I am pleased to announce that my publisher, Black Rose Writing, has re-issued Taking Lives, the Prequel to the Lives Trilogy; Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy; Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy; and Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy.
I took the time to painstakingly revise, update, and fully edit each book. The books will be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble on May 25th, BUT . . . . . . . They are currently available right now for preorder through Black Rose Writing at a 15% discount.
Here is a snippet from Taking Lives, the Prequel to the Lives Trilogy:
Two Years Previous . . .
Pete slipped on a pair of blue surgical gloves and knelt down on one knee next to the ME. Summer did the same, but on the other side of the body.
Because it was desert, there was some decay and a whole lot of stink, but that didn’t bother Kelliher much. Not at all, actually. What bothered him was that the dead body they were examining was that of a boy, whose life was taken and extinguished way before it should have been.
“The desert air is dry, so there isn’t the amount of decomposition and decay you might find, let’s say, in the Midwest, but I’m guessing this kid has been here for forty-eight hours, give or take. Looking at the dark sand around the boy’s head, I would say that was a blood pool, and he was shot right here, with a small caliber weapon. I’d say a .38. Entry looks to be from above and behind, so the boy was kneeling, and the shooter stood behind him. You can see stippling and some powder burns, so it was at close range. We’ll get samples from the sand, but I think that’s what we’ll find.”
“I’m guessing this boy was what, twelve or thirteen or so?” Pete asked.
The ME nodded and said, “That seems about right. Could be a little older.”
“What do you make of the marks on the boy’s back?” Summer asked.
The ME sighed and shook his head in disgust. “I can’t be absolutely certain until I get him back to the lab, but I think he was whipped with a strap. I’d guess leather. I’ll know better when I perform an autopsy.”
“And the mark on his left ankle?” Pete asked. “It looks like an upside-down cross. Was that branded on him?”
“Looks that way,” the ME answered quietly.
“I’m going to get a picture of the boy’s face and send it to the National Center for Missing Children. Hopefully, John Clark and his team will find a match.” Summer said.
“Jesus Christ,” Pete said. “What are we dealing with?”
She knew what Pete was thinking, because she was thinking the same thing. Two dead boys found in the same position, in the same way, one in the High Desert of California off I-15, the route that would take one to Vegas, and the other, north of Reno and west of Gerlach, in the Smoke Creek Desert of Nevada. And just like the other boy that was found, there was no doubt in Pete’s or her mind the autopsy will find signs of forced sex. The only differences between the two boys was that the fourteen-year-old boy found in Nevada, Blake from California, had dark hair, while this boy, had sandy blond hair. And Blake didn’t have a brand on his ankle like this kid did.
Pete stood up, beat a little sand from his pant leg, stretched his sore back and faced the three young men, still sitting on or standing near their dirt bikes.
“Okay, which one of you discovered the body?”
Agent Pete Kelliher worked out of D.C., with the Crimes Against Children Unit, sometimes called Kiddie Cops by other agents. Before that, he had been a detective with Baltimore homicide. He and his partner, Agent Summer Storm, had flown just over two hours by plane out of Reagan National to Ontario International Airport, forty miles east of L.A., and then jumped into a helicopter and flew another twenty minutes or so up into the High Desert area east of Victorville, where this boy was found nude, handcuffed, and dead.
A long-haired, twenty-something, dark male dressed in lime-green leathers, coated in dust and dirt raised his hand. “Me. I found him.”
Kelliher nodded at him. “Can you step over here, so we can talk?”
He moved off and away from lime-green’s two buddies, fellow dirt bikers, and waited for lime-green to join him and Storm.
“Your name is . . .”
“Herc?” Summer asked.
Storm pursed her lips and nodded.
“Go through your story for us, please.” Summer asked tiredly.
“My friends and I come up here on Saturdays and ride. You know, just messing around. Usually, we ride on the other side of I-15, south of Hesperia, but we wanted to do something different, so we came over here on the Victorville side. We know the museum is over here, so we needed to stay away from there.”
“Museum?” Pete asked.
“Yeah, the Roy Rogers Museum. It’s back there about three or four miles.”
Summer recalled seeing the structure from the helicopter and wondered what it was. “Okay, go on,” Summer said.
“We were racing and I shot over that little ledge,” he said, pointing at a rocky outcrop that looked a lot steeper than a little ledge.
Kelliher and Storm exchanged a look, and then turned back to Moffet.
