Sunday, October 19, 2014

Release Day - Don't Go

I’m very excited.

Don’t Go is a dark romantic suspense that takes place predominantly in Reno.  Sam is a Washoe Sheriff detective with a background of sexual abuse. Now she works in teen chatrooms to catch sexual predators.  A serial killer is targeting blonde teen girls in chatroms and one of the girls from Sam’s chatrooms is now missing.
Devlin is a Reno cop who like undercover work and doesn’t do missing kids – except they’re short staffed and he’s assigned a missing girl. He doesn’t believe in relationships and likes one night stands. Now he’s stuck working a case with a computer smart detective who obviously doesn’t do one night stands and has no use for Reno police.
Reluctantly, they must work together to solve this case. Can they resolve their personal issues and bring down a serial killer?
Here’s an excerpt:
     “No! It can’t be happening again. Not again. I’m supposed to protect these girls.” Detective Sam Brennan stood and paced the room in a circle.
     “What’s up, Sam?” The heavy set woman at the computer next to her asked while rolled her chair back.
     “One of the girls is missing from my chatroom, Kerensa.”
     “Hey, we can’t keep track of them all.”
     “That’s my job. That’s why I transferred to this unit, to protect girls so they didn’t go through the hell that can follow a rape.” She stopped in front of her computer, her fists clenched at her side. A tear drifted down her face. “She has no idea what she’s doing.”
     “You got that right. Look, we can only do our best. Other people, like parents and teachers, should take some responsibility for the kids.”
     “I know. But parents don’t do a great job. I know.”
     “I can’t imagine what you went through, but you do a good job.”
     "Not good enough, not if she’s gone to meet him.
     “Look girlfriend, I know you live and breathe this job, but maybe you need to learn to step back. It’s not good for you to relive your life through these kids. The Washoe County sheriff’s office is just a job.”
    “Not for me. But you’re right. I can’t help it.” Sam flopped into her computer chair. “The truth is, I hate it when one of these young girls goes into the chatrooms, then falls prey to the pervs who hang out there. Drives me crazy. I want to catch all those bastards
and put them behind bars.”
     “You catch a lot. I bet you have one of the best records in the country.”
     “I don’t give a damn about records. I wish we could figure out a better way to keep the pervs off the internet for a very long time.”
     “You got it. Maybe one day. Can I do anything?”
     Sam glanced up as her fingers moved the mouse around. “No, I’m going to start re-checking last night’s chats and see what I’ve missed.”
     “Okay then, I’m on a break. Back in ten. I need sustenance.” Kerensa stood, glancing across at her. “You sure you don’t need help?”
     Sam stared at the screen.
     “Don’t beat yourself up, hon. You’ll find her. You sure you don’t want a coffee or anything?”
     “No, I’m good. I hope you’re right.”
     “I won’t be long.” Detective Kerensa Washington bounced her well-padded body out the door and into the squad room.
     Sam didn’t hear the door close as she scanned through the messages posted in the chatroom. She squeezed her eyes shut, clenching and unclenching her fists.
     Damn these guys. She’d like to get one of them in an alley--just once. She reached into the bottom drawer of her desk for a chunk of dark chocolate.
     “Damn it. Where the hell is she?” She popped the chocolate in her mouth and chewed slowly, moving her mouse around the Washoe County mouse pad. She scanned the cyber-chatroom one more time. “Damn. I can’t lose another one. She has to be here somewhere.”
     Sam leaned forward, lips pursed, eyebrows crinkled. “Come on; come on, ‘Invisible-Melissa’, check in, please. Don’t go to meet him. He’s not who you think. You have no idea what he can do to you. Please baby, don’t go.”
     Desperation wrapped around her like an iron boa and squeezed so she could barely breathe. Another tear trickled down her cheek.
     With a few more clicks she scanned the names of those in the online chatroom. ‘Searching- for-You’ hadn’t checked in since last night either.
     “Damn. That’s probably who she’s gone to meet. How did I miss it? Don’t these kids know you never go meet some stranger you’ve only talked to online? They should have learned that back in the sandbox.”
