

“Don’t you think I’ve asked myself that a million times?” Her voice is rising. “No, there isn’t anyone. Don’t tell me you’re wasting your time looking there. Yes, it’s annoying when people feel compelled to tell you that you’re going to hell. It sucks big time. Those are teenage bullies, and they’re also proud grandfathers, or wives. Unfortunately, it’s not a crime to be a self-righteous asshole, but other than that, they stick to the law. Don’t you watch the news? The ‘turn away the gays’ bills kept popping up even before we had marriage equality, and now there are still many places where you can get married, but also fired or evicted just for being gay. So far, the law works fine for them.”

Rachel and Paula exchange a look, and then Rachel gets up and says, “Honey, I’m sure Ann is hungry. Why don’t you stay here with Paula for a moment?” I have the suspicion that food is the last thought on her mind. No one here cares about food at this moment. When the kitchen door is closed, she wipes a hand over her face before giving me an intent look.

“Okay, tell me the truth. What are we looking at?”

“I told you. There is no news, and you’d be the first to know anyway.” “Really,” Rachel says. I don’t like the sarcasm. “Why are you asking these questions? We both know that it’s not the haters’ M.O. They are happy with leaving a few hateful comments on Facebook, not even knowing how far they’ve gotten their heads up their asses. They won’t even take responsibility for themselves, why would they kidnap a child?”

I let her speak while wondering if I paid so little attention before. I didn’t know she was so angry, or Chrissie, for that matter.

“It’s not that, right?”

“We must consider every angle.” I keep it vague, for her sake and mine.

“We took down the balloons just this morning,” she says, fiddling with her wedding ring. “I can’t stop thinking about that man. What if he’s one of those sickos who--”

“No,” I say firmly. “No. Right now, there’s only very little that we know, so let’s not jump to conclusions.” I can tell from her expression that there’s more.

“Look, if you have any idea, no matter how vague it is, now would be the moment--” “How can you even think that?” she snaps. “I’ve been going over every little detail, every possibility, a million times. We don’t exactly make enemies on a daily basis. You know a lot more about these things than we do, but you’re not telling us anything, just asking questions. You have no idea how much that scares me...I went on the Internet. Chrissie doesn’t know about it.” She swallows hard. “There are some sick people out there. ‘Baby brokers’?”

“Don’t do that.” It’s not a suggestion. “I know it’s hard.”

The look she gives me says clearly “You don’t know anything.”

For what it’s worth, I have to try.

“You can’t do this. You’re going to drive yourself crazy. It’s not the time to think of worst case scenarios. We’ll bring her home, Rachel!” Damn all those cop shows for spelling out all the horrible possibilities in more detail than anyone can bear.

“I can’t take this much longer.” She turns away from my gaze.

“It will be okay.” If we say it a few more times, we might be able to make ourselves believe. Rachel gives me a grateful smile that doesn’t quite cover the underlying emotions of fear and despair.

“Is there something I can fix you?”

“No, thanks. I’ll have something on the way back. It’s going to be-” A long night, I almost say, but stop myself in time. Tonight, tomorrow, no one of us has an idea, but it’s nothing I can say out loud in this house. I follow her back into the living room where the trace is set up. The tension in the room is palpable.

~~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~~



A psychologist/trauma counselor by training, Barbara Winkes left her native Germany to live with her wife in Québec City. Telling stories has always been her passion. She loves to write suspense and romance with female protagonists who try to solve the puzzle of their love life, a murder case, or sometimes, both.