Tuesday, January 26, 2016


                                                     Chapter 15: Nick Bracco

      Nick put his phone down and fist-bumped Matt.  “Emily found the missing girls,” he said with a big smile.

     Matt pointed to Karl Saxon who was answering questions from a Baltimore detective.  “What about him?”

     “I want him released.”

     Matt gave Nick a deadpan stare.  “Sure, why not.  He’s only a hired assassin.”

     Nick folded his arms across his chest.  “Do you remember the names on his playlist of victims?  Charles Nekert.  Rocco Slate.  Vance Thalter.  All terrorist supporters  from different parts of the world?”

     “I’m listening.”

     “Well, we don’t exactly have any hard evidence against him.”


     “And it would be really hard to find a charge to hold him on.”

     “So we release him and wait for him to kill again?”

     “That’s right.”

     “And try to find evidence against him at that crime scene?”

     Nick nodded.  “You’re good at this.  You should be in law enforcement.”

     “Are you out of your friggin’ mind?”

     Nick tugged Matt’s arm to get him away from the throng of police gathering around Saxon.  Once they were far enough away, he said, “That casing I showed you from the Morrison murder?  The one where I kept from the evidence room?”


     Nick glanced over his shoulder at Saxon.  “Well, I told Karl that I was given the casing by a terrorist who wanted Saxon incarcerated for the rest of his life.”

     Matt’s glare softened as the concept became clearer in his mind.  “And exactly who did you say gave you this casing?”

     “Amin Soharto.”

     Matt’s grin widened.  “You’re kidding, right?  We’ve been searching for Amin for a decade.”


     “And what makes you think he can find him?”

     “Because if he doesn’t, I promised that casing would find itself into the evidence chamber.”

     Matt shook his head.  “You are a nasty man.”

     “That’s what Julie tells me all the time.”

     Matt draped an arm around his partner.  “I could use a drink.”

     Nick patted Matt’s chest.  “Let’s make them doubles.”


                                                             The End

Thursday, January 21, 2016




Chapter 14 – Emily Stone


Emily kicked open the front door and quickly stormed the house. Anger and desperation overcame her. The interior was the same as she had left it minutes ago—empty and barely lived in.

She knew in her gut that the girls were close.

“Em,” Rick said breathlessly joining her side. It was obvious that he was stressed and out of constructive suggestions. “We only have minutes.”

“Check everything, I mean everything in the living room and kitchen areas.” She ran down the hall and entered the first bedroom.

Emily stood for a moment in the middle of the empty room. The closet doors were open but the interior was vacant. She gritted her teeth and ran to the other two bedrooms with the same result. Kicking the bathroom door inward, she spun around in frustration.



“It’s clear,” stated Rick as he joined Emily. “There’s no way that they would be stashed in the kitchen cabinets, closets, or anywhere else.”

Emily’s cell phone buzzed, but she ignored it.

Out of extreme frustration and borderline rage, Emily stomp-kicked the wall leaving a crushed in hole behind.

“Em,” Rick said softly.

“The girls are here I know it,” she said softly.

“There’s no basement or crawlspace underneath the manufactured home,” Rick informed.

Emily rubbed her forehead in frustration and felt the beginning of a pounding headache. She suddenly realized. “Wait a minute. How could I have been so stupid…” she ran into the main bedroom. Looking in the closet closely and then craning her neck upward, she saw a small opening to the attic area with two hinges, locked and leaving the pull-down opening sealed. It was a small crawlspace, but it had to be it.

“Hoist me up,” she ordered.

“Wait. We don’t know if there’s some kind of trap.”

“Do it! They may not have much time left.”

Rick didn’t protest as he helped Emily up toward the opening.

She quickly pushed at the door, but it wouldn’t budge. “Give me your flashlight.”

Rick quickly handed it to her.

Emily pounded on the opening, around the sealed areas, and the cheap drywall began to crumble. “Can you hear me?” she yelled and continued to pound at the opening.

“Quiet!” Rick ordered still balancing Emily. “Did you hear that?”

Emily stopped.

A tiny muffled voice, “Please… please help us…”

“Thank God,” Emily said breathlessly. “We’re here to help you, back away from the opening.” She continued to pound at the entrance until the opening was wide enough for her body to fit through easily.

Emily disappeared into the darkness.

Rick waited nervously glancing at his watch as the minutes ticked down.

Emily took a moment to adjust her eyes to the shadows. Two figures came into view. At first, they resembled ghosts floating toward her.

“It’s okay, we’re here to get you home.”

“Home…” one girl exclaimed and began to cry.

“C’mon we have to hurry,” Emily insisted.