     She leaned back in her chair. Her forehead squeezed against her skull, shooting barbs of pain to her eyes. The chocolate hadn’t helped the stress.
     “How did I miss this one?” She punched her fist into her palm. Insidious memories crept from the dark corners of her subconscious, spun a cocoon around her and dragged her back into the dark, tangled web of her own past.
     The sickening sweet smell of overpowering aftershave snaked up her nostrils; fat, sweaty palms grasped at her thighs. She knew what was going to happen. She was unable to scream, unable to escape…no one to help her.
     The images crashed over her, scattering years of counseling like broken shells on a beach, covering her soul with the spray of desperation and anger.
     Sam scrubbed at a tear drifting down her cheek, and forced the images back into the darkness, back into the locked box.
     It’s not about me. It’s about this girl and another predator creep.
     With clenched fists she white-knuckled the arms of the chair to keep from throwing the damn computer against the wall.
     “Find anything?” Kerensa strolled back into the computer room, a partially eaten sugar donut in her fingers. A faint white trail drifted behind her. “They got a whole box of these out there if you want to grab one before the other detectives get back and scarf them all.”
     “Damn it! I should have seen it coming. Where the hell are they?” Sam kicked her chair away from the computer and stood. “No thanks. Those things can kill you. I’d have to work out an extra hour tonight.”
     “Hey, they’re no worse than that stash of chocolate you hide in your bottom drawer.”
     “A girl has to have something to combat the frustration. Besides, dark chocolate is good for you.”
     “Right, if you say so. You know, girlfriend, you need to learn to relax, enjoy life, and find a man who likes his woman well-padded.” Kerensa patted the green uniform shirt stretched across her protruding belly. A safety pin protected a button from popping off.
     “Like Tim?” Sam allowed a faint smile to tug at the corners of her mouth. “You’re lucky. Chocolate is my replacement for men. Chocolate won’t screw with me.”
     “Too bad, ‘cause being a natural blonde with a great bod, you could probably get any man you wanted.”
      “Yeah, right.” Sam shook her head and walked toward the door. “I’m taking a break, but not to get donuts. I need to think.”
     “Take your time, girl. Hey, if there’s any of those donuts left, bring one back for me, will ya?”
     Sam nodded. She rubbed her temples with her fingers, trying to exorcise the images of what the girl would go through if she met that damn creep. A sigh slithered out into the squad room as she headed toward the pot holding the day-old coffee.
     “You okay?” Pete Sandusky nodded in her direction.
     The acrid, slightly burnt odor of chicory and rancid coffee beans made her wrinkle her nose before she even reached the coffee maker.
     She shook her head, poured a half cup of the sludge, and rested her butt against the table beside the box of sugar donuts. “No. Not really.”
     With her mug clutched in both hands, she stared across at Pete. He was a good cop. He’d been there about twenty years and looked everyday of it. Gray fringe around a shiny pate; round, gold-rimmed glasses perched on a short, flat, boxer-type nose, and an inner tube that had settled around his waist under the dark green uniform.
     “It’s a feeling I’ve got.” After a quick sip of the disgusting liquid she stuck out her tongue. “Yech. Why doesn’t someone throw this crap out?”
     Pete shrugged. “What doesn’t feel right?”
     “I think I’ve lost one of the kids from the chatroom. She’s not online.”
     “Sure her parents haven’t cut off her computer privileges?”
     “No, I don’t think so. She’s been saying the usual teenage girl crap. She doesn’t fit in, doesn’t have any friends and all the typical teen angst about her parents not understanding her. Then there’s this other guy, who says he’s sixteen, but is probably at least thirty, who keeps saying he understands, and is going through the same problems at home and school. The bastard has been playing to her weaknesses, and at the same time building up her ego, leading her on, trying to get her to meet him.”
     “It doesn’t mean she will.”
     “I know, but I’m afraid he might have convinced her to do it. She’s been off line since last night. I’m guessing she’s on her way to meet him as we speak, if she’s not already there. Damn it. I should have seen it coming.”
     “You’re not a mind reader, Sam.”
     “I should have picked up on this one.”