“I damn near landed on top of him. I knew Clancy was on my tail and Devin comin’ on quick, so I ran back up the ledge and flagged them down before they landed on me and the kid.”
“And you guys have never biked here before?” Kelliher asked.
Moffet shook his head. “No, never, first time,” he looked over his shoulder at the dead kid and added. “Shit, probably won’t ever again.”
Herc Moffet and his buddies, Tommy Clancy and Devin White were in their second year at Cal State San Bernardino. Moffet studied Mass Communications. Clancy was in Pre-Law, and White, Pre-Med.
Background checks on all three had been completed by a computer geek attached to Kiddie Corps, and all three were clean. Moffet worked part-time as a bartender. Clancy didn’t hold any job, while White did work-study in the library.
After questioning Moffet, Kelliher and Storm turned their attention to Clancy and White, who gave virtually the same account. There didn’t seem to be any inconsistency or any cause to doubt them.
Before they let them go, Summer said, “Hey guys, before you leave, do you have cell phones?”
“Yeah, sure,” Moffet answered for them, while Clancy and White nodded.
“You fellas on Facebook, Twitter, and maybe Instagram?”
“Some,” Clancy said warily.
Kelliher nodded and smiled knowingly.
“Just so you know,” Summer said. “If any pictures appear on anything, and that would include on your device or on anyone else’s device, you will be tampering with a crime scene, interfering with a criminal investigation, and any chance you have of finishing college or getting into grad school will be flushed down the toilet.”
The three guys paled.
“So, what I would like you to do right now is to delete every picture you took of that little boy, and delete any post you made on any social media. You have one minute,” she turned to her partner. “Pete, get ready to call Chet and let him know to begin a search of their media, because if everything isn’t erased in,” she made a show of looking at her watch, “forty seconds, I will arrest these gentlemen on federal charges.”
Cell phones came out of pockets and fingers flew over the keys.
She waited a bit, and for good measure to prod them on, Summer said. “Twelve, eleven, ten . . .”
“Okay, okay, wait a minute.” Moffet said in panic.
When she was satisfied they were done, she said. “Okay, you guys can go, but if there are any comments anywhere to anyone and we find out, same holds true about compromising our investigation.”
“You can’t be serious.” Clancy protested.
Kelliher walked up to him. “Son, do you really think we’re anything but serious?”
Clancy took a step back, looked over his shoulder at Moffet, looked back at Kelliher, and shook his head.
After the three men jumped on their bikes and rode off, Pete and Summer huddled away from the ME and his assistant, and away from the two San Bernardino Sheriff Deputies, and the two FBI agents out of LA.
“What are you thinking?”
Pete looked at her. “You already know what I think.”
Summer nodded sadly.
Pete was fiftyish, had a paunch, a head of mostly gray hair on his head in a neat and tidy flattop. He looked military, but was actually quite the opposite. He might have pulled his .45 six or seven times, but he hadn’t fired it in years, though he was an excellent shot. He was considered by many in the FBI as a cop’s cop, a true investigator who had a good mind, who was thorough and detailed. Pete tended to be a loner who never married. He was mostly serious, mostly quiet, and off the job. He kept to himself, often watching Clint Eastwood or John Wayne movies in the dark of his living room, in his three bedroom Colonial, in Georgetown.
His partner received her first name because she was born in the backseat of a station wagon on a hot July night, with hail, thunder and lightning rocking the car. Her parents thought first of Hailey, but settled on Summer, liking how it sounded together: Summer Storm. Pete was old enough to be her father and saw her—and even treated her—as his daughter, and she grumbled about it, but Pete paid no attention. The FBI recruited her out of the University of Louisville where she had graduated from law school.
They were an odd team. Pete, sullen, rumpled and gray. Summer, trim and proper. Together, they were very good at what they did.
“We have two boys. Both nude, both handcuffed, both shot at close range in the back of the head twice with a .38. This boy was branded, while the other kid wasn’t. That and hair color are the only differences. We don’t know yet, but I’m willing to bet this boy here will have the same signs of forced sex that the other boy had.”
Summer nodded. “We know the first boy we found, Blake Johnson. He’s been missing for two years from Spokane. His parents suspected he was kidnapped.”
“So, you think maybe, whoever kidnapped Blake, also took this boy?”
“And if that’s the case,” Summer said.
“Then we might have a serial abductor, a pedophile, preying on pre-pubescent boys,” Pete answered for her.
“And if that’s the case, just how many other boys are out there?” Summer wondered out loud.