Emily helped the girls to the opening as Rick pulled them to safety. They were shaken and filthy, but didn’t seem to have any visible physical injuries. Emily knew that the damage and horror inflicted on them was hidden from view. They would probably carry it with them forever.

Emily dropped down and fought the urge to cry but refocused her energy.

The girls hugged her tight.

“You have to wait a few minutes longer. Help is on the way,” promised Emily. “The police will get you home.”

The girls clung to her as her heart ached for what they had been through during their ordeal.

Emily and Rick quickly guided them to the front door and instructed them to wait. The girls were hesitant and scared.

Emily softly said, “It’s okay, those men will never hurt you again.”

The girls waited at the front door.

Sirens approached from the distance.

Emily and Rick raced out of the house and around to the path leading away from the property. It was not until they were a safe distance away with a vantage point did Emily glance at her cell phone.

The text message read: The girls are in the attic. Check the master bedroom closet.

Emily quickly sent a message to Nick: They are alive waiting for police. Thank you.

She smiled and squeezed Rick’s hand. No words were spoken between them.

They watched for a few more minutes as the local police, K9 units, and FBI arrived. The cops spread out in a typical military formation to cover the property.

Two police officers rushed the girls immediately to a waiting police SUV.

Police radios chattered and loud voices filtered throughout the compound.

During the excitement of the search and seizure, Emily and Rick retreated to their hidden vehicle covertly leaving the investigation behind.



Sunday, January 17, 2016


                                                              Chapter 13: Nick Bracco


                Nick had to lie flat on his stomach before he could see it.  The imperceptible rectangle underneath the bus.

                “You lose something?” Matt asked.

                “Remember that shell casing I kept from the Morrison homicide?” Nick asked while scrutinizing the compartment in the undercarriage of the bus.

                “The one I told you to tag and inventory?”

                “Yeah, that one.”

                “What about it?”

                “It’s about to pay dividends.”

                Matt got down to his knees and following Nick’s stare.  “What are you looking at?”

                “See that bulge under the bus?”

                Matt got ever lower to where his face was pressing against the cool grass.  “Yeah?”

                “I believe that is where Karl Saxon is currently residing.”

                “Damn,” Matt said.  “I am very impressed.  How did you come up with that one?”

                Nick pointed a thumb over his shoulder.  “That kid just told me.”

                “Oh.”  Matt sighed.  “You want me to get him?”

                “No,” Nick said, coming to his feet.  “Just cover me.”

                “I can handle that.”

                Nick strode toward the gathering of detectives and forensic techs preparing to inspect the bus and said, “Give me five minutes alone before you guys get started.”

                Detective Herman Clark gave Nick a half-shrug.  “Sure.”

                Nick slowly made his way up the steps into the interior of the bus, then cautiously walked down the aisle to the exact location where the compartment was situated.  He noticed a slight interruption in the rubber floor mat that ran down the center of the passageway.  There was a clean break in the rubber pad, almost seamless to a casual inspection.  Nick was very quiet as he subtly pulled up on the mat and peeled away the layer of covering that exposed the hidden door.

                Nick pulled out his gun and moved a few feet back before crouching low and saying, “You can come out now Karl.  We all know you’re here.”

                Nothing happened for a few seconds so Nick added, “I have a very tempting proposition for you that could make your day.”

                When the silence lingered Nick said, “Karl, if all I wanted to do was apprehend you I would’ve sent the SWAT team over to smoke you out, but I’m here by myself because of my proposal.  If you make me wait another five seconds I will leave and send in the muscle.”

                The hidden door hinged open and Nick could see a hand pushing up on the platform.  Then Karl Saxon’s head came up wincing from the tight quarters he’d just subjected himself to.

                “That seems very uncomfortable,” Nick said, holding the pistol out just for affect.

                Saxon rubbed his neck and sat upright.  Half his body was still beneath the floor level.

                “Please,” Nick said.  “Do me a favor and place your hands on the floor.”

                Saxon complied.  A huge scowl of dissatisfaction on his face.  “Okay,” he said.  “I’m listening.”

                Nick pulled out a plastic baggie from his inside jacket pocket.  A cylinder-shaped object sagged to the bottom of the bag.  “Do you know what this is?”

                Saxon shrugged.  “No clue.”

                “It’s the shell casing you left behind at the Morrison homicide.”

                A flicker of recognition flashed across his face.

                “Ah,” Nick said.  “Suddenly you remember that little mistake.”

                Saxon waited. 

                “Well, here is my proposition,” Nick said, dangling the baggie like a treat for a hungry dog.  “This bit of evidence would surely tie you to the Morrison murder.  Something you’ve been able to avoid your entire career.  But I’m willing to keep my tiny souvenir if you tell me where the missing girls are.”

