Connections eMagazine November 2021 Edition

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Connections eMagazine

Volume 7 Issue 4

Message from the Editor The Purpose of this eMagazine is to connect readers with authors and bloggers. This is a FREE eMagazine that is produced quarterly. Our final issue this year is dedicated to cozy reading in front of the fire, holiday fun, and cold-weather activities. I hope you’ll take the time to look around. “One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.” – Carl Sagan. While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe. You’ll receive an automatic email with a link to each new edition. Just click the box below and fill out the form. Be sure to include all required information. Don’t worry, your information will never be shared or sold.



Author Connections… We are excited to announce an in-depth interview with Joanna Penn; an award-winning, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author. She also writes under the pen name J.F. Penn. She has published over 30 books, is a podcaster, an international speaker, and an award-winning creative entrepreneur.


Blogs | Stories

He that loves reading has everything within his reach. - William Godwin

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Writers’ Lives Paige Carter Author Tips & Tricks

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Caro Ramsey Interviewed by Wendy H. Jones Yellowstone National Park by Melanie P. Smith Fox Under the Moon By Stacey McNeill What If Dad Hadn’t Been so Stubborn by Keith Guernsey A Weekend in Bruge by Liz Doran Christmas Feelings by Penny Luker Angela Abraham Interviewed by Sylva Fae StoryPuzzle Books by Sylva Fae Elouisa Blue’s Magical Adventure by Sylva Fae

MPSmith Publishing and Connections eMagazine does not endorse any information contained in the articles or advertisements throughout this magazine. All contents Copyright © the individual authors and used with their permission. All rights reserved.

EDITOR… Melanie P. Smith


Melanie P. Smith

Penny Luker


Rhonda Hopkins

Adrian S. Czarnecki

Sylva Fae

Val Tobin

Rebecca Bryn

Sarah Stuart

Jennifer Reynolds

Anne Hamilton Fowler

Katya Cumming

Once Upon A Dance

Maggie Cobbett

PRODUCED BY… MPSmith Publishing

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Author Connections Joanna Penn | JF Penn

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author. Finalist in the 2017 International Thriller Writer Awards for Best Ebook Original for Destroyer of Worlds. British author J.F.(Jo Frances) Penn has travelled the world in her study of religion and psychology. She brings these obsessions as well as a love for thrillers and an interest in the supernatural to her writing. She has a podcast and blog about her travels at

Joanna, thank you so much for joining me today. I really am thrilled because I am a huge fan of both your fiction and your nonfiction. I know you are extremely busy but also generous with your time, is it is a pleasure to welcome you.

Pre-Order | Available December 1, 2021

Tomb of Relics ARKANE Book 12 Ex morte vita. From death comes life. When a relic of St Thomas Becket is stolen from Canterbury Cathedral, England, ARKANE agents Morgan Sierra and Jake Timber are called in to find it.

As the trail of missing relics leads them across sacred sites in Europe, Morgan and Jake discover a conspiracy that stretches back to medieval times — and a question that goes to the heart of what it means to live. BUY NOW...

I need to start by asking the question, why do you write under two different names? I started out writing thrillers under Joanna Penn, which is the same name I use for my non-fiction, but I discovered that the readership was quite different. I wanted to cover different things in terms of my blog and podcast for each, as well as my email newsletter, plus, the Amazon algorithms work better with a cleaner audience. I also find it helps me to plan my time as I separate hours between J.F. Penn and Joanna Penn. So, separating my brands helps me and my readers and also helps sell more books. It does take extra time to manage but I think it’s worth it.

What do you think it is that fascinates us so much about writing? I think everyone has a default way of creativity, and for figuring life out. I have always written journals and letters, so writing has been a way for me to figure out what I think about situations, and deal with the rollercoaster of life. So, I have always written for myself and writing for others through my books enables me to figure out what I think and help others along the way.

I am always fascinated by how writers came to be writers, so what made you decide that writing should be a career for you? I was very unhappy in my previous career as an IT consultant implementing Accounts Payable systems. Everything I did seemed pointless in that it was overwritten by the next upgrade or corporate decision. I wanted to do more with my life than just pay the bills. So, I decided to write a self-help book on career change in the hope I might discover what I wanted to do along the way. I discovered the bug for writing — and it also coincided with the rise of the Kindle, podcasting, and online business. It was suddenly possible to create a global business as an author and make a full-time income with writing without asking permission from publishers. I’d been running my own company for years so I knew I could make it work. I started writing in 2006 and left my IT job in 2011 and I’ve now been a full-time author entrepreneur for a decade. I think your books could be described as thrillers or supernatural thrillers. Why this genre and why not straight thrillers.

I have always been interested in the supernatural and particularly the monotheistic religious traditions of Christianity and Judaism, both of which feature heavily in my thrillers. I write to figure out what I think about God and demons and what lies beyond our physical world, so while The Brooke and Daniel Psychological Thrillers:

I write fast-paced action adventure and crime thrillers and dark fantasy, I also like to have a theme that goes beyond just the plot. I have tried to write a ‘straight’ thriller with nothing supernatural in it, but that turned into Desecration, which definitely has a supernatural side. I just can’t help myself! We write what we love to read, after all.

I know your ARKANE series has biblical quotes in them and yet the books are not biblical books. What is the significance of these quotes? I am not a Christian or a Jew, but I have a Masters in Theology from the University of Oxford and so much of my writing is based on my research around the history of religion and topics covered in scripture. I have also travelled a great deal around sites of religious and historical interest, and I often find that Biblical quotes inspire my stories, so I use them in the front of the books. It is quite a common motif in the thriller sub-genre I write in.

I love your characters, especially Morgan Sierra in the ARKANE series. She’s a feisty woman as we’d say in Scotland. How important are strong women to your books and how do you go about crafting them, so they are well rounded characters and don’t come across as annoying? You made me laugh, Wendy, because you are a strong woman, too! Morgan Sierra is basically my alter ego, and I explore the world through her eyes, although she is ex-Israel Defence Force so she can fight a lot better than I can! I once did a Krav Maga class and ended up covered in bruises and never went back. All my fiction series have strong female main characters. It’s what I like to read and write about, and my readers like it, too.

The Mapwalker Fantasy Adventure trilogy:

I would say your books are plot driven and character driven in equal measure. How do you balance this? I’m seriously intrigued. I get my ideas from my travels, so I often start with place. For example, for Tree of Life, we were in Amsterdam and visited Ets Haim synagogue, where Portuguese Jews ended up after being forced out of their country. Ets Haim means ‘tree of life’ and of course, the tree features in the book of Genesis, so my novel turned into a hunt for the Garden of Eden by tracing the diaspora of Portuguese Jews across the once-great empire. Then I have my series characters, Morgan and Jake in the ARKANE series, and I write them with my own curiosity to find out what happened. My characters are always an extension of me in some way as I investigate the mystery.

I love the titles of your books. How do you come up with them? I love strong titles as a reader, and I am always drawn to anything with religious or supernatural resonance. About 75% of the time, I know the title very early on as it’s based on the core idea. The rest of the time, I have a working title and then change it as the story emerges. For example, ARKANE #12 will be published in December 2021 as Tomb of Relics, but it started out as Day of the Martyr. It’s inspired by the medieval martyrdom of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, but it turned into something a lot more sinister!

I know you do a lot of research for your books, including research trips abroad. How do you go about the research and how does this feed into your books? I decide on a place to go based on its potential for story, which for me means a long history with places of meaning. Then I follow the trail to the next place and trust in serendipity. For example, I visited New Orleans in the USA and found a copy of the Toledo |Bible at the back of the St Louis Cathedral and a painting of the Spanish Inquisitor Père Antoine in the Cabildo next door. I did a voodoo tour of the city and a story idea started to form. I’ve always loved the valley of dry bones chapter in the book of Ezekiel, and it seemed to fit with the zombies of voodoo – and from there, I started down the rabbit hole of research. I followed the trail to Toledo in Spain and then on to Palma in Majorca and discovered my fictional story had quite the basis of truth — which became Valley of Dry Bones, ARKANE #10.

I know you do a lot of research for your books, including research trips abroad. How do you go about the research and how does this feed into your books? I decide on a place to go based on its potential for story, which for me means a long history with places of meaning. Then I follow the trail to the next place and trust in serendipity. For example, I visited New Orleans in the USA and found a copy of the Toledo Bible at the back of the St Louis Cathedral and a painting of the Spanish Inquisitor Père Antoine in the Cabildo next door. I did a voodoo tour of the city and a story idea started to form. I’ve always loved the valley of dry bones chapter in the book of Ezekiel, and it seemed to fit with the zombies of voodoo – and from there, I started down the rabbit hole of research. I followed the trail to Toledo in Spain and then on to Palma in Majorca and discovered my fictional story had quite the basis of truth — which became Valley of Dry Bones, ARKANE #10.

Where was your favourite place you visited for research? That is an impossible question! I have wanderlust in my soul and so I am always looking ahead to the next place, even as I make the most of where I am. I started my Books and Travel Podcast as a way to virtually travel further afield and I am always adding new places to visit.

If you were to write in another genre, what would it be? I already write in a lot of genres — action-adventure thriller, dark fantasy, crime, and horror, as well as self-help. I have a series of travel memoirs coming based on some of my recent pilgrimage walks, so that will be my next foray into a new genre. Which author do you think has most influenced your novel writing? I love Stephen King’s The Stand as it is perhaps the ultimate good vs evil story. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and James Rollins’s Sigma series gave me permission to write religious thrillers, and Jonathan Maberry’s horror novels inspire me most these days.

We always ask authors about their own books but never ask them about their reading habits. What do you read to relax and what books would you pack to go on holiday? I read every day, fiction ebooks, and non-fiction as audiobooks and hardbacks. I am definitely a reader first! I love thrillers and horror, so I read a lot of that — I have a list of some of my favourites here: I also read a lot of travel memoir, as well as business and technology books. I’m a futurist so I read and listen to a lot of books about artificial intelligence right now.

I would like to talk about your non-fiction books which you write under the name with Joanna Penn. I have to say your Books For Writers series is a must buy for me and I pre-order each one. What made you decide to write books on writing? I write non-fiction on topics that I want to learn about and understand. The best way to learn something is to teach it. I also like to share what I learn along the way, especially as so much of the information for writers is on the craft and not on the business or mindset side. I spent 13 years as a business consultant and I now have a decade as a full-time writer, so I have written the books I needed myself as I went along. I’ve updated the editions over the years as I have learned more, and things have changed. So, I didn’t deliberately set out to write a series for authors, it just emerged as I learned along the way.

Why do you feel it is important that writers read books such as these? No matter what you are feeling on the rollercoaster of the writing life, someone else has experienced it too — and they often have lessons that will help along the way. There are books on every topic and from every perspective, and if there aren’t any, then perhaps you need to write one! Writers are always readers first.

Is your writing process different when writing non-fiction and fiction? Yes, absolutely. For my non-fiction, at least with my books for authors, I start with a specific topic and then write to that topic. I want to take the reader through a transformation. For example, How to Write Non-Fiction: Turn Your Knowledge Into Words, does exactly what it says in the title. With my fiction, I am a discovery writer. I don’t know what I will write until I sit down to the blank page. I might have a broad idea, e.g. the hunt for the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, and I know my characters depending on the series, but then I turn up to my writing time and see what emerges.

If you were to recommend just one of your non-fiction books to my readers, what would it be? The Successful Author Mindset resonates with most creatives at all stages of the writing journey, so I hope people might find that useful. But the book that sells the most is How to Make a Living With Your Writing, perhaps for obvious reasons!

Let’s get personal, I know you love visiting graveyards. What is the fascination and does this feed into your writing. I have always been aware of death and drawn to it in a kind of Gothic sensibility. One of my life mottos is ‘memento mori,’ remember you will die. This helps me live well in the present and make the most of my time in the knowledge that it will inevitably end. I also love the beauty and peace of older graveyards as they are often historic places of meaning with gorgeous architecture. I have plenty of graveyards, catacombs and ossuaries in my books — check out Crypt of Bone if you are a taphophile like me!

I know you do a lot of walking, and have taken up long distance walking? Is this mainly for pleasure or does it also help you as a writer? I agree with St Augustine — Solvitur ambulando. It is solved by walking. I walk for physical and mental health, and it has been my sanity in the pandemic, that’s for sure! I am also now using the longer multi-day walks as inspiration for travel memoirs, as well as my fiction. In 2020, I walked the Pilgrims’ Way from London to Canterbury, which is partially the inspiration for Tomb of Relics, and I’ve just finished the St Cuthbert’s Way. I talk about these travels and their impact on my Books and Travel Podcast. I know you once wrote on a train in America. Tell us about this? Back in 2015, I co-wrote a dark fantasy novel, Risen Gods, with J. Thorn, an American author who I had never met in person. One day he emailed and asked if I wanted to do an “authors on a train” trip from Chicago to New Orleans and co-write another novel with two more authors. We did the trip and wrote American Demon Hunters: Sacrifice which coincidentally is set on that very train and features four different characters. I stayed in New Orleans afterwards and did some more research which ended up inspiring Valley of Dry Bones, so it was a creatively productive trip!

My final question, which one of your novels would you recommend Connections eMagazine readers, read? Try saying that after a wee swallie as we’d say here in Scotland. It depends on what you like to read as my series are all quite different. If you enjoyed The Da Vinci Code, or like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft Tomb Raider, then start with Stone of Fire, ARKANE #1. If you like John Connolly’s Charlie Parker detective series or Jessica Jones, then start with Desecration. If you love Laini Taylor’s books or Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, try Map of Shadows.

Coming December 2021

A Cowboy Christmas Hunter Holiday Series Book 3

The Final book in this family trilogy

A Country Christmas Hunter Holiday Series Book 1 Can a Christmas tragedy heal two hearts? Tea Hunter is devastated when she discovers her long-time boyfriend is cheating on her. She decides to head out west to the family cabin for the holidays hoping to find some peace as she re-evaluates her life and tries to move forward. Tragedy strikes on a treacherous road in the middle of a blizzard and Tea finds herself stranded and at the mercy of a friendly cowboy. Instinct is screaming for her to run fast and run far; unfortunately, she has no memory of who she is or where she should run.


Christmas Surprise Hunter Holiday Series Book 2


Will an unexpected Christmas Surprise bring heartbreak — or Forgiveness? Matt Hunter has loved Harley since the moment they met. She’s already refused his marriage proposal three times. Now, she’s not speaking to him. Has he lost the love of his life forever? Harley Miller swore she’d never get married. Her mother told her a million times that’s what ruins a relationship; but when she gets a surprise, her life is turned upside down and it forces her to rethink everything.

Caro was born in Govan, on Glasgow's south side. A graduate of the British School of Osteopathy, she runs a large osteopath centre in West Scotland, treating animals and humans, and writes in her spare time.

Her first novel Absolution was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger 2008 and her second Singing to the Dead was longlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award 2010. The third in the series, Dark Water, was published on 4 August 2010, and the fourth book The Blood Of Crows was published on 30 August 2012. Critic Cathi Unsworth in The Guardian opined that Ramsay's series "excels in sense of place, realism, plotting and caustic humour", describing it as "Bleak, black and brilliant". Ramsay was the subject of a 2007 BBC documentary film, and appeared on STV show The Hour in 2010. Caro, thank you agreeing to join me. It’s an honour and a pleasure to have you take time to give us a flavour of your writing life. I know you are a busy lady, so thank you for taking time out of your hectic schedule to answer my questions. I promise to be gentle, and no torture will be involved.

