First Chapters

Excerpt: Hero Haters by Ken MacQueen

Local hero Anderson Wise can’t remember the last time he paid for a drink at Sharkey’s. Nor can he remember an embarrassing assortment of the women who selflessly shared their affection, post-Sharkey’s. As for that last blurry night at the gin mill, he wished to hell he’d stayed home.

The bar’s owner, Sharon Key, hence Sharkey’s, took joy in chumming the waters on Wise’s behalf for a regular catch of what she called “Hero Worshippers.”

She saw getting him laid as partial repayment for saving her eleven-year-old grandson Toby’s life some eighteen months back.

A disaffected dad, high on crystal meth, stormed into Toby’s classroom to take issue with his kid’s latest report card. He showed his displeasure by shot-gunning the teacher, then reloaded and asked all A-students to identify themselves. Being A-students, they dutifully raised their hands, Toby among them.

Excerpt: The Collector by Lane Stone

Everybody had a story and then another story. Even the police. I stood at the Metropolitan Museum entrance, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, relying on that philosophy to help me figure out how to get what I wanted. Left. I considered my predicament. My meeting with a potential client was to start in five minutes, but the yellow crime scene tape strung along the portico was uninterested. Right. I studied the NYPD officers lined up guarding the doors from people like me. I would plead my case to one of them. It was a matter of choosing the right one. One had a story that would make him or her more likely to let me in so I could be on time for my meeting.

I wasn’t the only person with a mission, standing outside the Met that day. A month ago, in mid-March, a hundred or so protestors had taken over the iconic steps. They came and they stayed.

Excerpt: The Last Mile by Kat Martin

An odd sound penetrated the darkness of her bedroom.  Abby stirred awake and opened her eyes, her gaze landing on the neon red numbers in the digital clock on the nightstand.

Three a.m.  She muttered a curse.  The old Victorian house she had recently inherited creaked and groaned as if it were alive.  She’d get used to it, she told herself.

Rolling onto her side, she plumped her pillow, determined to go back to sleep, but the sounds returned and this time there was no mistaking the quiet footfalls creeping along the downstairs hallway.

Abby’s breathing quickened as she eased out of bed and slipped into her terry robe.  Grabbing the heavy long-handled flashlight she kept beside the bed–partly for self-defense– she moved quietly out the door, down the hall to the stairs.

Excerpt: The Rx for Murder by Sue Hinkin

“We can’t just walk away from this, chief.” Veteran newspaper reporter David Pine, early fifties with the nervous energy of a chihuahua, paced the floor in front of his News Director, Lance Ludlow’s desk. Its surface was as empty and untouched as a piece of showroom furniture. This unsettling display of workplace vacuousness stoked Pine’s niggling paranoia about the guy. Dude came out of nowhere to manage a significant L.A. news outlet but he had no understanding of journalism.

Ludlow adjusted his cufflinks.

Pine hadn’t seen cufflinks since he’d viewed his grandfather’s open casket.

The News Director cleared his throat. “I don’t find anything viable in the direction you’re suggesting, Mr. Pine.”

Excerpt: The Darkness in the Light by Daniel Kalla

“I’m not trying to kill myself.” Though his expression was flat, Nigel McGowan’s color—at least how it appeared on my laptop screen—

was whiter than the wall behind him.

How many times have I heard those words? Another patient had sworn the same to me only two days before, during my week- end on call for the Anchorage Regional Hospital. That patient had begged me to free him from his involuntary confinement in the ER. But the raw ligature burns around his neck—from where the noose had yanked the hook free from the ceiling at the last moment—were far more persuasive than any of his pleas.

Excerpt: Dead Wind by Tessa Wegert

Trey Hayes arrived wearing a hoodie and sweatpants, white stripes down the sides of his thin legs. When he met my gaze, there was no mistaking the timidness in his eyes. They still shone, but weakly. He was a flashlight stuffed with dying batteries. A few blinks away from going out.

A message from his parents was the last thing Tim and I had been expecting. We’d interviewed the boy already, when he was recovered from the cold, dark place where his abductor had abandoned him. We’d taken his statement and let him get on with the process of healing, knowing it wouldn’t be easy. This was the same kid, after all, who was forced to look on while a whetted knife was raised above his face. Who was missing pieces of himself he’d never get back.

Excerpt: Blood Running Hot by Robert Valletta

He stepped carefully from the ceramic tile and steamed glass shower stall, naked and dripping wet, to the plush dry carpet in the bathroom. His exposed flesh was immediately draped by an icy blanket of swirling air that surged steadily from an overhead ventilation duct.

J.P. Ballard’s eyes glistened with devilish intent. His mind was preoccupied by a mélange of indecent thoughts as he pictured the beautiful, voluptuous woman in silk lingerie who would be sharing his bed during the evening hours ahead.

He reached toward the towel bar on the wall only to find it empty. With his lewd machinations of erotic desires unexpectedly disrupted, he turned and stared curiously toward the adjacent room.

Excerpt: The Bucharest Dossier by William Maz

Professor Andrei Pincus left through the rear door of the Harvard Faculty Club wearing another man’s coat. He had chosen it at random, as he had been trained, eyes closed, taking the first coat his hands grabbed. It was not luck that caused him to choose a man’s coat. He knew that very few female professors used the Faculty Club, a fact that he regularly bemoaned. The coat was a short parka lined with fur—something he would normally not be caught dead in. He preferred the old European-style black cashmere topcoat that reached down below his arthritic knees. Still, he had to admit that this American style was more practical. The fur made it warmer than his own, and the hood, which he had pulled over his head before leaving the club, provided protection from the bitter wind.

