Sunday, August 23, 2015

When the victims have no voice... An Excerpt of The Defenseless #SampleSunday

Excerpt from THE DEFENSELESS:

Chapter 1
Current day
December 15th, 6 a.m.
Denver, Colorado

The plane touched down at Denver International Airport just after six in the morning. I was happy to have the tumultuous flight over with and thought it should have been canceled, but apparently those responsible for that sort of thing had cleared take-off.

Flying typically didn’t bother me, but high winds and various temperature pockets had buffeted the plane, rocking it almost like a ship at sea, only we were thirty thousand feet in the air. Land never looked so good.

Zachery slapped me on the back and had me lurching forward from the momentum. “We made it, Pending.”

Months into my probationary period but still not clear of it—something I was reminded of all the time by his beloved nickname.

Jack brushed past, leading the three of us through the airport, no doubt driven by the undying urge for a cigarette. Paige hung back, and when I turned, she pushed a rogue strand of hair from her eyes and dipped to the left as she shifted the position of her suitcase strap on her right shoulder.

We were called to Colorado because some old-timer detective by the name of Mack McClellan was confident the area had a serial killer. He believed it strongly enough we were convinced as well.

The label serial killer no longer fazed me, and it only took a few horrid cases to rub off its shock value.

Regular people, who didn’t have to hunt down murderers, lived life as if they were merely characters fabricated for entertainment purposes. The dark truth was, conservatively, there were an estimated thirty-five to fifty serial killers in the United States at any given time.

The local FBI office was to provide us with transportation, but it was the local detective who insisted on meeting us at the airport and bringing us up to speed.

Stepping out of the warm cocoon of the airport into the brisk winter air of Denver stole my breath. It had me wanting to retreat back inside for the warm, blowing vents.

For recreational purposes, Denver would be an ideal location to spend the Christmas season, with its mountain slopes and deep snow. Even facing the search for a killer, I’d rather be here, miles away from home, than facing the emptiness of the house on Christmas day.

This would be the first year without Deb. The only thing that could make it better was reconciliation, but we were beyond that point. Truth be told, I wasn’t even sure if I’d take her back. The divorce was already filed, and knowing my penchant for attracting negative events, it would be official in time for the holiday. It didn’t matter though. I had found a way to move forward in my life—at least I told myself that. Maybe I was burying my feelings, but I preferred to think I healed faster than most.

“Hey, there they are.”

A man pushed off the hood of a Crown Vic, the cup in his hand steaming in the cold air. At full height, he was all of five eight. His hair was sparse and reminded me of a Chia Pet just starting to grow, but what he did have was a dark blond. He wore a thigh-length wool parka, zipped up shy of his collar by about six inches. It revealed a white collared shirt and a blue tie with white dots. I wondered if he dressed this way all the time or only when the FBI was in town.

He put his cup on the car roof and came toward us with another man who wore a fur-lined leather jacket paired with blue jeans, which appeared stiff due to the mountain air.

It had me wondering which scenario was more uncomfortable, frozen stiff jeans or breezy dress pants. I experienced the latter and questioned the wardrobe I had brought, wondering if I’d be warm enough.

Curse winter and all that’s white.

“Gentleman, I’m Mack McClellan.” The man in the parka extended his hand, first to Jack. He must have sensed his authority despite the lit cigarette.

Jack took a quick inhale and blew a stream of white pollution out the side of his mouth as he shook the man’s hand. “Supervisory Special Agent Jack Harper and this is my team.” Jack left us to introduce ourselves.

McClellan’s gaze settled on me, and I surmised what he was thinking—I was the young guy on the team, the inexperienced one he’d have to watch.

He gestured to the man with him. “This is Detective Ronnie Hogan. He’s also with Denver PD. We’re not partners, but he’s of the same mind. There’s a serial at play here.”

Hogan bobbed his head forward as a greeting but made no effort to extend a hand. His eyes were brown and hard to read. Crease lines etched in his brow, but he also had smile lines, so there was some promise there. Not that we witnessed the expression.

McClellan grinned with a warmth that touched his eyes, giving me the impression he was used to Hogan’s aloofness. “Glad to see you made it all right. It’s quite the weather we’re having these days. How was your flight?”

Jack took another drag on his cigarette. “Over now.”

His retort killed the expression on the detective’s face. “A man who is all business, I see. So, the dead body. You know the name and details.”

Another pull on the cigarette and Jack flicked the glowing butt to the ground and extinguished it with the twist of a shoe.

“We know what the file says, but we like to go over everything in person.” Paige smiled at the detectives, no doubt trying to compensate for Jack’s crass behavior.

“Well, let us fill you in on the way to where the body was found. My, it’s mighty cold out here.” He rubbed his hands together and grabbed his cup before going around to the driver’s side. “For everyone to be more comfortable, two of you can come with me, and the other two can go with Hogan.”

McClellan seemed like an open book—what you saw was what you got. With Hogan, there was something about him, whether it was his skepticism or what, I wasn’t sure. A quality that should repel actually made me want to get to know him.

“I’ll go with Hogan.” Paige and I spoke at the same time.

Our eyes connected. In the past this symmetry in thought would have elicited a smile from both of us. These days our relationship was more complicated.

Paige stepped back and sought Jack’s direction. “I’ll go with whoever you want me to.”

“It’s fine. You guys go with Hogan. We’ll all catch up at the crime scene.”

She went past me and held out her hand to Hogan. “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced.”

Hogan stared at her extended hand and, eventually, conceded to a handshake. The greeting was over quick.

As he was getting into the driver’s seat, I whispered in Paige’s ear. “He’s not really the touchy-feely kind, is he?”

I received a glare in response.

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