                Saxon was about to speak, but Nick interrupted.  “Please don’t insult me and say which girls.”

                Saxon’s scowl wilted into resignation.  “How do I know you won’t introduce it once I tell you?”

                Nick shook his head.  “You’re just going to have to trust me Karl.  Morrison was a terrorist.  You did me a huge favor by getting rid of him.  Now I’m willing to return the favor.”  Nick held up the baggie once again and dangled it.

                Saxon seemed to be cursing himself, muttering indecipherable words under his breath.

                “I didn’t hear you,” Nick said.

                Saxon’s face was taut with anger.  “They’re inside the bedroom closet.”

                “Which bedroom?”

                “The Master bedroom in the main house.  Have Stone look at the pull down hatch to the attic.  That’s where they are.”

                Nick returned the baggie to his jacket pocket.  “Pleasure doing business with you Karl.”  




Thursday, January 14, 2016




Chapter 12 – Emily Stone


The cell phone disconnected.

Emily rehashed the conversation with Nick and wished that he had given her more information. There was still hope that the girls were still alive.

“Em?” Rick interrupted. “What’s going on?” his tone was civil and even, but it had a definite sternness to it. His usual somber stare tried to read Emily’s face.

“Karl Saxon,” she replied. It didn’t make any sense to her, but she was going to get to the bottom of it.

“Who is Karl Saxon?” Rick insisted.

Ignoring the question, Emily turned and hurried back toward the compound.

“Emily!” Ricked yelled after her. “We only have about ten, maybe fifteen minutes, before the cops arrive.”

“That will have to be enough time,” she gritted her teeth and ran faster.

Rick didn’t have any other choice but to follow Emily.

“You have inside information from the FBI? From who? How?” Rick rapidly fired more questions at her. “How long have you been in contact with them?”

“I’ll fill you in on everything later—I promise,” was the only thing Emily managed to say.

The couple made it to the storage building in two minutes where the two restrained men waited.

Emily stormed the building and quickly decided which man she wanted. “Unhook him and stand him up,” she ordered Rick.

She felt her anger rise. She wasn’t going to let those girls die.

The man with a dark beard waited while Rick unfastened him, stood him up, and pushed him against the wall. It was the first time the captive showed any emotion—even if it was only mild distress mixed with idle curiosity.

Emily began, “Who are you working for?” She retrieved her weapon, but didn’t aim it at him.

The man blinked and looked past her.

No response.

“I said, who are you working for?” she demanded.

He slowly focused on her, eyes steady, but remained quiet.

Rick took a step forward and Emily stopped him.

Emily decided to take a different approach. She holstered her weapon and took a step closer to the man—inches from his face. “I know you—I know everything about you.”

The man snickered and kept his steady gaze on her.

“Yes, I do know all about you… from Karl Saxon.”

The man twitched slightly and his demeanor became stiff at the mention of Saxon—now there was fear in his eyes.

“See we’re on the same page.” Emily took out her phone and played the men’s previous conversation she had recorded. “What do you want to bet everything I need to know came directly from your mouth.”

“No,” replied the man. His breathing became shallow.

“What do you think Karl Saxon is going to say about it?” Emily laughed and searched his face. She caught the man’s gaze and demanded. “Where are the girls?”

The man looked away, clearly hiding information.

Emily took a step back, “They’re here,” she stated softly. “They’re here,” she said again.

“What?” Rick asked. “How do you know?”

She moved to the door. “Something wasn’t right about the house. It seemed staged.”

“Em, we have less than five minutes.”

Emily ignored Rick and raced to the main house.

Monday, January 11, 2016


                                                                 Chapter 11: Nick Bracco          


                Nick pushed the contact button and put the phone to his ear.  He knew Emily Stone was in pursuit of a couple of missing teenage girls and his assassin suggested he knew where they were. 

                “Nick,” Emily answered.  “You have good news for me?”

                “I’m afraid not,” Nick said.  He watched the empty bus sit there while the number of police and FBI agents began to dwindle  The imminent danger had subsided and so was the interest.

                “Then what about this briefcase and the connection to the girls?”

                 Nick sighed.  “I have an known assassin who’s willing to give me their location if I release a prisoner as an exchange.”


                “I’m sorry.  The prisoner is a lifer.  In for triple homicide.  We can’t do it.”

                There was a prolonged silence while Emily seemed to assess the setback to finding her missing girls.  Nick turned to see the young kid from the bus sitting under a tree looking at Nick with an anxiousness that Nick had recognized from twenty years in law enforcement.  He was hiding something.