We’ll start off gently – can you tell us how you came to writing? That’s an interesting story, I fractured my spine and started writing while I was in hospital.

I think if I hadn’t started murdering people fictionally, I would have done it in real life, especially the woman across the way from me as she was very annoying. My friend brought me in a Papermate pen (they can write upside down) and a pad of paper. I wrote 200 000 words before I was back on my feet, and those words became Absolution and Singing to the Dead. And, of course, Absolution starts with somebody lying in a hospital bed, unable to do anything.

I love reading crime books and you write in the crime genre, so why crime? No idea! It’s something I’ve always been attracted to and I think I am quite a dark person. When I was 7 or 8 years old, the teacher at school asked us to write a wee story based on our favourite nursery rhyme. I picked that most sinister of songs The Teddy Bear’s picnic. The first line of my story was ‘Four-year-old Emma was the last one to die’. I still have a very clear image in my head picturing what my story was about.

If you were to write in another genre, what would it be? Well, probably a children’s book. A book as if Harry Potter has been born in Inverness and he saves the world. It would be one of those books that adults could have a wee smirk at, while reading it out to their children. The hero would be called Fin Fin Maclean and he would be accompanied by a penguin, a penguin spy called James Gentoo (he likes his feathers shaken not stirred). It’s funny, adventurous but most of all, it carries a strong message that all life is important.

Nowadays, I think somebody would have called Social Services!

Which author do you think has most influenced your writing? Probably too many to mention to be honest. I never wanted to be a writer, it just happened after my fracture. The biggest influence now is definitely my colleagues in the writing group I take. It tests my sense of what is right and what is off; makes me think hard about why it’s not right and how we could fix it.

We always ask authors about their own books but never ask them about their reading habits. What do you read to relax and what books would you pack to go on holiday? I get a lot of books to review so I tend to read them on holiday. And sometimes new books are spoiled by me analysing them as I am reading them. It can take a while to switch my writing brain off. But I guess, I’d go back to Agatha, Reginald Hill, Christopher Fowler – masters of the art.

The ubiquitous Desert Island Discs Question – which three books would you take to a desert island? Definitely the book ‘How to escape from a desert island’! Plus, the Children of Man (PD James). Can I have all the books in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy counting as one, especially the original trilogy of five. Probably Black Beauty, such a life affirming book. I’d sit on the beach and still cry when Beauty falls on Ludgate Hill and breaks his knees.

Do you have a favourite book on Writing and if so, what is it? There’s a good book called How Not To Write A Novel. It’s very funny and 100% true. (Wendy butting in – I would have to agree with that. Spot on.).

Anderson and Costello Mystery Series Back to your writing (yes, I know we are all over the place; I like to keep the surprises coming) I love the Anderson and Costello books and they are fabulous characters. How did you come up with the characters? To tell you the truth, the characters come up with themselves. I don’t have to sit and create them in my head. It’s as if an actor walks on the stage and says ‘actually I would do it like this.’ And they argue with me every step of the way.

How important is characterisation in your books? Would you say they were plot driven or character driven and why? I think modern crime fiction has to have emotionally intelligent characters as well as a good going plot. I think it’s been well proven that readers follow the character rather than the plotting skills of the writer. Authors who have got bored with a character and started a new series often see their sales drop, and they get a phone call from their publisher to get the old one out of retirement!

This is what Alex Gray and I believe - the characters know what they are doing. Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham say we are talking rubbish and the keyboard is in control. But basically, the bottom line is that we agree, we just think about it in a different way. A new character I’m writing turned to me and said, ‘I can’t afford to do this.’ She was ordering something to eat in a trendy West End café. She was right. The way I’d written her situation, she’d be careful with her pennies. Hasty little rewrite followed.

Do you have an ideal reader in mind when writing your books? If so, who are they? I always have an ideal reader in my head. Me! You can only write the book that excites you. Anything else would ring a little untrue.

I have recently read The Sideman which has an intricate plot that, like a diamond, has many facets, yet you pull them together beautifully. Do you plot your novels meticulously and if so, what is your method? I think I will send that question to my editor who wishes that my novels were intricately plotted before I start. But they are not. I write like PD James. I write the good bits then string them together. I use a lot of post it notes, the extra sticky ones and move them around on a space on the wall. The Sideman is really the second half of the story started in The Suffering Of Strangers. I had no idea that that was going to happen. And then the book was long listed for the Scottish Crime Novel of the Year.

Your books are set in Scotland. Why Scotland? Because Scotland is marvellous. Yesterday it was 26 degrees, today it’s pouring and the dog won’t come out from under the radiator. Anything can happen here. And, huge boon to crime authors, it’s easy to lose a mobile phone signal up here. We are a civilisation dangerously close to wilderness.

If you could go anywhere in the world to write, where would it be and why? I don’t really care. I would go somewhere with no internet where nobody could annoy me and probably a wood burning stove and a comfy chair. Space for the dog of course. In the middle of nowhere. You can tell why I love Scotland!

Tell us a bit about your writing space? I am lucky enough to live in a haunted house. My writing room in a kind of turret that looks on to the tops of some large trees where steroid squirrel used to do his acrobatics. And I look down on to a messy front garden with an ancient bird bath where the wood pigeons do their daily rituals. It’s a total mess but I know where everything is.

Let’s get personal, what would be your perfect meal. Ha, I once put on Facebook a picture of my dinner which was baked potato filled with potato salad and a side order of chips. I think that might be a Scottish thing. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 45 years, I tend to see food as fuel not as an entertainment so I might be a bit weird. Really don’t see the point in going somewhere posh and spending a fortune. (Typical Scot). I fling things at the tele when Heston Blumenthal comes on, telling him that there are starving folk in the world.

On holiday do you prefer beach, city, or wilderness? Why? We tend to go abroad to the Bouchercon (Big book event in the states) then spend 3 days in Florida on a remote beach. During the year I’m all over the highlands, so the answer is really all three but for more than 3 or 4 days I would say wilderness.

My final question, which one of your books would you recommend Connections eMagazine readers, read? My that’s a tongue twister. Here’s a tongue twister back. “She stood on the balcony inexplicably mimicking him hiccupping and amicably welcoming him in.” Absolution as that was my first so that has a special place in my affections. The Silent Conversation, as that’s out next and should technically be the best novel as any author should become more skilful as they write. When I was asked that question once from the audience at an event, Sophie Hannah asked me ‘But of them all, which is your favourite book?’ I would have to say Singing to the Dead it’s a real nasty wee book that one! They are a series, except for The Cursed Girls and that one has attracted some film interest so that in itself suggests it has a little something different. Thank you, Caro, it has been an absolute pleasure chatting to you and getting to know you better. I love your books and am always excited when a new one is on the horizon. All the best with your new book, I am sure it will be a best seller.

I’m sure you enjoyed finding out more about Caro Ramsay. Now it’s time to find out more about her books. I love her Costello and Anderson series, so I thought I would review the latest three for you, including The Silent Conversation which was released yesterday in hard cover and will be released on kindle on 1st November. It’s exciting to get an Advance Reader Copy of any book and I am pleased to be able to share my thoughts with you today.

The Sideman The blurb for the sideman starts with ‘Meet your next favourite Scottish detectives: DI Colin Anderson and DS Winifred ‘Freddie’ Costello.’

I must admit they have fast become my favourite Scottish Detectives. They are cracking characters with quirks, foibles, and all the other traits that make characters seem human. So, you can imagine my surprise when the blurb tells me that Costello has resigned from the force over a conviction that an innocent man has been set free. What? Then the bodies start to pile up and there is a suspicion that Costello could be involved. In much of the book Costello is missing and Anderson is picking up the slack. However, this does not detract from the book and Ramsay handles the storyline well, so one does not feel that there is something missing. This is a gritty Scottish thriller, which at times can be disturbing, yet the writing is such that it entertains and engrosses, rather than horrifies. I found myself immersed in the story and genuinely wanting to know what happens next. We do get to know a bit more about the characters and their private lives which adds, rather than detracts, from the overall story arc.

Setting is a large part of Ramsay’s books and there is a real sense of not only place, but time. I could picture everything perfectly and almost felt I was there. This is a gripping read with a real page turner feel to it, so much so I was reading far too late and far too early, yet I didn’t mind.

Two further bodies are discovered at an isolated holiday cottage in a remote Scottish Glen. What secrets are hiding within the community and how are Costello and Anderson going to solve this seemingly impossible crime. And through it all the snow keeps coming an eerie background to the grisly proceedings.

The Red Red Snow This has to be one of the best openings to a book I have ever read – A family man is stabbed to death at a crowded Christmas Ice Show. Murdered in plain sight. No clues, no witnesses, no known motive.

This book is multi-facted, perfectly plotted masterpiece with each scene not only moving the action forward but keeping the reader engrossed and interested. The characterisation is spot on and I found myself liking them more and more as they became what felt like comfortable friends; a friend with an acidic tongue in the case of Costello but one you cannot help but spend time with. The setting lends a real frisson of fear as snow blankets the area and chills the air lending itself to a tale as chilling as the air itself.

The Silent Conversation

Yet it is enjoyable and entertaining. When

I was looking forward to this, the thirteenth, offering in Caro Ramsay’s Anderson and Costello Series. I was delighted to receive an Advanced Reader Copy and I am even more delighted to say the book did not disappoint. Ramsay is an expert wordsmith using every word to its full advantage and this shines through in every taut and well written scene in the book. There are two separate storylines one the death of a young female police officer, the other the four-year-old cold case of a small child who had gone missing. There are many strands to the narrative but as the book unfolds the author weaves them together seamlessly leaving the reader wandering why they did not see that all along. Ramsay uses her trademark short scenes which change direction like a kaleidoscope, but which have the reader eager to know more. The characters are developed further, the dialogue is authentic, and the setting perfectly drawn with a closed room feeling even though not in a closed room. Throw in a storyline plotted to perfection and you have all the ingredients of an enthralling murder mystery. It is, like all the authors other books, gritty and does not pull any punches.

I say I could not put this book down, I mean it. I genuinely did not guess the ending and was stunned. Well done Caro Ramsay for pulling yet another page turner out of the hat. Bring on the next one is all I can say. Wendy H. Jones is the award winning, international best-selling author of the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, Cass Claymore Investigates Mysteries, Fergus and Flora Mysteries, Bertie the Buffalo children’s books and the Writing Matters books for writers. She is also a writing and marketing coach and the President of the Scottish Association of Writers. You can learn more about Wendy on her website:

Penny Luker Lady in the Woods Short Stories for Adults This book of short stories contains two Inspector Winsford stories and a treasure chest of other stories, including some flash fiction. Some are gentle explorations of human nature, while others explore some of the trials in life. Ideal for a coffee break or a quick read before bed.

About the author E.K.P. is five-years-old and lives with his mom, dad, little brother, his two dogs, and his cat in Texas. It’s like a country, but it’s really not. It’s a state.

He loves his momma and daddy.

He likes to play with his little brother.

He wants to be Captain Cornfield when he grows up.

He also wants to grow up and drive a car. He wants to work with his daddy when he grows up. They’ll make puppets together as a family and plant more corn and other food together. When asked how it felt to see his story in a real book, he said, “This is crazy! I’m so excited! Mr. Phillip and I make a great team. Look at his book, Momma, it’s amazing. It’s probably the best one ever.”

Captain Cornfield

The story behind Captain Cornfield It all started with my five-year-old son and a corn seed.

Yep, a single corn seed.


This past spring, E.K.P. (my son) wanted to plant a garden. Excited to share in a fun activity, and jumping into a teachable moment, his dad and I took E.K.P. shopping for gardening supplies. One plant he was adamant about planting was corn. Does he like corn? No.

Does he even eat corn? No.

But he wanted to plant corn, so we did.

He tended to his garden diligently, especially his corn plants. We planted seedlings for various veggies and even had a plant sale, but we kept enough for ourselves and E.K.P. successfully grew 3 corn stalks.

One day, he and his dad were outside playing sword fights, and I heard E.K.P. say, "Aha! I got you! You won't steal my diamonds again!" I listened as he then began acting out his role as Captain Cornfield, and his dad, his nemesis, was Diamondy the Bad Guy. E.K.P.’s elaborate story never wavered. He shared the story with me, and I knew we had to turn it into a book. Even if we never sold it or did anything with it, I had to capture his creative imagination on paper.

As you can see, Captain Cornfield came to life. Thanks to illustrator Phillip Reed, we were able to bring forth E.K.P. in full Captain Cornfield form. E.K.P. has been involved with the entire process of turning his story into a book. In fact, Phillip refers to him as "The Captain" when emailing us new pictures. Everything is to be approved by "The Captain." We've had the most fun with this project, and Captain Cornfield and Diamondy the Bad Guy still sword fight out in the yard about once a week. Thankfully, I have baby brother to shield me from their shenanigans. I hope you enjoy Captain Cornfield as much as we have!

Author Katharine E. Hamilton

Phillip Reed (Children’s Book Illustrator & Author)

Yellowstone National Park — Things You Must See and Might Not Know by Melanie P. Smith THE HISTORICAL STUFF

Yellowstone Park was the first officially designated National Park in the United States and is believed to be the first national park in the world. It was established by the US Congress and signed into law by Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. This was 20 years before Wyoming, Idaho and Montana became states. Yellowstone spans roughly 2 million acres, that’s larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Millions of people visit Yellowstone annually, with their largest recorded season accommodating over 3 million visitors. Often referred to as nature’s ‘Wonderland,’ Yellowstone is magnificent and ever-changing. In this vast wilderness you will find geysers, lakes, canyons, rivers, mountain ranges; and, of course, wildlife. The Park is beyond anything you expect. Visitors will be amazed by its majestic beauty and potential for adventure. But, Yellowstone is also a geological wonder. There’s no place like it on earth.


Geysers are rare, but Yellowstone has more than 300 that are currently active. This means, almost half of all the geysers in the world can be found inside Yellowstone National Park. In fact, there are over 10,000 geothermal features inside Yellowstone. That’s because the heart of Yellowstone is located on a large volcano. Now, this isn’t your typical erupting cone — not by a longshot. Yellowstone National Park is the home of the largest super volcano in North America. Of the 30 super volcanoes around the world, the Yellowstone caldera is the only one that is located on land; the others are in the water. And, it’s massive, spanning an oval that is 30 by 45 miles in length. One final, fun fact — there are between 1,000 and 3,000 earthquakes annually in Yellowstone. Don’t worry, most are too small to feel and they have an important purpose. These earthquakes help maintain the hydrothermal activity in the geysers and springs by keeping the hot water conduits (or steam vents) open so they don’t become sealed with mineral deposits. This might sound terrifying to some, but don’t let it stop you from visiting. Yellowstone can seem imposing, glorious, extremely unique, and a little scary. It is also remarkable, full of adventure and some consider it the most amazing park in the world. Now, would you really want to miss that if you had the chance to see it?

*** All images used in this article are from a trip I took in September 2021. You may notice the smoke and haze in the background. That’s from the fires blazing during this same time in Utah, California and Oregon. In addition, wildlife images were taken with a professional lens at least 100 yards from the animal. Never approach wild animals — they are dangerous and unpredictable.

Some of the more popular geysers are... •

West Thumb Geyser Basin — located along the shores of Yellowstone lake.

