About the Book
Private investigator Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels teams up with Deputy Dawson Hughes to find a geeky radio broadcaster’s missing wife and young daughter. They fear the woman and child were taken by Islamic terrorists as revenge against the husband’s pro-Israel, conspiracy theory broadcasts. The investigation takes Ronnie and Hughes from a manicured Connecticut estate, to interviews with an elitist A-List society crowd, and run-ins with cranky local police detectives. Then they plunge deep into the seamy, drug-riddled underbelly of the fashion world, with the specter of international terrorism hovering.
Hughes has recently been promoted to lieutenant in the Taylor County, Texas Sheriff’s Department. He’s on leave on a special assignment with Authorized Operations (AO), a clandestine, quasi-government agency operating out of a sea-side mansion in Hither Hills, NY. The only thing is, many powerful politicians, and government big-wigs claim Authorized Operations doesn’t exist.
Ronnie is furious at both Hughes and the broadcaster for waiting thirty-six hours to start the search. She knows the longer it takes, the less chance there is of finding the child alive. The problem is, radio talk-show host Ed Harper has been hoping-against-hope that his pot-smoking, model wife is on one of her ‘esoteric experiences’ and has simply taken the child while she romps for a few days. He doesn’t want to seriously consider the other, more hazardous possibility… that his radio broadcasts have angered some very dangerous people.
Day One, Friday, Early Afternoon
Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels, Private Detective
What was wrong with Hughes? As a lawman, he had to have known better. He should’ve called in the local police a day and a half ago. What was he thinking? In a missing child case, time was essential, and they’d wasted a whole lot of precious hours.
I chewed off what was left of the pink polish on my thumb nail, gunned my Chevy Cruze Eco, and moved into the left lane on Interstate 95. In a time that now seemed distant, my late husband noted the car’s topaz-blue metallic finish matched my eyes. Of course, he’d been staring into another’s eyes, and I was the last to know about it.
When I resurfaced from my self-depreciating musing, New York State was behind me, and I-95 had become the Connecticut Turnpike. I hit the gas pedal again, but then changed my mind and slowed down. If I got pulled over for speeding that would waste even more time.
After another forty-five minutes, I bore down on the exit for Dunst. Following the instructions of the female voice on my GPS brought me to Main Street of this working-class village. It wasn’t exactly run-down, but could use some renewal in places. But, then, who was I to pass judgment? I lived in Brooklyn where the pigeons were as large as some single-engine planes and the subway rats even larger.
I made a turn onto Pequot Street and three houses later pulled into the driveway of a quaint, gray salt-box house, with miniscule front windows and a tiny garage. I parked behind a black Ford Explorer rental, and a tricked-out Harley Davidson motorcycle.
After grabbing my conceal-and-carry shoulder bag, I got out of the car, and clicked the key fob to lock the doors. When I’m driving long distances it’s more comfortable to have my Glock in a handbag than in a clip-on holster, sticking me in the side mile-after-mile.
I rang the bell and a geeky guy with squarish horn-rimmed glasses opened the door. Dawson Hughes stood several feet behind him.
A shadow passed over the man’s eyes and they narrowed. I couldn’t determine if it was confusion, or guilt and remorse. He took a faltering step back. “Um, come in, won’t you?”
I did, and marched directly to Hughes. “We’re thirty-six hours into a missing child case. Why haven’t the police been called?”
Hughes grimaced and held both hands up, palms out, in a stopping stance. “Whoa. Janus Agard notified the authorities over an hour ago.”
“I’m thrilled somebody finally decided to do something. Just who is Janus Agard, and what’s he got to do with the case?”
The nerdy guy stepped toward me, and his head bobbed. “Please, sit down in the living room and I’ll explain everything. Can I get you some coffee?”
“No, on the coffee.” I walked into a room furnished with comfortable, contemporary pieces in beige tones. A watercolor seascape, with a shimmering golden sun sinking below the horizon, hung over the couch. A large swirling, blue-glass bowl, filled with sea shells, graced the coffee table. My best guess was the missing wife had acquired the bowl. It had a feminine feel to it. This was the kind of place a young professional couple, just starting on their career paths, might have.
A man, who had been sitting in an easy chair, rose to his feet. He wore a black tee, relaxed-fit jeans, thick leather boots, and sported an eagle tattoo on his forearm. Light brown hair raised from his forehead, the back ends curling just above the tee’s collar. A leather jacket lay over the arm of the chair he’d just vacated. No doubt this was the owner of the Harley.
He stepped toward me and extended his hand. “Gary Olsen.”
I shook the biker’s hand. “I’m Veronica Ingels, private detective from Cooney Investigations.”
Hughes introduced the geek to me and brought me up to speed on the facts of the case.
“Ronnie, I only found out about Mr. Barton’s missin’ wife and child two hours ago, not two days ago.”
“So, when you say, your boss… this Janus Agard guy… phoned the authorities, that doesn’t necessarily mean he called the local police?”
Hughes nodded. “Good instincts on your part. He phoned someone, who, in turn will notify the Dunst PD.”
I paced back and forth. “How long does it take to make a few phone calls and for the cops to drive across this itsy village and get here?”
Before I could take off on another rant, a black sedan pulled into the drive and two men in suits, who had the look of detectives, got out.
Barton darted for the front door, nearly tripping over his own feet.
I looked at Hughes, then pointed at the husband. “Pretty jumpy, isn’t he?”
“Not unusual with his wife and daughter missing. He’s skittish as a gun-shy dog.” Hughes let out a long sigh.
“Well ‘Suspect 101’ in any police academy puts the husband at the top of the list.”
Hughes shrugged and we walked toward the front door.
Barton let the men into the small foyer.
The tallish, muscular one sported close-cropped hair that was nearly platinum. Not expecting that, with my usual lack of social acumen, I stared and had to tear my gaze away. He wore a black, off-the-rack suit with a white shirt and a red tie that had some kind of dots in it. Him taking an ‘at ease’ stance, gave away he’d been in the military. When he leveled his gaze to scrutinize us one-by-one, I didn’t feel so bad having gawked at him.
The older, shorter, balder one approached Barton. His suit was gray and a bit rumpled. He had a few acne pockmarks on his chin. “I’m Detective Campo. We need to get this investigation moving.” He inclined his head toward his partner. “This here is Detective Quinlan.”
Hughes introduced himself and me.
Campo’s eyes narrowed. He swung around to face Barton. “You hired PIs before you called the police?”
This was not off to a good start.
About the Author
Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (colored might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.
Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chair, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She has been a judge in the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories; and an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series, set in the mid-1940s has finaled, won an award, and garnered critical acclaim. HARMFUL INTENT released under the auspices of her own publishing company, Crime Fictionista Press, won in the Grace Awards 2014 Mystery/Thriller/Romantic Suspense/Historic Suspense category. Her new release is DEADLY DESIGNS. She has written book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and John 3:16 Marketing Network. Visit her website.
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