                “Nick you have to help me.”

                “ I do have something that might help you.  Something that wasn’t mentioned in the media.  The assassin’s name is Karl Saxon.  Maybe you could use that in your interrogation.”

                “Can’t you get me a clue as a good faith gesture from this Saxon?  Even if you could get me what state they’re in.”

                “It’s a thought,” Nick said mindlessly, watching the kid swivel his head searching for an escape plan.  “Let me get back to you,” he said, then shoved the phone back into his pocket and headed toward his innocent looking passenger.

                As Nick approached, the boy was scooting back as if he could climb the tree backwards.  A Baltimore policeman stood guard over the kid and Nick waved him off.  “It’s okay,” he said.  “I’ve got him now.”

                Once they were alone, Nick took a knee next to the young bundle of nerves and said, “You forgot to tell me something.”

                The boys eyes widened.  “I did?”

                Nick nodded, but said nothing.

                “Like what?” the boy said gripping a handful of grass in each hand.

                “Like something about this terrorist you’re keeping to yourself.”

                “Terrorist?  Are you saying the guy’s a terrorist?  I thought he was some guy who wanted to leave you a message?”

                Nick cocked his head.  “And how did you know he wanted to leave me a message?”

                The kid was flush up against the tree and gasping as he tried to come up with the words.

                “I . . . I don’t know,” he stammered.  “I thought I saw you get a note.”

                Nick glared.  “You saw me open a piece of paper.  I never told you it was a message from the terrorist.”

                “Yeah, but—”

                “No buts,” Nick said, then gestured for a nearby patrolman.  “I’m going to have you taken downtown and interviewed by some of our finest police officers while I try to find this guy.”

                As Nick walked over to the officer, the boy panicked.  “No!  You can’t do that.  I didn’t do anything.”

                Nick looked over his shoulder.  “Tell that to them.  I too busy.”

                “Please,” the kid tried to scream, but in a hushed tone.  “Don’t leave.” 

                Nick understood.  The boy was terrified to be without his one pal in law enforcement.  He strode over to the kid and got down to a knee again.  “You have something you want to tell me?”

                The young kid’s eyes darted from the bus to Nick then back to the bus.  In a soft whisper the boy said, “He’s still inside the bus.” 


Thursday, January 7, 2016




Chapter 10 – Emily Stone


Emily followed Rick as they hiked west to intersect the trail leading to their SUV.

She hurried in silence climbing steep areas. The exercise felt good and relieved some of her sore muscles. The more distance between her and the compound the better. She flashed back on the crates of weapons and boxes of computer parts.

Rick had anonymously sent texts and alerts to the local law enforcement as well as the local branch of the FBI to retrieve the two men and confiscate the military weapons. The information included photos and the exact location of the property—the couple’s anonymous investigative protocol.

With everything Emily had witnessed at the property, nothing weighed heavier on her mind than the breaking news in DC. She immediately relayed everything to Rick about the missing girls and the bomb scare—but it wasn’t everything.

Emily never kept anything from Rick—ever.

She recognized Agent Nick Bracco from the news coverage and knew that he worked the terrorism division of the FBI. Several years before, she had met him before the trial in Indiana where she had to testify against fellow officers from the Crestview County Sheriff’s Department—before coming to California and meeting Rick. The fallout after the trial had ended her career as a deputy sheriff, but she reinvented herself as a covert vigilante detective after an incident.

Since then, and as far as anyone knew, she was legally dead. Very few people knew that she was still alive, but Bracco knew. Emily had contacted him a few times over the past few years for information on some of her cases.

“You okay?” asked Rick.

Emily looked at him and forced a smile. “Of course.”

“You look like you have a lot on your mind—more than usual.”

“Thinking about our next move,” she explained.

“Maybe our info was wrong?” Rick clearly wrestled with the facts leading them to this location.

“I don’t think so…”

“Is the kidnapping some kind of political maneuver or some type of exchange for someone or something else?”

“I’m not sure. I have to reevaluate everything. But I believe the girls are still alive.”

“Are you really okay?” his dark eyes searched Emily’s face.

“I’m just worried about the girls. We’ve never had a case intersect with something of this nature. It concerns me…”

Emily walked ahead and continued to the area where the SUV waited. She didn’t want to face more conflict until she had time to think.

Rick continued, “What I can’t figure out… why would the kidnapper go to such extremes with the bomb scare in DC?” he stopped and turned to Emily. “And what does it have to do with us?” 

Emily’s phone buzzed. She retrieved it from her pocket and stared at the caller ID.

The name identified Nick Bracco as the caller.