Upper Geyser Basin — while this is the home of Old Faithful, you will also find more than 150 geysers in this area including Beehive Geyser, Morning Glory Pool ,and Geyser Hill.

Biscuit Basin Loop — Be sure to take the 0.5 mile loop around the boardwalk.

Mammoth Hot Spring — You might even see a herd of elk that calls this area home.

For most travelers, Old Faithful is a must. Did you know Old Faithful is the most famous geyser in the world? I’ve seen this natural phenomenon several times, but it’s still fun to capture the almost predictable explosion if we’re in the area when it’s about to erupt. The geyser ejects hot water on average every 92 minutes. The official word from park officials is “every 98 minutes” give or take ten minutes. This means the most faithful geyser in the park erupts approximately 20 times a day. Each eruption forces anywhere from 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of water into the air.


While you’re traveling around the park, be sure to stop and see the amazing waterfalls. There are approximately 300 of them. I’ve heard Yellowstone is sometimes referred to as the Serengeti of America. Some of the waterfalls can be seen from the road or just a few short feet from the parking lot. Others require a hike. Here are a few of the most popular... •

Undine Falls is one of the easiest waterfalls to view. Just stop in the parking lot and walk right up to the overlook.

Gibbon Falls (Picture above). This waterfall can be found between Norris Geyser and Madison Junction, can be seen from the road.

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River (right). There is no denying the sheer beauty of this 308 foot waterfall. It sits at the head of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.


The Yellowstone Grand Canyon is half a mile wide, 900 feet deep, and estimated to be over 24 miles long. It is measured from the Upper Falls to the Lower Falls. The most popular overlooks are Artistic Point, Inspiration Point, and Lower Fall’s Brink.


What can I say? Animals are everywhere in Yellowstone. The area is home to 67 species of mammals, two species of bear, nearly 300 species of birds, 16 fish, 5 amphibians, and 6 reptiles. For most guests, driving around the park is enough to encounter wildlife. Especially, if you visit Lamar Valley, home to the largest free-roaming herd of bison in the world — dating back to prehistoric times. There are 2,300 to 5,000 buffalo roaming Yellowstone.

Yellowstone skies are filled with birds to include raptors, songbirds, swan, eagles, owls, osprey, hawks, herons, egrets, raven, sand crane and more. You simply cannot visit the park without seeing a variety of flying fowl.

You can’t mention Yellowstone without talking about elk. The bull elk is one of the most photographed animals in Yellowstone. Elk are the most abundant large mammal that calls Yellowstone home. The Park provides summer range for an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 elk. That number drops to around 4,000 in the winter. Most herds winter in lower elevations outside the park. Elk is an important food source for bears, mountain lions, bald eagles, coyotes, and of course wolves. From 1995 to 1997, 41 wild wolves from Canada and northwest Montana were released into Yellowstone. Reintroducing wolves back into the area was still extremely controversial. But, biologists have discovered having wolves in this vast wilderness is good for the ecosystem. Willow stands are flourishing, aquatic life is thriving, and the number of beaver colonies has increased from one to nine colonies.

Two species of bear call Yellowstone home; Grizzly and black bear. Always remember all bears are dangerous. Visitors must remain at least 100 yards away from animals at all times. Approaching wildlife to get a great photo is tempting, but don’t do it because animals are wild and unpredictable. Finally, I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to Yellowstone and if you get the chance to visit this amazing park one day, do it. You won’t regret it.

Melanie P. Smith — An American, multi-genre author of Paranormal,

Criminal Suspense, Police Procedural and Romance novels. Embark on a rollercoaster journey of discovery.

Find more from Author Melanie P. Smith on her website:

Pumpkins. Ghosts. And a body. Charlie Cooper's social calendar is already full for the Halloween weekend with the town's annual Spookfest, her new scatter-brained owl familiar, and a cantankerous old ghost. She had hoped he'd be the first and last spirit to haunt her, but she isn't that lucky. When she finds a body behind the library, she feels responsible for finding out what happened. The new ghost isn't much help though as all he does is mutter about "pumpkins" and try to pull his hair out. Can Charlie and her friends find out how the man died before the weekend festivities are ruined? If you enjoy magic, quirky characters, and small-town mysteries with a touch of romance, you're sure to enjoy A Witchy Spookfest! This story is currently exclusive to the Once Upon A Halloween Wicked and Wild Cozy Mystery Anthology. It's available for Kindle and in Paperback!

Witches of Whispering Pines Visit the town of Whispering Pines and meet sixteen-year-old Charley, along with her family and friends. You’re sure to love this small town with plenty of magic, mystery, quirky characters, and a touch of romance. A Witchy Mistake, the first book in the series is FREE at all major retailers.

Stacey McNeill Stacey McNeill is an artist and author from the UK, working to promote positive mental health and self-love through her words and pictures. She started her small business - ‘Fox Under The Moon’ - selling greeting cards and art prints in February 2021, and now sells her work and gifts globally through her online shop. Stacey’s images and writings depict two characters, Fox and Moon, and this is how Stacey’s first book – a picture book aimed at adults, with messages to support positive mental health - found it’s name. Her work uses dialogue between the two characters to tackle some important and challenging issues such as loneliness, loss, self-doubt and anxiety in a charmingly subtle, but incredibly impactful way – a way that has already captured the hearts of thousands of fans worldwide.

“My 'Fox Under The Moon' artwork series is inspired by the simplicity of everyday life, and the complicated emotions that go with it. Through my illustrations and words, readers will meet an anxious, but inquisitive fox and the wise old moon. The two become friends, and it is my hope that their whimsical, watercolour world can bring some encouragement and love to people of all ages and backgrounds, all over the world. I have had some personal experience of how mental health can affect peoples’ lives, with close family and friends of mine struggling with depression, anxiety and a general feeling of being lost at various points in time. In 2018, my husband and I decided we wanted to change our lives completely. Having both suffered with stress and emotional breakdowns in the hectic 9-5 lifestyle we lived in, we took the decision to sell our mortgaged house and leave our careers as school teachers in search of a simpler way of life with more time to do the things we loved. We now live in a tiny trailer, work seasonally, and make the most of the opportunities we have to travel, and live life at a slower pace. We document our adventures on our YouTube channel ‘The McNeills on Wheels’ in the hope that we can inspire others to make changes to their lifestyles, and put their own mental health first.

It was through the experiences we had – positive and negative - that I came to appreciate the importance of giving yourself time and space mentally to heal, and to discover what is really important in life. Fox Under The Moon is my way of sharing these ideas with others, and was born out of a place of creative freedom and emotional head space, something I could never have had in my old life.”

“I think what has made my style of artwork so popular, and enable me to gain some momentum with it, has been the simplicity of the images and the messages that accompany them. Fox asks seemingly small questions, but in their own way they open up huge topics and thinking points around self-care, depression and mental wellbeing that are often difficult concepts to approach or open up to. The moon never as such gives the answer, but instead offers wisdom and guidance that can be applied to may situations experienced and felt by almost everyone at some point in their lives.”

To date, Stacey has built a growing community of followers for her work on social media, and has had over 1000 orders for her greeting cards, art prints and book. She has plans to develop her gift range further as we head into the holiday season, and beyond that is looking to develop new products and designs that will continue to share messages of hope and self-love to those that need to read them. Stacey’s book, artwork and gift selection can be found on her website over at and you can join her community of fox-fans by following her Facebook page.

Adrian S. Czarnecki

By popular request, the pack’s Mum Empress Maya and Dad Damien Czar are the focal point of the story playing a huge part in the story and, mmmmm, along with everyones favorite, Captain Chinook, we have a couple more guest appearances in an enigmatic bunny who's a wanna be Husky plus Husky Balto Kiser and his kid sister Jenna Kiser but, you'll have to buy the book to find out just what ensues - believe me, you will not be disappointed.

Like the previous books, 'Hot Rod Todd Rescue Mum and Dad' is beautifully illustrated by Cameo Anderson and full of adventures with the six Siberian Husky puppies involved in a rescue mission that see's them heading off into the Alaskan Wilderness. As always, there are adventures, twists and turns, drama, tension and surprises in the form of new found friends revealing a a really strong message with a happy ending not to mention equally strong educational and family values that you can engage with and enjoy time and time again.

By Keith Guernsey What if dad hadn't been so stubborn, would he still be alive today? I feel deep in my heart that the answer to that question is an emphatic yes. He was still as mentally as alert the day he died in 2009 at 87 as he ever was. His only health issue was severe peripheral neuropathy in the bottoms of both feet. Which made mobility very difficult. It also made getting around in his split-level three story house very difficult. My sister Michele and I spent countless hours trying to get him to move into a one level condo or an assisted living facility. His answer was always the same, this is my home, I have lived here for half a century and I am going to die here!" Talk about a self-fulfilling prophesy? Susan and I were moving into our new condo in Duluth Georgia in early summer of 2009 when I received a panicky sounding phone call from Michele. It turns out dad had taken a bad fall on the stairs and was lying there when my nephew Michael walked in the front door for a visit.

They rushed him to the emergency room while I made a beeline for the airport to get the first flight back to Boston. I arrived to find that this last fall was actually one of five he had taken that weekend. By the time I got there, he was sitting in his wheelchair and to this untrained observer, seemed to be doing ok. I could tell he was feeling better since he was being his usual flirtatious self with all the nurses (well the female ones anyway!) He even asked me to help him out of his chair so he could walk around a little. I spent a couple of days with him and he seemed to be making enough progress that I felt comfortable coming back home. I felt I needed to get back and help Susan with the unpacking. The following Saturday afternoon I called to check on Dad's progress. Michele and I ended up having a conference call with dad's doctor and he was sufficiently pleased with his progress that he planned on moving dad to a rehab facility the following week. Unfortunately the progress was short lived as dad took a turn for the worse after contracting pneumonia that night. Michele called Sunday morning weeping madly and said he was gone. So in less than 24 hours we went from planning to move him to rehab to planning Dad's funeral. The more I look back on it, the more I am certain that if weren't so stubborn and let us move him, he would still be with us today! But I take comfort in knowing he had an amazing 87 years on this planet!

For more, please visit us on the web at;

Keith D. Guernsey —is retired and living on Lake Lanier with his lovely wife Susan and Zoey, his four-footed daughter . Twitter=@thegurns

Sylva Fae

Secret Santas This is a story for children who believe in Santa but also for those slightly older children who are starting to question the magic of Santa Claus. The story expands on the Santa story that all children know, and creates a bridge to the reality of Christmas. The Secret Santas are parents and carers who help deliver the presents on Christmas Eve, in fact any kind and caring grown-up could be a Secret Santa, but secrecy is the key. One reader told me it added more magic to the Santa myth, as her son is now in awe that his mum may be a Secret Santa. Of course, she neither confirmed nor denied that she’d met Santa last Christmas Eve, but her son is convinced she has, thanks to the story. The book was awarded a five-star review from Reader’s Favorite, and this review sums up the story perfectly:

Reviewed by Sarah Stuart for Readers' Favorite Secret Santas by Sylva Fae tells the story of Santa Claus from the very start when he was an old man living in a small village called Elfenden. Santa loved walks, but he often got lost. It was snowy and he wore white, so the elves had trouble finding him. They made him a red snowsuit and gave him a magic stick to find his way back to the magic tree. Grateful Santa secretly made gifts for his friends, and on December the twenty-fourth he decorated the tree and left the parcels underneath. But elves are chatty. In no time, the story spread to the next village, and soon it was known worldwide. How could Santa possibly fulfil every child’s wish to have presents delivered by Santa? Secret Santas is such a logical explanation of how one red-suited, white-bearded old man contrives to deliver billions of gifts to children all over the world that I believed it... at least for the time it took to read this beautifully illustrated picture book. It is an entertaining story, but more than that, I loved the way it incorporated the true spirit of Christmas... kindness, caring, and sharing. Who are Santa’s secret helpers? Could one be the lady in the sweet shop, or even your dad? It’s rare to find a picture book with a story that compares to those of Julia Donaldson, but Sylva Fae has achieved it with Secret Santas. It’s a must-have whether you’re a toddler, a grandparent, or anywhere in between.

The Blurb

Santa loved making presents for all the elves in his village, but when he received letters from all over the world, he suddenly had a bigger challenge than he imagined. How could one man make and deliver that many presents in one night? Santa needed some magic and a miracle! Discover how Santa now manages to deliver a special present to every child on Christmas Eve.

Revamped By Sylva Fae Rainbow Monsters was my first ever published book. It is dear to me because it opened the door into a magical author world. It went on to win the first in category at the Chanticleer International Book Awards and gained many five-star reviews – all great but as time passed, I grew dissatisfied with it. Over time, I learned a lot about the children’s picture book industry, and subsequently changed the way I presented my books. It was always in the back of my mind to revamp my debut book, and finally, I have. In readiness for a pre-Christmas launch, I created two versions – a picture book, the same as before but with new full-page illustrations, and a Rainbow Monsters Colouring Fun book. (Yes, that’s colouring with a ‘U’, I’m from England!) The colouring book contains the story, but has a different set of illustrations for children to colour in, alongside the relevant verses.

Rainbow Monsters Blurb Jump on a cloud and join the Rainbow Monsters in their fun and games. Come meet each of the monsters and learn the colours of the rainbow. Rainbow Monsters Colouring Fun Blurb Read the story, then have fun colouring along with the Rainbow Monsters. There’s a whole rainbow of colours to choose from, which one is your favourite?

More Monster Fun Next on the revamping list is Mindful Monsters. Like my first book, it is in need of a little rainbow magic to bring it in line with my newly illustrated first book. The fourth book in the Rainbow Monsters series, is Scary Monsters – it is written and ready for illustrations to bring it alive. The Rainbow Monsters are certainly keeping me busy!

A mischievous elf and a naughty cat are feeling bored one Christmas night. How much mess can this cute pair make in just a few hours? With tumbling trees, bouncing baubles, bursting balloons and a blizzard of flour, it’s going to be a Messy Christmas!

A Weekend in Bruge By Liz Doran

Liz Doran is an Irish writer living in Germany. She has also lived and travelled extensively in the U.S.A. and spent several months living in London, U.K. and Italy. She loves colour, art, great writing, film, design and travel. Her lifelong interest in metaphysical and spiritual matters has taken her on many interesting journeys. She trained as a Naturopath in Germany, specialising in classical homeopathy and colour puncture. She loves nature and animals and enjoys a good laugh. She has been married to the same man since 1984 and has two grown sons.

“Get this monkey off my back.” Brendan fought hard to disentangle those meaty hands, which clung to his shoulders. That creature continued to haunt his nights ever since he'd booked into this little designer Bed and Breakfast in Brugge, Belgium. His wife, startled by the racket, opened her sticky eyes, hair all over the place, not a pretty sight. “Hey, Brendan–what’s up? It’s only me.” Ashamed of his antics and remembering he'd had one too many last night, he gave her a weak smile and stumbled to the tiny bathroom to relieve himself. That’s the beauty of nature – it expels what it no longer needs. “Brendan, are you alright?” Mary watched over him like a mother hen.