     “Know who the kid is?”
      “No. I can trace her, but it will take awhile. I should have done that before, but most of the time they don’t actually go to meet the bastards. Has anyone reported a fourteen year old girl missing?”
     “Not that I’ve heard.”
     “Parents probably don’t even know she’s gone yet. It’s pretty sad when I can figure it out before the parents do, but then a lot of parents fail to protect their kids on the internet--and in other places.” She stared out the window and tried to visualize where the girl might be going. Heading toward a man, probably a pedophile, she didn’t know and thought was a boy; heading toward a life changing experience. Maybe one she wouldn’t survive.
     “It’s not always the parents’ fault, Sam. Sometimes they don’t understand, or don’t know what to do.”
     “Yeah, maybe. Or they’re embarrassed because they failed their kid and want to cover up their own failures. Best case scenario for this girl is she meets the guy for coffee and decides to come back home. That happens with the majority of the cases.”
“So don’t beat yourself up. She may be home by dinner tonight.”
     “Thanks Pete. I hope so. The worst case scenario involves the hard core pedophiles. If he was one of those…”
     “Don’t go there, Sam. Think positive.”
     “That’s not my strong point, but I’ll try.”
     Dark, clouds hung low over the Washoe County training center, adding to an already depressing day. The radio said more showers tonight.
     Pete moved across the room beside her. “Your shift is almost over, Sam. Shut it down for the night. See if she’s there in the morning, and if not, then trace her. You don’t even know if she’s local.” Pete reached up and patted her lightly on the shoulder.
     She didn’t flinch at his touch. Thanks to this job she’d learned to control her immediate impulse to jerk away. At least she’d learned a few coping skills over the years. No thanks to the damn counselors.
     “She’s local. Most of the chatrooms I surf are the Reno ones. We have a better chance of catching pedophiles that are local. If she is missing…”
     “Don’t take it personal. You can’t save them all.”
     “I always take it personally, Pete. I can’t help it. I’ve been there. I know what happens. I know the feelings that flood over you afterwards and the memories that will shape your life.”
     “You’re darn good at catching those creeps and protecting a lot of kids. How many have you caught so far--forty?”
     “Forty-two. But we catch them and put them away and the damn system sends them right back out in a couple of years to do it again. Dammit, sometimes they’re out in a few months. The courts don’t get the dangers associated with computers these days.”
     And where the hell were the parents?
     She headed back toward the pot holding the day-old coffee.
     “Maybe, but you’re educating them, slowly. The abused kid’s stats in this area would be a lot higher if it weren’t for you.” Pete shuffled back to his desk. “Still, until someone reports this kid missing, you can’t do anything. What are you going to say--we need to start an investigation because I think someone is missing, but I don’t have a name or address and no one has reported her missing?”
     “You’re right. But it doesn’t make it any easier. I feel so damn helpless. It makes me angry, frustrated, and depressed all at once.”
     “You’re too close, Sam. Maybe you should work out in the field for awhile?”
     Her lungs squeezed out another sigh, carrying her pain with it.
     “Yeah, maybe.”
     She picked up a donut, wrapped it in a napkin and carried her coffee back into the computer room. She closed the door and leaned against the wall.
     “I don’t know about you, but I find working for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, always feels a little like walking on a tightrope.”
     Kerensa rolled her chair around to face her. “You got that right, girlfriend. Even though the main focus is to catch pedophiles, we try to keep those girls from taking off with them.”
     “Here,” she handed Kerensa the wrapped donut.
     “You are a doll. I owe you.” Kerensa unwrapped the donut and took a big bite, and allowed the sugar to drift down the front of her uniform.
     “Usually I pick up on the cues. If it looks like the girl might go to meet someone, I post don’t go and warn against the risks of meeting strangers. You and Hank do the same thing.”
     “Hey, I try to make what happens to them sound as scary as possible.” Kerensa licked the sugar off her lips.
     “Yeah, you even scare me sometimes. I post articles on cases and stats I suggest the girls read.”
“Hey, your way or mine, it works most of the time. I like to scare the shit out of them.” Kerensa grinned, showing sparkling white teeth.