Excerpt: The Doomsday Medallion by Avanti Centrae

Disguised as a hunchbacked old man using a cane, the Watcher followed her down the narrow street called Rue Nostradamus. The raven-haired sixteen-year-old with a scarred face and her middle-aged au pair moved with purpose, their soles clacking like bones on the ancient cobblestones. He’d been waiting for them at the café near the intersection, where a handful of metal patio tables still clutched last night’s frost.

Per his choice, only one young operative accompanied him on the potential kidnapping mission, a short, pit bull of a man named Raphael.

Excerpt: A Divine Wind by Norman M. Jacobs MD, MS

Doron ben Avrahim, an Israeli army lieutenant, was on his knees while a wickedly beautiful woman danced provocatively around him. Under different circumstances this might have been a prelude to something quite different. As she danced around him, an occasional drop of glistening sweat dripped off her brow falling unobserved upon Doron, moistening his blindfold until it ran down his face, to his lips. He promised himself he would remember this scent and the salty taste of her sweat, should he survive his current nightmare and should they ever, by chance, meet again.

Excerpt: The Last Goodnight by Kat Martin

Kade Logan stood on the bank, watching the sheriff and his deputies haul the mud-covered vehicle out of the lake. The crane groaned as the auto tilted upward, the rear end lifting into the air, the front wheels dragging across the spongy earth. Brackish lake water poured out through the open windows, along with weeds and silt. Even a few silver fish had made the car their home.

For eight long years, Kade had been haunted by the mystery of what had happened to the dark green Subaru Forester that had belonged to his dead wife.

Excerpt: Deadly Tide by William Nikkel

Three inches of titanium steel separated Jack Ferrell from certain death three and a half miles beneath the surface of the ocean.

His only portal into this silent world of perpetual darkness came from a cone of light extending ninety meters into the black abyss. The sphere of titanium he and the two-man crew huddled inside of provided the only protection from the immense pressure at this extreme depth. Mounted on the front of the deep-submergence vehicle, or DSV, two manipulator arms, resembling the front legs of a praying mantis, hung secured out of the way of his viewing port.

Excerpt: Substitute by Susi Holliday

She spots him from the bedroom window. Jittery. Anxious. Cheap suit and battered briefcase. He shifts from one foot to the other. Rings the doorbell, rattles the knocker for good measure. Glances at his watch. She stands back, concealing herself behind the curtain so that if he looks up he won’t see her.

She doesn’t have time for this today – this dishcloth salesman or Jehovah or whatever he is. She’s been kind to them in the past – buying overpriced J-Cloths from ex-cons, promising to read The Watchtower thrust into her hands. But today she can’t face going through the motions of a polite, awkward conversation with a stranger.

Excerpt: Shadow Hill by Thomas Kies

Bleach.

The smell is all that’s left behind when the cleanup crew in the hazmat suits have scraped up the blood, brain tissue, and skull fragments. All the evidence of two violent deaths was wiped away.

Except for that lingering smell of bleach and ammonia.

“My father didn’t kill himself.” Eric Cutter whispered, shaking his head, his eyes wide. Ever since we’d entered the house, he’d kept his voice low. As if he didn’t want to awaken any ghosts. “And he sure as hell didn’t kill our mother.”

Excerpt: Sleeping Bear by Connor Sullivan

PAUL BRADY WOKE up with a start and went for his rifl e. Sweat poured down his face, his cotton T-shirt sticking to his sleeping bag. For nearly a minute, he sat up breathing deeply, trying to figure out where he was.

He wasn’t in Ramadi.

That was nearly fourteen years ago.

He wasn’t in the Korengal.

That was twelve years ago.

Excerpt: Lost and Found by Amy Shojai

Linda Birch raced out the back door into the snow. “Help, somebody help me!” She slipped and fell, struggled to her feet, and left pink handprints when she levered herself upright.

The butcher knife had left a three-inch gash in her calf. Her stomach burned and she held her left hand hard against the stab wound in her side.

The screen door banged open. Benny stumbled down the slick steps.

Excerpt: The Day She Died by S.M. Freedman

EVE GOLD WASN’T SURPRISED to die on her twenty-seventh birthday. The Angel of Death’s greasy fingers had been pressing against her spine for ten years — maybe longer — and in the underground of her mind where truth squirmed away from the light, she knew that it was just a matter of time before press turned to shove. No, death wasn’t much of a shock. The real surprise was everything that followed.

Ruby Falls by Deborah Goodrich Royce

I was standing with my father in the pitch-black dark—the blackest dark I’d ever seen in the few short years of my young life—and the blackest dark that I’ve seen since, which is a considerably longer span.

The surrounding air was dank with flecks from falling water.

A disembodied voice rose up from the mist, then swooped back down to submerge in it.

A Clash of Forces by Larysa Rychkova

The white Yak 42 with blue flashes touched down smoothly on the tarmac at Saratov airport in southern Russia, with barely a squeal from the tires. The roar of the engines filled the air as the pilot engaged reverse thrust to bring the aircraft down to taxi speed.

Outside of the airport, near the arrivals gate, a small crowd had gathered, many carrying flowers for their expected friends and family.

Danger in Numbers by Heather Graham

Hunter stripped off his paper gown. The autopsy, at last, had come to an end. Dr. Carver left his assistant to close up the body, and he and Hunter headed for Carver’s office for a recap of the results.

“It didn’t appear that she was sexually assaulted before the murder,” Carver said, sitting behind his desk, “but she led a very active sexual life.”

Smith by Timothy J. Lockhart

Smith shifted the rifle, squinted through the scope, and centered the crosshairs on the target.  This one looked much like the last two—a man in his mid-20s, fit, and fairly good-looking.  But unlike the last two this man was drunk and getting a blow job.

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