Brendan massaged his temples. I daren’t tell her the dream I’ve had. This is the third night in a row I’ve dreamt of that creature. Wondering if there was a deeper message, he fought off any desire to persue that subject any further. Jakers, she’s been at me for so long to take her somewhere, I had to give in. If I’d known bloody Brugge was so darned expensive, I would have chosen something else. Fifty-two friggin' Euros for two Indian meals. Tiny ornate bowls of rice and some sort of spicy curry dish with sultanas and chicken. Some folk have strange eating habits. Hmmm, I have to admit it was very tasty. Maybe that was it; those spices did things to the brain. Mary loves the novelty of that Indian restaurant. Ever since we've come here, she's refused to go anywhere else, delighted in those little cups of Jasmine tea and the china bowls of lemon water in which she can dip her pretty, red-nailed fingertips after the meal. What do I care, once Mary is happy? “Be right there, Mary, dear.” He glanced at himself in the cracked mirror. “Ah, you’re a handsome devil, O’Reilly. You haven’t lost it yet.” Placing a blob of toothpaste on the pad of his index finger, he ran it over his teeth, rinsing his mouth out with water. He felt certain parts of his anatomy responding to the visual images his mind conjured. Down boy! He chuckled to himself. “What is it, my little Snuckie Wooky? Did you miss your Daddy Bear?" He leapt onto the bed and Snuckie Wooky hid under the covers, giggling with delight. Ah, how he loved this part of the day, he thought as he feigned a growl and slid his hand under the covers to tickle her. "I'm coming to get you, you know you've been a bad girl." She squealed in delight, pulling the covers from her face and grinning at him.

"Ah, Brendan, aren't you glad we came here after all?" "You know I'd do anything for you, Mary. Now, let's get some exercise and release those endorphins into the bloodstream," he whispered as he nibbled her ear, making another grab for her. Her squeals of delight were heard throughout the hotel. He hoped they wouldn’t break this hand-made bed. The owner, an architect, had crafted every item of furniture. This place was a renovated brewery. It didn’t look much on the outside – come to think of it, it didn’t look much on the inside either. Why would you choose hard and basic if you can have comfortable and elaborate. The architect and his wife must have a touch of minimalistic design coursing through their veins.

Everything was functional. Their bedroom walls were painted in Granny Smith-apple green and soft lilac with matching curtains. Those stairs, flaming orange—particularly hard on the eyes early in the morning or after a night on the town. Flemish people must have been very small in stature when those stairs were first made. Dragging those suitcases up the tiny, steep stairs had almost done him in. Mary, flushed from her morning romp was now under the shower, singing Hear me Roar, or at least it sounded like that. Brendan sat on the bed, planning their last day in this quaint Belgian town. Feeling at one with the world, he read the section on Flemish Myths and Legends. The Occaschaart is a fabled beast, said to resemble Kludde and Lange Wapper.

His presence is often preceded by the clang of chains and he delights in hindering the progress of unsuspecting drunkards and tourists by jumping on their backs.

Where She Belongs Roisin’s decision to leave her husband in Spain does not come lightly. But her longing to move back to her homeland, Ireland and to live by the sea gives her courage. Although she has many challenges to overcome, she takes a leap of faith and does just that. The last thing on her mind is another man, but then she has a serendipitous meeting with Tom soon after arriving in Ireland. Soon things start to get complicated as the first cracks appear on the façade. Why is her elderly neighbour, Mrs. Walsh, being threatened? What is she afraid of? And why are people suspicious of Maggie, her new friend and boutique owner.

Captivating I shouldn’t say I liked this one because it’s technically a romance, but hey sometimes you have to put your hands up. This isn’t a good book, it’s a really good book

Will make a GREAT movie! Bought this eBook last Sunday and had it finished by Wednesday ...Liz Doran paints pictures with her words....the descriptions are original and spark the Imagination perfectly.

Transports you to Ireland A bit of romance, a bit of suspense, a lot of great descriptive writing. Totally did not expect some of the twists and turns of this engaging, absorbing story.

His presence is often preceded by the clang of chains and he delights in hindering the progress of unsuspecting drunkards and tourists by jumping on their backs. He was beginning to get drowsy now. Where was Mary? “Mary, come awn, are you finished in there yet?” Mary continued to warble something else, oblivious to his pleas. He continued to read, moving over to the window to catch the light: “...with the head of a man and the body of a bull, he has been known to take on any animal shape; he has even been known to take on the shape of inanimate objects at times. The origins of this myth are unknown but it is thought to have been created in religious circles to deter the men folk from drinking too much....” As if...,he thought. Pull the other one! His mind wandered to the nightmares he had been having. Was there a connection? He remembered that nightmarish creature and how it had haunted his nights since his arrival. He brushed off that thought as absurd .

He opened the window, inhaling a deep breath of fresh, morning air. As he looked across the street, admiring all those tidy houses adorned with flowerpots and shiny doorknobs, he felt inspired to make changes to his own abode when he returned. In the meantime, Ossachaart lurked under the bed. He had taken the shape of a spider and had latched onto Brendan's shoe the previous evening. Far as he was concerned, that Brendan fellow was a drunkard, plain and simple. Carrying on like that, as if life was one giant playground. Despicable, he spat out the word as if it was a bad taste. I'll show him. He rotated his eyeballs, delighting in the fright he was about to bestow on Brendan. Most of his victims never knew what hit them. Sometimes he teamed up with his two pals, Kludde and Lange Wapper. They did their scaring near bodies of water. He chuckled to himself as he remembered their last escapade, over near the French coastline. Lots of drunkards around seaports. Transforming into a mouse, he scampered across the floor, chuckling to himself as he went. Since Brendan had his back to him, he never suspected a thing. It was quieter now in the bathroom and the Ossachaart had to make his move before the wife came out. This shape-shifting was one of the perks of the job. Marvelling at his swelling body, he took on his original shape. Big, strong Osschanaart. Ah, the irony of life! He peered over Brendan's shoulder, wondering what he was reading. Seeing his name in print made him proud. He daren't delay any further. Flexing his hooves, he made a sudden leap, attaching himself to Brendan's back. "What the dickens, hey, Mary, you almost frightened the life out of me." Brendan attempted to turn around but his head was in a tight grip. It didn't take long for him to realise that this was not Mary. He fought for control, trying to dislodge this monster. Ossachaart loved this part. He felt the fear and the shock ripple through Brendan's body as his victim struggled to free himself. Mary heard a commotion and, slipping on her kimono, she ran into the bedroom. What she saw defied all logic. Brendan was sitting at the open-window, struggling with a horrible monster, which looked like a bull from behind. The creature had his hooves firmly clasped around Brendan's head, making it impossible for Brendan to see him. She acted fast, without even thinking, picked up a vase and whacked the creature over the head several times. Ossachaart knew he'd better get out of here quick. This woman meant business. Choosing from his shape-shifting arsenal, he transformed into a bumblebee and zoomed out the window, laughing hysterically as he went. Brendan, exhausted, red in the face, with beads of perspiration forming little bubbles on his forehead, turned to his wife and said: "Mary, I think I'm going to give up the drink. Tell me the truth? Did you just see a monster on my back or did I have a bad turn again?"

Mary came over, put her arms around his neck and looked into his eyes: "Brendan, I fear you've had another one of your turns. I heard you shouting and your sleep has been very restless the last few nights." She crossed her fingers, this was a necessary lie. "You know it's not doing you any good. I'm glad you're not a violent man but I love you and I'm worried about you. I think it's time to call it a day." A couple of weeks later, Brendan was busy putting up flower boxes outside his front windows, humming an auld ballad and thinking back to the few days in Brugge. He had a longing on him for a few pints but every time he contemplated a night out, the memory of that hallucination turned him right off. Mary seemed to sense the struggle he was going through and give her her due; she had all sorts of jobs lined up for him to do around the house. “Just think about it, Brendan, you’re doing so well and with all that money we’ve saved we can go somewhere nice and warm after Christmas.” She slid over the brochure she’d picked up in town as she adjusted her dress to reveal more of her cleavage.

About the Author: Val Tobin writes speculative fiction and searches the world over for the perfect butter tart. Her home is in Newmarket, Ontario, where she enjoys reading, writing, editing, and talking about reading, writing, and editing.

The Magician: Infinity’s End by Val Tobin

The Magician: Infinity’s End hits the virtual bookshelves on November 1, 2021. It is book two of a new urban fantasy series, Tales from the Unmasqued World, by author Val Tobin. The Magician focuses on student mage Chase Spenser and the complicated turn his life takes when his potions exam goes awry and a demon appears. Readers of book one, The Fool: New Beginnings, will be delighted to find familiar faces in book two even as they get to know and love new characters.

A Unique Twist

In a unique twist, each book in the series bases the story on a different card in the tarot’s major arcana. Each book’s title reveals the relevant reference, which plays up the symbolism and meaning of the card. Readers can have fun puzzling out who or what represents the card in the story. Often, more than one character or object signifies the card or its meaning. The Magician revolves around “The Magician” major arcana card, and the main character in this book, as in most of the stories, is representative of the card. Chase Spenser, as a student mage, embodies the magician on the card in an obvious way. He practices magick, works with elementals, and uses the tools and trappings of a mage. The characters and the plot, together, express the meaning of the card.

Where to Buy

Books one and two are on Amazon, and you can purchase the eBooks and paperbacks or download the eBooks to read for free with your Kindle Unlimited account.

In an additional twist, a non-traditional tarot deck influences the crafting of the stories. Rather than using the popular Rider-Waite Tarot deck, the stories draw on Ellen Dugan’s Witches Tarot card deck. While all of the cards in Dugan’s major arcana correspond in meaning with the Rider-Waite deck (Dugan based her cards on the classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck), the archetypes used differ on one or two of the cards. For example, Dugan’s deck has “The Shadow Side” instead of “The Devil” since the devil isn’t part of the witch’s belief system.

Excerpt from The Magician: Infinity’s End

To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from The Magician: Infinity’s End. Chase and his girlfriend, Jaycie, use magick to try to learn who summoned the demon Chase was accused of calling forth during his exam, and as before, it doesn’t go quite as planned: Give me your name. He fixed his gaze on the demon and poured power into the request. It howled, gnashing its teeth so spittle sprayed out. Droplets struck Chase’s face and trickled down his cheeks. He swiped at it with his sleeve. Well, that’s a little too real. Unnerved, he eased up on the connection, but when the image of the demon faded a little, he pushed his energy into a power surge that pulled the demon back into focus. Give me your name. Abassi had failed to get the demon’s name when they’d tried to control it in the exam room, but Chase felt himself getting close. He pushed more power into the connection and used his mind to hold the demon. He reached into the energy that wasn’t his own to draw it out like a loose strand on a knit sweater. Energy sizzled and crawled up his arm, and he allowed it to travel up and through him. He visualized it as a silver thread, and it bore identifying traces of the owner in it like strands of DNA. He got an idea and shouted for Jaycie to empty the water bowl into the libation bowl. “Do it. Quick! And hold it out.” Water splashed, and she said, “Here. It’s right here.” Chase peered out through squinted eyes and pointed the index finger of his non-dominant hand into the bowl. He streamed the energy through that arm and dumped it out into the container, where it settled into a glowing silver ball. “Set it on the altar,” he ordered, and she did as he bid. But in isolating the saboteur’s energy, he lost his hold on the demon. They heard the front door shatter, and the floors below shook as something massive stormed into the house….

What’s Next?

Book three, The High Priestess: Persephone’s Return, revolves around Jaycie Nevil, Chase’s girlfriend. The fallout from Chase’s exam continues to haunt the pair, and Jaycie finds herself trapped in an impossible situation with seemingly no way out. Is she really the inept mage she believes herself to be? Does she have what it takes to save herself, or is she doomed to depend on Chase for the rest of her life? How long—or short—will the rest of her life even be? thefool The Fool: New Beginnings starts a fool’s journey for human Kelsey Davis and vampire Philip Belanger when Philip’s daughter goes missing and Kelsey’s son drags her into the search for the half-vampire teen.

In The Magician: Infinity’s End, magick influences the characters’ lives, not always for the best. While Chase deals with his major issues, Kelsey struggles with the repercussions of a new beginning she was forced to choose. themagician

Coming Soon

It was that time of year again. Christine ignored the ‘Christmas Ideas’ shop that had opened in the shopping centre in September and the large Santas and displays that sprung up throughout October. When the lights were strung precariously across the busy main road she shut her eyes, but now there were five shopping days to Christmas and it could be ignored no longer. She had no wish to celebrate Christmas. Nigel would be spending his first Christmas with his new wife and quite a few of the people she regarded as her friends would be visiting them. Her close friends, those she loved and cared about, had all asked her over for Christmas, either to stay or to spend the day, but she shamelessly lied and said she was going away. There was no way she was going to pretend to be happy this year. Christine did all the things that were expected. She sent cards to everyone and bought the required presents. In the window of her front room she placed a tiny Christmas tree with lights and her old fairy rag doll, so that everyone could see that she was back to normal, which of course she wasn’t. There was one thing positive about being single again, after all these years and that was she wouldn’t have to cook that huge meal that took so long to prepare and was demolished so quickly. Nigel had never believed in helping in the kitchen and it always seemed easier to do, than to have rows. Christine decided that for her Christmas meal she’d have a special nut roast, which came with a rich mushroom sauce and lots of fresh vegetables. She quite liked the idea of becoming vegetarian. She added a couple of bottles of her favourite wine to the shopping basket and a rich chocolate sponge pudding. Now that she didn’t have to spend a small fortune on Nigel’s present there was enough to treat herself a bit. She bought herself a couple of books by her favourite authors and a box set of Lord of the Rings. That should be enough to keep her occupied for Christmas and Boxing Day. In fact it would be quite pleasant. On impulse she also treated herself to a new outfit. The russet colour suited her deep brown hair and brought out the richness of her large green eyes. It was a long time since she’d bought such a beautiful dress.

When Christmas morning dawned, she was on her own. The house was silent and nothing needed to be done. She almost wished she’d accepted one of the offers to visit her friends. Outside the sky was grey and the rain was relentless. On an impulse she decided to go to church and briskly marched up the road with her large umbrella clutched tightly against the wind. As she approached, the church the bells were ringing. It was a really beautiful sound and lifted her spirits. She reached the open door of the church and saw that it was actually a CD player was belting out the noise. ‘Happy Christmas,’ greeted old Mrs Marshall, who organised everything at the church. It was a warm welcome and Christine’s smiled. ‘Did you like my idea for the bells?’ Mrs Marshall asked. ‘We couldn’t get anyone to bell ring this morning.’

Christine could feel a little giggle rising in her throat. She thought it was hilarious to have the bells on CD. ‘A novel idea, Mrs Marshall, and a very happy Christmas to you too.’

The service was a happy event, with the congregation singing lots of lovely, traditional hymns and everyone being friendly. As the service was ending the vicar announced that Mrs Marshall had a notice. ‘There are nine parishioners who would’ve been on their own this Christmas who are coming to me for dinner. My daughter was coming over to help me and unfortunately, for reasons I won’t bore you with, she can’t make it. I know I can cope, but if anyone could come over and just help for an hour it would be so appreciated. Thank you.’ The church emptied and everyone took a few moments to chat and went on their way. Christine thought of her lovely meal, but Mrs Marshall was too old to be left to cope with such a large catering job on her own, so she volunteered to pop along and help. The two of them tackled the last bits of preparation. The meat was cooking and vegetables were all prepared. Soon the parishioners arrived and Christine bustled round serving drinks, washing up, serving food, pulling crackers and listening to the appalling jokes. She even found herself laughing. Later she tackled the bulk of the washing up with Mr Owen, an octogenarian, who made several quite improper proposals to her. By four o’clock the well fed group were dozing off and Christine slipped away to her home for her long awaited meal. It had been a good day, with lots of amusement and kindness and she felt useful again. She popped her nut roast into the oven, poured an extra-large glass of chilled wine and settled down to read a chapter of one of her new books, but as she sat down she noticed the answer phone was flashing. It was probably her son calling from Australia to wish her a Happy Christmas. Christine hit the button.