Sam dropped into her chair and rolled in front of the screen. “I’m going to scan the chatrooms one more time, see if I can start an identity search and then pack it in for the night. What about you?”
“I’ve got two more hours left on my shift until Hank comes in. Then I’m meeting Tim . We’re going to a monster truck thing.”
“I’ll be here for awhile. I have to check in with my twelve pedophiles in their twelve chatrooms right now. That’s going to take me more than a few minutes.”
 “You amaze me. I have enough trouble keeping my personalities straight with eight perps and chatrooms.”
“Kerensa, I’ve been working ICAC a lot longer than you. I still use notes to help.”
“What I don’t get is why these creeps expect us to always be online whenever they want to chat. If you’re not there, you have to make excuses, like you’d been grounded by your parents, or you lose them.”
Sam shrugged. “I don’t get that either. Almost done, maybe I can still fit in a karate workout.”
“Sounds good--for you, not for me. Go, girl. It’ll all be here tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I guess. Maybe I’ll wash this disgusting mug and head out.” Sam trudged back into the squad room.
     “Man, it’s chilly out there for May.” Detective Jerry Prado breezed in and waved in her direction. “Hey Brennan, how come you haven’t blown the joint by now? Isn’t your shift over?”
“I’m just heading out, Jerry. You look like you had a good day.” She edged her way carefully past his six foot something muscular frame, in an attempt to avoid physical contact with him.
She rinsed her mug and left it to dry on the tray.
“It was good, yeah. Caught me a bad guy and that leaves his lovely lady free and available for this evening.” Jerry waggled his dark, eyebrows suggestively.
     “You’re kidding.” She shook her head. “No. I know you’re not.”
Trust Jerry.
He was part of the Consolidated Narcotics Unit, divorced, with an I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude. Felt he was god’s gift to women, and the Washoe County Sheriff’s office.
She could understand why women might be turned on when they first met him with his football player physique, dark hair, and sexy Latino eyes. When he flashed his pearly whites, he looked damn near irresistible.
However, you’d think his obnoxious, self-centered personality would get to them after the first date. And if they missed the defective personality you’d think they’d notice the taste, or lack of it, in clothing. Today he wore a brown striped suit with an orange shirt and a green and yellow tie with a cartoon dog on it.
Who wore crap like that?
She turned away. “Have a fun evening.”
“Thanks, babe, I always do.”
Sam wound her way back the computer room. She glanced over her shoulder at Pete before disappearing into her room. “Thanks for listening.”
“Least I can do. Let’s hope she shows up by morning.”
“Yeah, let’s hope.”
In the computer room she slumped into her chair and anchored her feet so the chair didn’t slide back.
“I thought you were going to leave. Remember? Everything will still be here tomorrow.” Kerensa frowned at Sam.
“In a few minutes. I thought of something.” Sam grabbed the mouse, and moved it so the website flashed back onto the screen. She clicked through the latest posts in the chatroom where Melissa and Searching-for-You had been seen last. She hunted for the familiar names.
 “Did you hear Jerry’s going to take a perp’s girl out tonight?”
“No kiddin’? Doesn’t surprise me. Man has no taste. Now go home, girlfriend.”
Nope, ‘Invisible-Melissa’ still wasn’t there.
“Yeah, you’re right.” She powered down her computer and grabbed her gym bag. “A karate workout will feel good. It might relieve some of my frustration. See you tomorrow. Say ‘hi’ to Hank for me.”
She made it halfway through the squad room before turning back.
“Now what, girl? You’re on your way to karate.”
“I can at least finish getting the identities of the two missing people. That’s a start. It looks like the parents aren’t going to report her missing. If I can find the perv it’ll give me an advantage if the parents ever get around to reporting the girl missing.”
Kerensa shook her head. “Girl, you are something else. You need to get a life.”
“I know. People keep telling me that. One day--maybe.”
The screen flipped through the websites. The phone rang. She grabbed it. Maybe someone had spotted the girl and picked her up.
“Detective Brennan." 
                                                                                                         Don't Go is available at Amazon

Other links coming soon.  

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