‘Hi Mum, I don’t know whether you want to know this, but I’ve just had a call from Chester Hospital. Dad is going to be all right, but he and Tracy have been taken to hospital with food poisoning. Can you believe it? Apparently their turkey wasn’t defrosted properly. Anyway I thought you ought to know. I’m not sure why. I hope you’re having a better Christmas than Dad. I’ll try and call later. Love from us all here.’ Christine took a moment to think how this news made her feel. Tracy may be young and beautiful but she’d probably been left to cook a huge turkey without any help. You learned so much as you grew older. She was glad that Nigel and Tracey weren’t in any danger and suddenly life seemed clearer. There was no need to wish for the past. She had a lovely home, wonderful children and many skills. She’d really enjoyed helping out today. Christine picked up the phone and called her oldest friend. She wished her a very merry Christmas and said that after all, she’d like to take up her invitation for lunch on Boxing Day. She’d wear her new dress. First published in the short story anthology, Missing by Penny Luker

Penny Luker used to spend her time working as a teacher, then as an Associate Lecturer. She now spends her time writing stories and poems. She also enjoys playing the piano and ukulele and painting in watercolour. Learn more about Penny on her website:

The Chain Mistress Breaking the Chains Book 3 Raised by strong women who fought for the national minimum wage and votes for women in the early 1900s, Emma is looking for a cause. The depression that followed WW1 sees her joining hunger marches to London, but it's discovering she has a Jewish cousin, Hanne, in Germany, that turns her life upsidedown. As Nazi storm clouds gather over Europe, Emma determines to get Hanne and her family to safety in England, or at least, get Hanne's little son, Asher, out on a Kindertransport. She doesn't reckon on the depth of Hitler's tyranny or countries closing their borders to refugees. Buy Now...

The Chainmakers’ Daughter The White Slaves of England—Book 1 Buy Now... “Some make chains. Some wear them.” Rosie Wallace survives on three slices of bread a day. Scarred by flame and metal, she makes her life as her ancestors have: making chains for the rich chain master, Matthew Joshua. There is no hope for a better future. No hope even for a green vegetable on the table. Her life will be making chains, marrying Jack, the boy she loves, and babies every year. But when an assault by the chain master’s son threatens the very fabric of her tenuous existence, Rosie finds the courage and the reason to fight for her own survival and the lives of her family and neighbours. Set in the first decade of the 20th century The Chainmakers’ Daughter is a haunting portrayal of abject poverty, ever-present death, and modern-day slavery.

Buy Now...

The Chainmaker’s Wife The Fight for Women’s Suffrage—Book 2 England 1911: following the successful strike by women chainmakers for the legal minimum wage, and the death of the chain master, Matthew Joshua, Jack and Rosie find themselves on the other side of the fence when they are thrust into running the chain factory for Matthew's widow, Marion. Along with their new responsibilities, Jack and Rosie have to contend with national strikes, riots, and shortages. Ever the activist, Rosie defies Jack and is gaoled when fighting for women's suffrage, while Marion plots to write Jack out of Rosie's life and steal Rosie’s daughter Emma.

Firstly, tell me a little about your background. I was a creative kid who loved storytelling. Every night I would tell my brothers a story about our adventures in a magical tree that was larger inside than outside. The tree would make whatever we wanted and when we emerged from the door we could be anywhere in the world. I chose to take a biology degree and a masters in conservation; that love of the natural world still drives my work today and informs my perspectives in fiction writing. We evolved with storytelling as a way to maintain and improve society and so what we do has a real impact on one another and the planet we share.

What is Descriptionari and why did you decide to create it? Descriptionari is a collection of over nineteen thousand pieces of creative writing that inspire everyone from students to professional authors and movie directors. The reasons it began and became such a labour of love are many fold, however, the first was a desire to recapture my authentic creative self. I was thirty five and with three children of my own, wanting to write fiction again. I realised that to kick start my ability I needed a website such as Descriptionari but it didn’t exist. I had to make it myself! Ten years later, here it is with a global audience and inspires millions of people both directly and indirectly. Along the way my ideas linking fiction to human biology and society expanded and the need for writing to take an active role in the reduction of unconscious bias and the promotion of a healthy world community took precedence over other considerations. From a humble start to lofty ambitions I suppose, but as a mother I couldn’t not look at its great possibility, to play a part in making the world a better place. Who is the website aimed at? Is it specifically for authors or would it benefit students or school age pupils? Descriptionari is an adult website that can be used by school age children over thirteen (with parental permission). I have messages from students and professional authors who compliment the website and are thankful for its creation. From what I can tell, the reach is in excess of a hundred countries globally, the audience is broad in terms of age, gender and level of writing expertise. Where do you get the quotes and writing prompts from? They come to my imagination and flow from my fingertips. At first it wasn’t the case, but after a couple of years of regular practice it became a steady flow. In time I could sit at my table and follow one idea after another, perhaps not in any linear fashion, more as riding a wild horse with its own path in mind, but such free creative sessions can be a lot of fun.

How many quotes are there? What themes /subjects are covered? Can I search for specific subjects? There are over nineteen thousand quotes currently. There were at one time over twenty thousand but, as with all magazines, there comes a time to edit. You can search for whatever you want and if it’s not there you may discover some other ideas to inspire you!

Is it free to use? How can I access the Descriptionari site? Yes! It is and always has been free to use. The website is Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Angela. I’ve had a browse around your site, and love the variety of tones throughout the quotes. Some are poignant, some serious, some humorous, or written tongue in cheek, some quotes are quite specific, whereas others are general enough to let your own imagination flow. There really is something there for all writers, whether you have a set subject you need to write about, or just in need of general inspiration

These Christmas holidays can be a beautiful thing, a time of soulful reflection and how best to act in the ways of love. Let the browns and hues of nature take over from the bling as we meditate on our empathic selves. By Angela Abraham, @daisydescriptionari, November 21, 2019.

This edition of Connections eMagazine celebrates the festive season, so I searched for festive holidays quotes. Here are some examples from the Descriptionari:

I gotta say, there was nothing more filling and satisfying than the turkey my Gran cooked on thanksgiving. That and the stuffing were dinner that day and lunches for a couple more. I loved it all - the meal, the leftovers, the feeling of fullness. I even loved the washing up and the cleaning, radio on, singing out of tune - it's all part of the holiday, isn't it? By Angela Abraham, @daisydescriptionari, September 23, 2020.

Our Christmas decorations were ivy from the garden wall and holly from our hedgerow. It was the Christmas tree we kept year round - potted and healthy. By Angela Abraham, @daisydescriptionari, September 21, 2020.

Our Christmas cards were homemade confections, the sweetest sweets, with seasonal messages of love written in icing and upon the bright ribbons. By Angela Abraham, @daisydescriptionari, October 12, 2020.

Sylva Fae owns a wood where she and her husband run survival courses and woodland craft days. She escapes to the woods at every possible opportunity to enjoy the peace and fresh air. She takes the girls off on adventures in their own enchanted woodland, hunting for fairies and stomping in muddy puddles. You can find additional stories and anecdotes on her website

Ralph Thyme, an addicted gambler and his wealthy grandmother’s only acknowledged heir, discovers he has an elder sister, Olivia, who was sold at birth. Suppose Olivia discovers her true identity and claims half the inheritance he craves? How far will he go to eliminate the threat? Olivia escaped childhood sexual abuse. Despite horrific memories, nightmares, and fear, she is determined to save a stranger’s little girl from the same fate, and the solution she offers takes all her courage... and then some. DCI Croft investigates a heinous case of rape, murder, and mutilation. Next to die, are a private detective and his pretty daughter... and then another woman... and another. Can DCI Croft identify and capture a psychopathic killer hell-bent on eliminating anyone who stands in his way before he murders his sister... or is it already too late for Olivia?

StoryPuzzle Books By Sylva Fae StoryPuzzle Books I often add puzzles and activities to the back of my picture books and pondered doing a children’s book full of these puzzles and word game activities. My own children love word games and love it when they find additional activities at the back of a storybook.

I did some research to find out what was popular at the moment, and discovered, that while there are many puzzle books published, there aren’t many that combine stories and puzzles. So, I set about doing just that…only this time, they’re puzzle books with additional stories rather than the other way round. I found an amazing illustrator called Lexi Claus and soon after, the StoryPuzzle series was born. The StoryPuzzle Series combines mini stories that engage the reader in the puzzling process, with puzzles, word games, mazes, colouring in and more.

Spooky Spells Given the time of year, I started with a seasonal spooky book, ideal but not restricted to Halloween time. Spooky Spells has mini stories, spread throughout the book, that follow Jessica Witch and her friends. Each story poses a problem that Jessica must solve and the reader is asked to help by solving the puzzles on the following pages.

The Blurb Jessica Witch loves helping her friends but sometimes magic doesn’t go quite to plan. Join Jessica and her friends as they puzzle, colour and play to fix the spells gone wrong.

Autumn Fall The next in the series, is Autumn Fall and follows a group of woodland animals. Like Spooky Spells, the reader is invited to help Hilda Hedgehog or Sally Squirrel, and solve puzzles, mazes or word games. The Blurb The animals of Sorrel Wood are collecting food before they settle in for winter, but not all the creatures are prepared. Join Bethany Badger, Theresa Deer and Bertie Bear as they puzzle, colour and play games to get the autumn harvest in. More StoryPuzzles Next on the list for the series is a Christmas StoryPuzzle book – watch out for it!

What do you do when everyone else’s hero is your villain? In a world divided between the living, the dead, and the formerly dead, all Tanner wanted was to be left alone to wallow in his grief. However, when a stranger reveals that she killed the only person Tanner has cared about since the world ended, he sets his sights on revenge. But confronting a person who is loved by all isn’t easy.


An Awake Novella

Jennifer Reynolds

By Sylva Fae

Elouisa Blue was an awful child, she often frowned and never smiled. Elouisa drove her poor parents mad with her constant complaining. “I won't!” “I can't!” “I don't care!” The Blue family lived in the big house above the row of cheap terraced cottages. Perched on the windowsill, she looked down upon the local children carol singing down the street. "Silly fools, singing for pennies, Bah! I have more in my money box than they'll collect all night." The carol singers stomped up the snowy hill to Elouisa's door. She met their smiling faces with a scowl. "Go away, I hate carols, and your singing is horrible!" "But we're collecting for poor Timmy. His house got broken into and all his stuff got stolen. They even trashed the Christmas tree," said little Lucy.

"Not my problem, and I don't care!" said Elouisa nastily, and slammed the door in their shocked faces. "Well, that wasn't very nice!" called a small voice from behind the Christmas tree. Elouisa spun round to see who'd spoken. She watched in amazement as the fairy from the top of the tree fluttered down and settled in front of the fire. She looked sad, and quite drab as her glitter had worn off over the years. "Did you just speak?" Elouisa whispered, and sat down on the hearth. "I did, and stop frowning Elouisa, I'm tired of seeing that face." the fairy said in a haughty voice. "Your behaviour is getting worse each year." "Well, I think you're rude. Why should I listen to a silly fairy?" "Because if you don’t, you'll end up sad and lonely. I used to be rude and ungrateful like you. As a punishment I was banished from fairyland, and now I spend my days snoozing in the attic waiting for Christmas," the fairy said with a sigh. The warmth from the roaring fire was making Elouisa sleepy. She lay down on the rug under the sparkling tree and closed her eyes listening to the fairy.

"Hey! Wake up sleepy head!" Elouisa woke suddenly. To her surprise, a fat little elf was tugging at her hand. "Follow me, I have something important to show you," he said as he dragged her over to a large shiny bauble on the tree. Elouisa was too sleepy to argue. She stared at the shimmery surface but instead of seeing her face reflected, she saw a scene from her old house. Mummy and Daddy handed her a huge parcel. A much younger Elouisa ripped off the Christmassy paper to reveal a shiny red bicycle. "Bah!" said the little Elouisa rudely. "I wanted a blue bike, not a stupid red one." The elf looked sternly at Elouisa. "So how do you think your Mummy felt?" "I think I made her sad because I didn't like the bike," she replied in a small voice. Just then the curtain flapped and the window sprung open. A pure white reindeer flew in on a cloud of snowflakes. "Jump on my back, we're going for a ride!" she called to the startled child. "Go on Elouisa, you have more lessons to learn before the night is out," said the elf. No sooner had Elouisa climbed on the reindeer's back, it swooped through the window and off into the snowy sky. Down below the street was waking up. As they glided along, Elouisa could see through the frosted windows. Excited children rushed to see what Father Christmas had brought them.

They paused outside Little Lucy's house. She was holding a new doll, a huge smile on her face. "Thank you, I love it!" Little Lucy said, hugging her daddy. The reindeer rose into the air again, flew over the village green and slowly landed in front of Timmy's house. The window was broken and the room looked dull and bare compared to the cottages they'd just seen. Instead of the sadness she was expecting, Elouisa watched Timmy and his brother squealing with delight as they opened the little presents Father Christmas had left them. "Surprised?" said the reindeer looking back at Elouisa. She nodded, and a single tear rolled down her cheek. They had so little compared to the big pile of presents under her own tree. She closed her eyes. It didn't feel right spying on them. A gust of wind whooshed around her and a big chilly hand grabbed hers. She opened her eyes to find the reindeer gone, and in her place, a snowman with eyes of coal. "Ready for your final lesson?" he said in deep voice. "I, I think so," Elouisa whispered back but she wasn't so sure. The snowman led her to a sleigh made completely from ice. "Time for a little glimpse into the future," he said and lifted Elouisa onto the sleigh. As soon as he climbed on behind her, it set off, sliding effortlessly over the fields. The sleigh glided to a stop in front of a school building. Outside, a bunch of children were laughing and playing together. Elouisa wondered what she was supposed to be looking at, then she noticed the snowman was pointing. Right at the end of the playground, a girl sat all alone on a roundabout with her back to everyone. "Who's that over there," she said pointing to the lonely girl. The roundabout turned around slowly, and soon Elouisa saw her own face, older and sad, looking back at her. Elouisa suddenly knew why she was here. "Nobody wants to be my friend, do they?" she said quietly. "Tell me what I can do to change it?

"The future is not yet decided," the snowman said and hugged her to him. "Start with the little things and the rest will follow." The scene before her swirled. She closed her eyes against the flurry of snowflakes that whirled around her head, and felt herself drifting. The wind grew gentler, and she snuggled into the cosy warmth that now wrapped around her body. Elouisa felt the excitement of change bubbling up inside her and opened her eyes.

She was back in her own bed, the morning sun twinkled through a crack in the curtains, casting rainbows across her duvet. Elouisa ran downstairs to find Mummy and Daddy sat in the lounge next to the sparkling tree. It was Christmas morning. "Happy Christmas, Mummy and Daddy. I love you so much." Elouisa rushed over to hug them both. Daddy grinned, "And we love you too darling. Now aren't you going to open your presents?" Elouisa looked at the huge pile of parcels, and glanced up at the fairy. She seemed to twinkle more brightly than before. Below her hanging from the tree was a fat little elf, a snow-white reindeer, and a friendly snowman. Elouisa winked at them and whispered, "thank you." "Before I open my presents, I have an idea. Can we invite Timmy and his family to share Christmas dinner with us? We have so much, and everything they had was stolen." "What a lovely idea," said Mummy. Daddy smiled and nodded. "And can I go and play in the snow with the other children? I'd like to share my Christmas chocolate with them."

The little fairy smiled down from the top of the tree. 'Please', 'Thank you', and 'I love you!' soon became familiar phrases in the Blue household. Elouisa Blue was now a happy child. She rarely frowned and always smiled.

Sylva Fae owns a wood where she and her husband run survival courses and woodland craft days. She escapes to the woods at every possible opportunity to enjoy the peace and fresh air. She takes the girls off on adventures in their own enchanted woodland, hunting for fairies and stomping in muddy puddles. You can find additional stories and anecdotes on her website


Unexpected Demands by Kaje Harper Hidden Wolves Series When Aaron took down a violent, power-crazed wolf and inherited half a pack, he knew being Alpha wasn't going to be easy. Other werewolves want to exterminate his pack's gay wolf, and call for Aaron's own death. He has no time for desires. But keeping a cool distance from a young man who appeals to all his senses could be his toughest challenge.

Stocking Stuffers: A Christmas Romance Anthology by Various Authors Christmas really is the BEST time of year–for romance that is! These best-selling romance authors have teamed up to bring you contemporary romance shorts that will make your holiday extra steamy! From second chance to age gap and more, this nine story anthology has all the steamy romance you'll need to get into the Christmas spirit.

Hunted Brides of the Kindred Book 2 by Evangeline Anderson A desperate girl on the run, with nowhere to hide… A warrior who has made a vow, never to claim a bride… Sophia Waterhouse is being Hunted and the only man who can save her is the one she fears the most…

All items on Sale at time of publication, however prices are subject to change and may not be permanently reduced

Seven Magics Academy 10 Full Books by RaShella Workman From the bestselling Seven Magics Academy World comes a fairy tale omnibus like no other. More than 2300 pages! 10 full-length books filled with vampires, magic, dragons, gargoyles, and more. Get your copy today.

Stitches In Crime Box Set by ACF Bookens

The Shifter Series Books 1-3 by Elizabeth Kelly

When Paisley Sutton launched her architectural salvage business, she certainly had no idea that finding murderers would be a part of her new line of work. Between single mothering, running her business, leash-walking a persnickety cat, and keeping her young son alive and well, Paisley has enough on her plate without dealing with murder.

Now available - the first three books in the Shifters Series in one box set. Fascinated by the paranormal, Willow accepts a job at the paranormal security firm. Hiding abilities of her own, Willow is determined to learn all she can about the world of shifters. When her abilities put her in danger, her new boss, a grumpy but sexy wolf shifter, will do whatever it takes to keep her safe. .

A Very Curvy Christmas by Mary E. Thompson Grab some hot cocoa (and a glass of ice water) and celebrate Christmas with two curvy girl romances! Ample & Alluring Friends become lovers when Wyatt sets out to show Peyton just how magical the Christmas season can be. His Curvy Gift - A fake relationship starts to feel all too real for Piper and Gavin after they're matched on an online dating site.

Malone Mystery Novels Two Book Set by Larry Darter Ben Malone is a modern-day Los Angeles private eye in the mold of Chinatown's Jake Gittes and Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, a street-wise, smart -mouthed tough guy with a heart of gold.Two Book Set No. 1 consists of the first two books in the series, "Come What May" and "Fair Is Foul, and Foul Is Fair." These two novels have an average reader review rating of 4.8 and 4.2 stars, respectively.

When my dad said he was going abroad for four weeks I thought I might be going with him, but It was to be all work and no play. I acted disappointed, but I didn’t mind keeping my stepmother company. As an eighteen-year-old guy I ought to have been thinking of parties and inviting a few friends around, but the truth was, most of my friends had already set off for uni and my course was delayed. My sexual experience was limited to a couple of brief relationships, so I anticipated extensive naughty internet sessions whenever at home alone. It started that way but changed when my stepmother found out. ‘James,’ she said. ‘I could guide you with your sex education.’ I was glad to put myself in her hands and then she enrolled help and I ended up in a few other people’s hands too.

WRITERS’ LIVES Lisa Shambrook

I’m a creature of habit, but like a squirrel, I’m jittery and anxious. I like routine, but have a degree in procrastination. So, my writing habits are well planned with the best intentions, but not always successfully carried out.

I begin my day with plans that fit my control-freak personality but go awry as soon as I hit social media. It always starts with ‘just checking my notifications’, but finishes a few hours later after having been distracted by posts, blogs, and shiny things… My problem is beginning, but once I’m there the words flow and I easily slip away into another world. My laptop – on my lap, where else? – is where I begin, in my lounge with my German Shepherd at my feet, a hot chocolate in my squirrel mug, and chocolate within reach. I like being surrounded by pretty things and though my house is a chaotic array of disorder and a carpet full of dog fluff, I like sensory things to keep me focused. I always have acorn cups or hazelnut shells beside me, sounds odd, but I did say I’m a squirrel… actually, I deal with several mental health disorders including anxiety, panic, depression, and Sensory Processing Disorder, and acorn cups are my stim of choice. Rolling a polished hazelnut shell or acorn cup between my fingers calms and grounds me. I also like having a scented candle alight, and flowers and crystals close by.

You’re probably noticing that I ramble a fair bit… give me an inch and I’ll take a mile, but only with those I’m close to, otherwise, I’ll keep my mouth shut and listen. Listening is fun – sometimes it’s what gives you a kernel of a story idea. Not just listening to people, but to everything. I let my mind wander, dog walks in the forest are perfect for this, and once an idea spins in my head I’ll be desperate to get it down onto paper. I fill notebooks with untidy notes and sketches. I’ll make maps, paint characters, and keep intricate detailed summaries, research, and annotations of every chapter that I write. I flip through these pages all the time as I write, and they are invaluable during edits and rewrites.

I’m a plotter, I like to know the beginning, middle, and end before I start, but as authors will tell you, our characters like to improvise and take us on journeys we didn’t expect, so you have to allow for digressions and detours. In real life, I don’t like change, but in my writing life changes are exciting and inspiring! We writers are nothing if not a mass of contradictions. My first three published works were inspired by emotional issues and became a trilogy of three girls, three lives, three stories composed with the melody of hope. As grief is faced, hope becomes the only force to cling to and build upon. Since then, I have put together a lyrical collection of dragon-themed short stories and a unique collection of post-apocalyptic tales that weave together into a larger story with fourteen other lovely authors. Right now, I am rewriting and editing a fantasy series set two thousand years in the future where the landscape of Wales has turned into a whole new country… and the rumble of dragons has returned. I love writing and, as a skittish introvert, disappearing into an imaginary world is solace that I’ve enjoyed since I first picked up a book as a child and vanished into my imagination. Come and join me!





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The books are designed by a mother-daughter duo. Mom taught creative movement and ballet for decades and was recognized by her city council for “embodying the spirit of partnership and commitment to children in our community” for her work with young dancers. Daughter is an apprentice with Ballet Idaho and has danced with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, and Texture Contemporary Ballet.



Maggie Cobbett is a British author with English, Scottish and Irish DNA (+ a touch of Norwegian, maybe from the Vikings, as most of her family is from northern England). She has half a dozen published books in different genres as well as numerous short stories, articles and even a few poems. Extensive travels in Europe, the USA, North Africa and the Far East as well as working at different times as a teacher of modern languages,camp counselor and film/ television ‘extra’ have provided plenty of inspiration.

Maggie Cobbett

Shadows of the Past Website:

About the book: Not far from Paris lies a small village where three English schoolgirls* disappear without trace during the summer of 1965. Twenty years later, a stranded traveller stumbles across a skeleton in the nearby forest and ignores local people’s warnings to leave well alone. The secrets she uncovers, some dating back to the darkest days of World War 2, are more than enough to put her own life in danger. *Foreshadowing, a short prequel giving more information about what lay behind the girls’ decision to embark on that ill-fated holiday, is available free of charge as a download from Amazon or in paperback by direct request from the author.

Shadows of the Past is set over three time periods in the life of the village, linked by a double flashback.

Excerpts: CHANTIER INTERNATIONAL 1965 We are pleased to invite young people (16-21) of all nationalities to spend their summer holidays with us in a beautiful setting close to Paris. In return for a small contribution towards running costs and your participation in our interesting and varied work programme, you will enjoy delicious meals cooked by our own chef, accommodation in comfortable dormitories, a wide range of social activities, regular excursions to places of interest and friendly contact with local people. More details on application.

And so the die was cast, but the girls had no idea what they were letting themselves in for. Old sins have long shadows and nowhere more so than in the village of Saint-André-la-Forêt. (Foreshadowing) 1987 Darkness was already falling when a mud spattered Triumph Spitfire splashed slowly through deep puddles into the main square of Saint-André-la-Forêt. The rain had stopped at last, but the only witness to the car’s arrival was a gaunt figure silhouetted in the doorway of a brightly lit café. Her eyes narrowed to a cold stare as the car came to a halt beside her and Laura wound down the window. “Pardon, Madame. Une station-service, s’il vous plait?” She was completely taken aback when the woman not only gave a contemptuous shrug but turned on her heel and slammed the door of the café behind her. Laura could only marvel that the frosted glass panel bearing its name hadn’t cracked. She’d phrased her enquiry politely enough, hadn’t she, so what was the problem? Surely it wasn’t the sight of the Spitfire’s GB plates? Would someone else in CHEZ THÉRÈSE be prepared to help her or would they all feel the same? Laura hadn’t met such a hostile reaction since her suggestion during a school exchange to Rouen that the French themselves had been partly responsible for the burning of Joan of Arc. 1965 With nothing to do and only the rustling of the trees outside the window to break the silence, it was going to be a long day. Concern about running down the batteries without the means to replace them ruled out the option of listening to the tinny music from Maureen’s transistor radio and she didn’t even have a book or a pack of cards.

The Mixture had made her drowsy anyway and she dismissed the now familiar smell of Gauloises as a dream at first. It reminded her of Jean-Claude and she stretched out languorously, wondering when she would see him again. It was only when more smoke drifted towards her and someone coughed very close by that the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. The shaven headed man with the gold earring was standing right outside, his back to the window. That alone would have been frightening enough, but he had a pistol tucked into the waistband of his trousers. What if he turned round and saw her? She pulled the edge of her sleeping bag up to her nose and crossed her fingers. After what seemed like a lifetime, there was a long, low whistle, evidently a signal of some kind, and the man hurried off. Daisy’s heart leapt into her throat as she heard shouting, vehicle doors slamming and the frantic barking of the guard dogs. Even worse, heavy footsteps were tramping down the passageway towards the dormitories. As her door was flung open, Daisy shrank down so far into her sleeping bag that she could hardly breathe, trusting to the gloom to conceal her presence.

5* Reviews from Amazon UK A stunning debut from an accomplished writer. A very enjoyable novel in all sorts of ways. It takes you on a colourful and painful journey into a conspiracy begun during a dark period of French history, is full of colourful characters and at its heart is a mystery which is slowly and skilfully unfolded, saving a final twist for the end.

1940 The curfew that first year ran from nine o’clock in the evening until six in the morning, but the area remained quiet and it was not very strictly enforced. The first civilian to fall foul of it was young Hubert , caught out poaching by a German patrol. Luckily for him, Stracke was the duty sergeant that night. He confiscated the rabbits and made the boy work until dawn polishing boots and peeling potatoes. Then he delivered him up to his startled parents with a stern warning. Monsieur Morcel, only recently returned home after an exhausting and hazardous trek across northern France, didn’t enjoy the humiliation of apologising to the enemy for his son’s behaviour. As a consequence, Hubert didn’t enjoy what followed as soon as the door closed on the big German, but it did serve to rein in his activities for a while.

FREE WITH KINDLE UNLIMITED or available to buy from Amazon as a download or paperback.

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 © Melanie P. Smith

Hijacked Innocence Nathan Porter paced in front of the large bank of windows that ran the entire wall of his home office. Back and forth, back and forth... the waiting was going to kill him. He glanced at his phone, willing it to ring as he pivoted and headed in the opposite direction. What was taking so long?

***** “He’s headed for the ramp,” Detective Kett called out. “Fontan, you in position? One male, late twenties, approximately five-seven, one-eighty is headed your way. He’s wearing a black hoodie, jeans and a dark-colored ball cap. Looks like it has some kind of logo on the front.” “I see him,” Detective Russell Fontan answered. He clipped the walkie on his belt and bolted toward the suspect. The wily bugger was dodging and weaving around cargo bins in an attempt to fade into the shadows and disappear. Not gonna happen. Fontan picked up the pace, leapt over a barrel his cunning prey had toppled in his wake, and spotted the man just as he was attempting to climb a chainlink fence. Fontan smiled. Big mistake. He pushed his body to move faster, reached up, snagged the man’s baggie jeans, and gave them a forceful yank. The shocked felon went down hard, Fontan landed on top of him.

Continue Reading Pg. 111 This is a continuing storyline. A new episode is published in each issue of the eMagazine - Box sets can be purchased at any eBook store 110






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Hijacked Innocence Within seconds, he was on his stomach, the cop straddling his body. His arms were yanked behind his back in an attempt to secure the cuffs. The suspect was still a little dazed, wondering what had just happened. But he wasn’t ready to give in. Instead of accepting his fate like a man, he decided to resist. One wrist was already cuffed, but the other was still free. He tried to swing it around to cold cock the officer. At the same time, he frantically began kicking his legs hoping to knock the cop off balance so he could escape. He missed, and the cop held firm. Fontan was ready for the attempted punch. He dodged, shifted his weight, gripped the man’s arm, and forcefully pulled it behind him. The fight only lasted seconds. Once the cuffs were secure, Fontan stood to catch his breath. Why did they always fight the inevitable? “I didn’t do nothing,” the young guy barked out of habit. They both know he had done something... for starters, he ran. “Suspect is in custody,” Fontan reported in. “Who wants to transport?” Officer Livia Halse responded. “I’m headed your way, should be there in about two minutes. I’ll take him off your hands.” “Copy,” Fontan reached down and yanked on his prisoner’s arm. “Stand up, you’re taking a little ride. Anything you want to tell me before we make this all official?” “Yeah,” the man glared at the cop who had chased him down, wondering again how that had happened. Cops were supposed to be out of shape and easy to evade. Not this one, he probably never had a donut in his life. “I want a lawyer.” “Of course, you do,” Fontan shoved the prisoner in the direction of the female officer who had just arrived. “He’s all yours. Any others outstanding?” “Naw,” Halse shook her head. “We got ‘em all.” “Branning getting a warrant to search the ship?” Fontan asked. “I think the lieutenant is working on it — here locally,” Halse told him. “He sent T-Bone to rile the judge. Probably used Branning’s case file to do it, but he’ll get it done.”


Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 “Sounds good,” the two strangers escorted their prisoner back toward the waiting vehicles. Fontan was from Chicago, part of a team of detectives sent over to assist the New Orleans’s PD on a joint operation spearheaded by some bigwig General. He didn’t care how he got here. He was determined to catch every last SOB that had anything to do with his friend’s death. Brian Stewart was a good cop, a great cop really... but he was a better man. He deserved justice and Russell Fontan believed he was just the guy to make that happen. Livia Halse was a local. She worked the port here in New Orleans and was finally starting to get noticed by her superiors after six long, hard years on the street. She desperately wanted to make detective and hoped this was the year she could make it happen. With any luck, the current Op would be the bump she needed to push her to the top of the list.

***** The instant Nathan’s cell phone began to chime, he answered without even glancing at the display. “Status?” “Nathan?” Paige asked, confused. “Paige,” Nathan said impatiently. “I’m going to have to call you back. I’m expecting a call.” “Are you okay?” “Yes,” Nathan practically barked. “I’ll call as soon as I can.” He disconnected, feeling slightly guilty about his abrupt demeanor. Before he could question his actions, his phone chimed again. “Porter,” he answered this time. “Sir,” Lieutenant Caiden Norquist came across loud and clear. “The ship is secure, and we have four individuals in custody. We don’t believe any escaped at this time, but the prisoners are not cooperating.” “And the ship?” Nathan asked. “Do you have access?” “Like I said, the ship is secure but we’re waiting on a warrant to board the vessel and conduct a search.”


Hijacked Innocence “Do you need assistance with that?” Porter began running names of judges in the New Orleans district through his mind. Several owed him favors. “Not at this time, no,” Lt. Norquist replied. “We’ve got it under control. With the federal warrant, the overwhelming list of crimes your men from Chicago brought down with them, and the fact that two of the suspects tried to flee; then, when they were apprehended, they resisted... we’ve got PC. I expect approval any minute now. The probable cause is overwhelming, don’t worry. No judge would deny it. Those Dicks from the windy city have done their homework, that’s for sure. It’s smoothed the way for all of us to get results.” “It was one of theirs that lost his life,” Porter reminded him. “A colleague and a friend. They’re determined to find and apprehend everyone responsible. I have no doubt they’ll come through for you. They’re not going to stop until this is over. Give me a call once you search that cargo ship. I don’t care what time it is. I want to know what Reynolds was shipping and the final destination.” “L.T.,” Officer Brock Doogan approached his supervisor. “We have the warrant.” “Warrant came through,” Norquist informed. “I have to go.” “Call me when you know what’s on that ship,” Nathan demanded before he disconnected. He turned and stared out the window wondering if he should call Paige now, or wait until he had more details. It only took a second to decide. “Hello?” Paige answered. “Nathan? What’s going on?” Porter smiled and began to fill her in on the operation currently underway at a busy New Orleans port. Once he was finished, a deafening silence that seemed to last forever filled the air. “Paige?” “And, you didn’t tell us earlier because you don’t want Carmen to know?” “I didn’t tell you because there was nothing to tell,” Porter corrected. “In fact, I debated the timing but figured you would want to know.” Paige proceeded to demand the details... all of them, no holding back. Once she’d completed her interrogation, she sighed. “Okay, will you call me when you find out how it goes... the warrant I mean? Once they figure out what Reynolds was shipping will you promise to call back?” 113

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 “It might be late,” Nathan warned. “Yeah,” Paige sighed. “Well, I doubt we’ll be getting much sleep out here, anyway.” “Why?” Nathan sobered. There had to be a reason Paige had called in the first place.

“Zeus is missing,” Paige notified him. “No one has been able to contact him for two days. Carmen is going out of her mind. Dax is worse than a hungry bear and Hawk isn’t much better. We’re all worried. He promised to check in. The team is trying everything we can think of to find him.” “Travis Boudin is good at what he does,” Nathan refused to use the man’s nickname. “He’s a Ranger and a good one at that. He’s gotten himself out of worse situations than this, plenty of them. Even if he’s been captured, Reynolds won’t hurt him. He couldn’t explain it.” “Like he didn’t hurt Dax?” “That was different,” Nathan insisted. “How, exactly?” Paige wasn’t buying it. “We’re dealing with the same people. If they enlisted the help of Nassar, a known terrorist, what makes you think they wouldn’t enlist another one?” “Because we’re onto them,” Porter said casually. “And, Reynolds knows it. He’s watching his step here in Washington. He wouldn’t take that kind of risk, not now. I’m sure of this, Paige. Boudin is fine. He may have been captured, but if he was... he’s locked up somewhere secure, but not suffering. I think it’s more likely he’s just being cautious. He may have gone silent because he found something, and he can’t risk the enemy locating him. Give him another day or two before you start to panic.” “Hawk’s talking about sending in the team,” Paige warned. “The only thing stopping him is you. He knows you’re working on something and he doesn’t want to be a complication. I’m wondering if either one of you will ever come clean; or, let the rest of us join the cool kid’s secret squad of rebels. We need to be in on the entire operation for this to work, Nathan.” “I needed to talk to you about that,” Nathan admitted. “I’ve been working on getting your security clearance reinstated. Dax and Carmen are already clear. Sean Wilken’s came through this afternoon. I’ll have Carmen update his access immediately. I’m still waiting on yours. It’s a little more complicated because you left the Bureau. The feds don’t like to bring in locals on that level, but they’ll do it. I’ll go to the president himself if I have to.” 114

Hijacked Innocence “Is that necessary?” Paige frowned. “I think it is,” Nathan assured her. “Because I need the freedom to communicate with my team. I need you to know what’s going on, when it’s happening... not after the fact. And Hawk has too many contacts. He’s in the loop, because I haven’t been able to block him out.” “And reinstating my clearance will allow you to do that? Keep me in the loop that is?” “It’s the only thing holding me back,” he admitted. “Now, I need to know what Dax has decided about the others. I can get their clearance updated... no problem. But I’m waiting on your conclusions before I move forward. Does Dax think he can trust his team?” “We still don’t know about Thor,” Paige admitted. “He’s also missing, but I think that’s by design. He doesn’t want us to find him.” “And the others?” “Dax has decided to trust them,” Paige sobered. “He’s not a hundred percent sure, but he’s close enough. Zeus is a hundred and ten percent. I think Wooley’s the same. I agree with him on those two. Then there’s Jeeves. He’s harder for me to read, but Dax says he’s good-to-go.” “And Hawk?” “I say Hawk is in the clear,” Paige said without hesitation. “I know Dax is wavering on him, but it’s only because of me. Hawk has some serious issues where I’m concerned. I think it’s clouding the subject more than it should.” “That’s because Dax cares about you,” Porter understood the rub because he felt the same way. “If Hawk can’t support that, you have to wonder why.” “I don’t wonder,” Paige smiled. “I know. It’s because I won’t back down. I won’t just blindly follow his every whim and he doesn’t know how to deal with that. I have an amazing mentor with the same hang-up. He’s a general... resides in Washington these days, maybe you know him.” “Don’t start, Paige,” Nathan warned. “It’s been a difficult day.”


Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 “With the exception of Thor, I say the team is fine,” she answered his initial question. “For the most part, Dax agrees. Which is why he’s decided to bring us all back together on this.” “Good,” Porter paused. “You should probably know that I’ve been doing my own investigating. I have a friend looking into all the men. So far, they check out. I’m not seeing anything alarming. No red flags to indicate their working with Reynolds or his group. Waylon should be done in the next day or two. I’ll let you know.” “Jeff Waylon?” Paige asked. “As in Homeland?” “Yes,” Nathan affirmed. “But keep that to yourself. I don’t think the others trust that department since Williams kidnapped Dax.” “If Jeff doesn’t find anything, there’s nothing to find.”

“I agree,” Nathan settled into his executive chair. “Now, how are you doing?”

***** Paige had just pulled into the parking lot and was headed into the office when Margie called her to assist on a missing child report that came in earlier that morning. Seriously? How did a seven-year-old go missing at six o’clock in the morning? “Show me enroute.”

She sighed deeply and wondered if this was going to be another long day. She was already tired and grumpy. By the time she got off the phone with Nathan and relayed the information to Dax and Carmen, it was after midnight. The Op in New Orleans had gone well. All the players on the ship were in custody and the team had recovered a boatload – pun intended — of high-powered weapons and military-grade drones. That was the part that worried everyone. Why was Reynolds shipping secret military drones to the Mediterranean? When you combined that with his association with Nassar, and the death of the informant Dax knew from Iraq... the possibilities were terrifying. Paige made a left out of the parking lot and started toward the victim’s home. “Logan’s on scene, but he needs assistance,” Margie advised. “Havilland was there initially, but he had to clear and head to court. They already did a thorough search of the home and yard but didn’t find the boy. Lovato is still checked-out on the call, but it doesn’t list his


Hijacked Innocence current location. I think Reed told him he could handle things at the residence until you arrived. Shows here Lovato began a cursory check of the surrounding neighborhood about ten minutes ago. He hasn’t checked off yet, so he may still be in the area.” “Copy,” Paige accelerated and flipped on her lights. Might as well take advantage of the empty roads. She knew she was hyped up on caffeine, three cups of coffee would do that. But with less than five hours sleep and a long day ahead, Paige thought she might need another jolt. She just hoped it lasted until lunchtime. Otherwise, she’d be struggling to fight off a major crash; and, with a missing kid... she couldn’t afford to lose focus. It only took a few minutes to arrive at the residence and see the scene was chaotic. Logan rushed out the front door and met Paige in the driveway. “It looks like an abduction,” Logan said in greeting. “The back door shows signs of a break -in, but the kid’s room made us question that assumption. The bed hasn’t even been slept in. We decided to look into things a little more, determine what we had, before issuing an Amber Alert. Havilland helped us clear the house before he had to take off. The boy’s not inside. Just to cover all the bases, Lovato is driving the area and he’ll talk to any of the neighbors that he encounters along the way. He’s supposed to be off, but he said he’ll stick if we need him. Once he gets back, we were going to initiate the abduction protocol. Netty Simmons, the mother, says her son went to bed early last night,” Logan added. “About nine. She claims she turned in around midnight. When she got up this morning, he was gone. She insists he was kidnapped.” “And she didn’t hear it?” Paige had a hard time believing that. “She says she took a sleeping pill,” Logan said hesitantly. “But you think...?” Paige asked. “I think she was drunk, probably passed out and didn’t stir when the perp used a pry bar or something like it to open the back door. Or, the kid ran and made it look like someone broke in the back.” “What do we know about mom?” Paige moved to the back of her vehicle and pulled out a folder. “Any arrests? DUIs? Public Intox? Anything to indicate she has a problem?” “I didn’t get that far,” Logan began but stopped when Netty Simmons rushed out the front door and ran toward the cop car. 117

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 “What are you doing to find my baby?” she wailed. “Ma’am,” Paige said with more patience than she felt. “If you could just go back inside, I’ll only be a minute and then I have some questions.”

“But...” her bloodshot eyes focused on Logan. “I already answered his questions.” “I know,” Paige set a hand on the woman’s back and gave her a gentle push. Too bad the red, swollen eyes wasn’t from crying. “But I have a few of my own. Please, just go inside. I’ll be right behind you.” Logan waited until the woman was stepping through the front door before he spoke. “Now you see why I think the problem was alcohol?” “Yeah,” Paige closed her eyes and took a long, soothing breath. “She wreaks. It’s like the alcohol is seeping out of her pores. You get the Amber Alert going and I’ll deal with her.” “Uh...” Logan was frantically trying to remember what had to be done to activate the alert. “Call Margie,” Paige grinned. “Once she activates the system, call Sheriff Walters. You don’t want him blindsided with this before he has his morning coffee.” “Right,” Logan pulled out his phone and dialed the office. He watched Paige as she strode up the front stairs and disappeared into the house. He just hoped Margie knew what to do because he was completely lost; and, his back-up was now inside dealing with a half-drunk, slightly belligerent mother.

***** “Okay,” Paige settled into a chair as far away from the woman as possible. “I need you to walk me through last night. Start from when... what is your son’s name?” “Brodie,” Netty sniffed. “Okay,” Paige nodded. “Start from when Brodie got home from school until you went to bed.” “I already...”


Hijacked Innocence “I know you went through this with Deputy Reed, but I need you to go through it with me,” Paige pressed. “Before you do, can you tell me about Brodie’s father? Does he live here... with you?” “No,” Netty scowled. “Walker left us two years ago.” “Okay,” Paige made a note in her pad. “So, you and your husband are divorced?” No response. “Does he live in the area?” “No,” Netty shifted. “Why do we have to talk about Walker?” “I’m just wondering if your son could be with him.” “If Walker took him, it’s still kidnapping,” Netty folded her arms in front of her body. “I want him arrested if he has my boy.” “Where does Walker live now?” Paige tried to get her back on track. “I don’t know,” Netty plopped her hands into her lap. “Why you gotta ask questions about him? He’s gone, that’s all I know.” “Does he have visitation rights?” Paige pressed. “Sure, sometimes,” Netty mumbled. “He keeps in touch with Brodie. But I don’t want to talk about my Ex.” Paige decided to shift gears. She’d look into the father later. “Okay, can you walk me through the evening? Brodie got home from school at what time?” “Beats me,” Netty turned her head defiantly. “Normal time, I guess.” “And that would be...?” “Around three, maybe?” Netty said it more as a question than an answer. “Three o’clock, then.” Paige jotted that on her pad. “And when he got home, were you here?” “Sure,” Netty glanced at the window. Interesting, Paige thought. She wasn’t home. Maybe the neighbors can tell me if that’s normal. “What did you do? Pick it up from when you first saw Brodie after school and walk me through the routine.” 119

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 “This is stupid,” Netty jumped to her feet. “You should be out looking for my kid. Why are you in here hounding me?” “I’m just trying to get a clear picture of what happened,” Paige sighed inwardly. This was going nowhere fast. Netty was hiding something. “Brodie got home and went to his room,” Netty gave Paige a defiant, challenging glare. “He stayed up there until I called him for dinner. We ate, he went back upstairs to do homework; and a few hours later, he went to bed. I was up longer... watched tv for a bit, then I went to bed. It was a long day, so I took a pill and was out cold until I woke up this morning. I went to make sure Brodie was getting ready for school and he was gone. That’s when I came down to the kitchen and saw the door, realized someone broke in, and I called the police.”

Paige frowned and wondered what time the boy was really taken. Logan said the bed didn’t show signs of use... Brodie was not abducted in his sleep after midnight. She focused on the mother... she wasn’t going to get anything more from her. Not right now, anyway. “I know Deputy Reed took a look around, but do you mind if I search the house?” “What for?” Netty dropped back into her chair. “Those three men already searched everything. A woman’s bedroom should be private, but they even walked through there. I don’t think I’ll sleep... knowing strange men went through my clothes. They probably sifted through my panties, too.” Yeah, Paige thought. You only wish. “Do you mind? I’d feel better if I made a second round just to be sure.” “Brodie’s not here,” Netty folded her arms again. “But, if you have to, go ahead and look for yourself.” “Thank you,” Paige moved into the kitchen. She wanted to get a look at the door. She was so focused on the damage she didn’t see Jericho step up beside her.

“Maybe we should test that woman,” the sheriff whispered softly so only Paige could hear. “You got a PBT in your car?” “Somehow,” Paige stood. “I doubt she’d voluntarily agree to a breath test at the moment. Portable or stationary. But it would be interesting wouldn’t it? What’s your best guess? Point zero eight? Or, over ten?” 120

Hijacked Innocence “Higher,” Jericho glanced back. “I think she’s a regular consumer. Come upstairs, I want to show you something.” Paige frowned. Just how long ago had the good sheriff arrived on scene?

The two of them made their way back through the living room, across the foyer and up the stairs. The instant Paige stepped into the hallway she saw it. “Looks new.” “That’s what I thought,” Jericho moved to the large indentation in the wall. The sheetrock was pushed in near the bottom of the wall, just above the floor. “What’s your assessment?” “It’s the right size,” Paige crouched to study it closer. “Now, we just need to figure out how it got there. I’m guessing the back of Brodie’s head.”

“But who is responsible?” Jericho straightened. “Mom or the intruder?” “I want to see his room,” Paige also stood. “Logan said the bed wasn’t slept in, but mom said Brodie went to sleep at nine. Her story doesn’t match the evidence.” “After you,” Jericho held out a hand and followed Paige into a small child’s bedroom. “There’s no sign of struggle in here,” Jericho observed. “The kid is seven and clearly he wasn’t sound asleep when... whatever this is, occurred.”

“I agree,” Paige moved to the boy’s closet. “Do you think we issued the alert prematurely?” Walter’s continued to glance around the bedroom looking for something that would tell him what happened. A child didn’t just disappear in the middle of the night, not in his town. “No,” Paige crouched to get a better look at the kid’s shoes. “Logan wasn’t sure either, so he waited. If this was an abduction, we’re already behind. It had to be issued, we can always cancel if we decide on foul play by mom.” “Alright,” Jericho turned to face Paige. “Well, I told Dean to bring the Command Post over. He should be arriving any minute. Let’s regroup, debrief Lovato, and go from there.” “Sounds

good,” Paige pulled a small camera from her bag and took a picture of the closet.

“What’s that for?” 121

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 “I think a pair of shoes are missing,” Paige straightened. “There appears to be a break... right there,” she pointed to a section on the floor of the closet. “See, there? You’ve got his boots, dress shoes, then a break before his old tennis shoes, those water shoes and the sandals.” “Okay, that makes sense, though. He’d slide something on before he left if he ran. But, if he was abducted, and the perp woke him up when he came in, he had to walk out of the house on his own. Maybe, he was still wearing a pair from earlier in the day. He’s too big to carry forcefully; unless, there was a big struggle.” “And there wasn’t one,” Paige interrupted. “Nothing is disturbed in here. Netty has a small table at the foot of the stairs with a plant on it. If Brodie was kicking and fighting, the table should be knocked over. It wasn’t. But if he wasn’t abducted, where is he?” “What if someone did take him, but he left the house on his own?” Jericho supplied. “Let’s go outside,” Paige decided. “There’s something I need to tell you about that damaged door.”

***** “Okay, listen up,” Jericho called out. “We’re going to work this as an abduction until we know different. Lovato, I need you to pull out one of those forms over there and start listing the addresses you covered already. We’re going to make sure we check every single house in the immediate area before we go home tonight. We start with the next-door neighbors and fan out from there. We talk to the occupants and ask for permission to search their yards and the house if they’ll let you.” “Got it, boss,” Lovato moved to the small table and began to transfer his notes to the official record. “Paige?” Jericho gave the signal for her to share her discovery. “I took a closer look at the back door, the one in the kitchen,” she began. “The break-in,” Logan provided. “Or, the break-out.” Paige corrected. “What do you mean by that?” Lovato’s head shot up and he focused on Paige. 122

Hijacked Innocence “I recognized the lock on the door,” Paige began. “There was one in my house when I first moved here with mom. I hated it. You couldn’t get out of the house without a key if it was locked. Mom changed ours out right away, I think she hated it as much as I did.” “I noticed that,” Lovato was still watching Paige, there had to be more. “At first glance, it looks like someone kicked in the back door,” Paige continued. “But when I took a closer look, there were groove marks. Inside. I think it's possible Brodie was locked inside the house and he’s the one that pried open the door when he left. It’s also possible Brodie let someone in the front — friend or foe — they tried to go out the back, couldn’t, and the bad guy pried it open.” “Either way,” Jericho considered. “The door was damaged from the inside, not the outside like we all originally assumed.” “There’s another possibility,” Lovato spoke up. “One nobody wants to consider. Maybe, the drunk mother did something to the kid, deliberately or accidentally, then damaged the door to make it look like it was a break-in to throw us off if we discovered the body. There’s something off with that woman and it’s not just stale whiskey.” “We’ve all considered it, but I’m rejecting it... for now. We operate under the assumption Brodie Simmons is still alive,” Jericho looked around the motorhome at his crew. “Lovato, you take Dean and continue the door-to-door. I want to hit every house within a quartermile radius. Logan, you see what you can do to track down the father.” “She said his name is Walker,” Paige broke in. “I’d start with Walker Simmons. That’s the name Brodie uses and maybe they just kept it after the divorce.” “Thank you,” Logan said as he mentally kicked himself for not getting the dad’s name himself. He’d only been on the job full-time for a month and he was already screwing up. “Paige, I want you to start tracking the rest of the relatives. We need to know everything there is to know about this family.” “Someone needs to question the mother again,” Paige objected. “I can take that.” “No,” Jericho brushed her off. “You see what you can get the family to tell you. I’m taking Netty Simmons. She’s already jerked this office around enough. I’d like to keep you in reserve to play good cop if I can’t get answers my way.” 123

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 They were just about to split up when Havilland flung open the door and made his up the stairs, pulling the flimsy barrier closed behind him. “Court didn’t take long, what do you need?” “You okay to stay on a couple more hours?” Jericho asked his graveyard man. “I’m fine,” he turned and poured himself a fresh cup of coffee. “Give me a job, boss.” “I want you to take the assignment I gave to Paige,” Jericho decided. “We need to contact friends and relatives and get a clear picture of the family dynamic. Paige, I interrupted your search of the home. Go back and finish while I speak with Ms. Simmons.” “Got it,” Paige stood. “That’s going to take a while because I’m going to be extra thorough. This time around I’ll be looking for Brodie, but I’m also going to scrutinize every nook and cranny for evidence.” “Check in with me when you’re finished,” Jericho ordered. “That goes for all of you. I could use another team to scour the neighborhood, but it will have to wait. I’ve also put a call into Gage and the other Reserves. I expect them to arrive any minute. Once Margie gets the phones transferred to Laurel Bluff; so, they can handle anything else that comes in today, she’s headed our way. Check in here at the Command Post periodically. Margie will handle logistics and document what we’ve done and what still needs doing. Lovato, Gage will touch base with you when he arrives. Let him know what’s been covered so he can coordinate the search efforts in the other direction. Any questions?” Since nobody had any, the group dispersed to handle their assignments.

***** It was over an hour later when Paige stepped back into the Command Post. She spotted Havilland immediately. Her friend looked worse than she felt.

Margie emerged from the rear section of the motorhome. “I can’t decide which one of you looks worse. I take it you didn’t find anything in the house?” “Nothing that tells me what happened to that kid,” Paige dropped onto the tiny couch in frustration. “Anything from the family?”


Hijacked Innocence “Logan couldn’t reach the father,” Havilland admitted. “He traced him to St. George, but he’s not answering his phone.” Havilland pulled out his notes. “I talked to Walker’s sister. She said he’s a foreman on a construction crew down south; but, when I called his job, they said he’s in the field and can’t be disturbed.”

“But he’s there?” Paige wondered. If Walker Simmons was working today, he had a pretty good alibi. “He is now,” Havilland sighed. “The woman won’t tell me when he got there. For all I know, it was five minutes ago. I told Logan I’d take this over so he could go help Gage and the team with the door-to-door.” “Keep trying,” Paige requested. “We have to know what dad knows. He divorced Netty so anything he tells us is tainted, but she said something strange when I asked her about her ex-husband.” Havilland frowned. “What?” “She said she doesn’t know where he lives, but that Brodie stays in touch. It’s unclear if there is some kind of visitation schedule in place. Margie, maybe you could contact the court and see what they can tell us.” “I’ll let you know,” Margie turned and headed back toward what was originally a bedroom. They had converted it into an office space with a phone and a small table to use as a desk just big enough for a laptop and various maps. The table was currently covered with documents. Intel that only Margie could keep straight. “Command,” Gage Clayton’s voice boomed over the radio. “Go ahead,” Paige said into the mic. “Paige, is that you?” “It is,” Paige affirmed. “I have someone that thinks they spotted the kid at the market. Can you head this way and help me interview employees? They're getting ready to change shifts and I don’t want anyone to slip out before I have a chance to talk to them.” “I’m on my way,” Paige stood and glanced at Havilland. “You could call the local department down there. Ask them to send a car over to the business and see if they can 125

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 track dad in person. It might hold more weight if they’re confronted in person. They can just hang up on you if they don’t like your questions. It’s harder to dismiss a police officer standing in front of your desk.” “I’ll give it a try,” Havilland decided. “Can’t hurt.” “Oh,” Paige paused. “Can you call that friend of yours, the one that works in the Bluffs and see if he can track down a cell phone for the kid. I know he’s only seven, but dad may have provided a means to stay connected without mom knowing.” “Good idea,” Havilland grabbed his laptop. “I’m also going to get a warrant for the phone records to the house. If you see Jericho, have him quiz mom about Brodie’s electronics. If she says he doesn’t have any... she’s lying, or oblivious.” “He has a PlayStation in his room,” Paige provided. “Can’t you access the internet from one of those? A seven-year-old might know how to do that on his own.” “I’ll follow it up,” Havilland assured her. “Go, help Gage. I’ve got this.”

***** Paige stepped into the large grocery store and glanced around, looking for Gage. When she didn’t find him, she approached a checker and asked for directions. Once the woman had finished, Paige decided to conduct an informal interview on her. “Before I go, do you know this kid?” She held up her phone to show the friendly woman a picture of Brodie that filled the entire screen. “Sure,” Vickie said. “I know Brodie. He comes in with his mom all the time. I know he’s missing, and that breaks my heart. I hope you find him soon. That kid’s an angel. Wish mine were as well-behaved as that one.” “Is he always with his mother, or does he come in with anyone else?” Paige asked. Vickie squinted her eyes in concentration. “Once, maybe six... seven months ago, he came in with a man. I got the impression it was his father, but I’m not sure why. He didn’t come through my line so it couldn’t be he told me that. I just thought... well, they looked a lot alike; and, I thought it was good that he spent time with his dad. Got him away from that mother of his for a while; and, that could only be a good thing.” 126

Hijacked Innocence “Why do you say that?” Paige picked up on the tone as well as the words. “I don’t like to gossip,” Vickie sighed. “And I don’t. But, well... you being a cop and that kid missing...” “I understand,” Paige pushed. This might be important. “Well, it’s just that... I’d wager, Netty’s an alcoholic,” Vickie lowered her voice. “She mostly comes here when the Liquor Store is closed. Stocks up on beer since you can’t get anything stronger. I heard she prefers the hard stuff. Anyway, more than once, she’s been falling down, stupid drunk. Bart had to kick her out one day, she was so belligerent and...” Vickie sighed. “I don’t know how to put it, really. She was just mean and... well, volatile. Several customers complained and Bart didn’t have a choice, he had to escort her out. I felt terrible for the kid, he looked so embarrassed and... desperate.” “Brodie was with her?” Paige said, surprised. “Yeah,” Vickie glanced around again. “I know I should have called... the cops, I mean. But I was working, and Bart was so angry. That day, Brodie’s the one that drove them home.” “You saw a seven-year-old boy drive a car?” “No,” Vickie said quickly. “Not me.” She motioned to a young kid bagging groceries. “Toby saw him. Came inside and told me right away. We really didn’t know what to do and Toby didn’t want to get on anyone’s bad side. Said if I wanted to report it that was up to me, but he wasn’t going to cooperate. He’s a kid and I think calling the cops scared him.” Paige glanced at the kid and decided to drop it. There wasn’t anything she could do about it now. But... how often had Brodie driven his drunk, mean, violent mother home? “What can you tell me about the man?” Paige asked. “The one you thought was his father.”

“I only saw him twice,” Vickie said slowly, glad the officer hadn’t pushed her on the illegal driving. “Like I said, the last time was a few months ago. I think he came in one other time, a weekend last year... around July, I think. I know it was summertime and they looked really happy. Brodie looked happy…not timid like when he comes in with his mother.” 127

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 Paige was not liking the picture she was starting to get of Brodie Simmons’ life. She’d hold off on judging the mother, or the father, until she had more information; but she was starting to wonder if Walker Simmons could have his son and he didn’t want anyone to know about it. She was trying to decide if she had any other questions for the checker when Gage stepped up next to her. “Did you interview Vickie?” he asked. “Just finishing up,” Paige assured him. “How many more?” “I think we’re finished,” Gage glanced around. “I didn’t talk to the bagger, but I think I’ve covered the rest. You want to head back to the Command Post and brief the sheriff with me?” “I’ll meet you there,” Paige decided. “I’ll stop over, see what the bagger can tell me. Don’t wait, I’ll only be a minute.” “You sure?” Gage glanced at the bagger. He couldn’t be more than seventeen. “Yeah,” Paige gave him a little shove. “He’s just a kid, I doubt I’ll get much.” “Alright,” Gage decided. “I’ll see you back at the CP.”

***** Paige stepped into the motorhome and made her way to the passenger seat. The entire office was crammed into the tiny space making it difficult to move around. “Now that Paige has arrived,” Jericho began. “I want to go around the room and get an update from each of you. This kid has been missing for hours and we’re still no closer to bringing him home.” “If we want to,” Paige mumbled. Havilland heard her and wondered what she meant by that. He was seated in the comfortable driver’s seat and thought he was the only one that caught Paige’s quiet response. “Havilland,” Jericho focused on his part-time deputy. “You go first.”


Hijacked Innocence “Dad is still missing,” he began. “Logan contacted the office where Walker Simmons works, earlier this morning. I’ll let him tell you about that conversation but the short of it is... they lied. The secretary said Walker was at work and out in the field coordinating a job. I talked the local police department into sending an officer over to check. Walker wasn’t there and hasn’t been there all day. In fact, one of the workers told the cop the crew was supposed to work late last night to make up for some delay. Said he didn’t get off until sometime after ten. Walker got a call right after nine that made him visibly upset. He had a brief discussion with the manager and left. He hasn’t been seen since.” “Any idea who called?” Jericho asked. “I’m waiting for the phone company to get me the records,” Havilland continued. “The warrant came through about thirty minutes ago; so, I expect them any minute.” “You think it might have been Netty?” Logan asked. “I think it was Brodie,” Havilland told him. “There’s no way a call from a crazy, alcoholic ex -wife made him upset enough to leave a job. But a kid? His kid, with a serious problem? Yeah, that would do it.” “You can add mean and violent to that description,” Paige added. “The clerk and the bagger said Netty is meaner than a junkyard dog when she’s intoxicated,” she shared a glance with Jericho... both of them recalling the large, round indent in the wall upstairs. “There was an incident, Netty had to be kicked out of the store.” “Yeah,” Gage added. “Several of the employees told me about that. It was one Sunday, about a month ago. Netty came in with Brodie to buy some beer. She was so drunk she couldn’t walk straight, and she bumped into a kid that was there with his mother. Netty went off, threatened the boy and then lit into the mom. The customer complained and she was just the first of several. Bart Rollins was in the store that day and had to kick her out. Escorted her to the parking lot and told her if she ever came back drunk again, he’d call the cops. He was livid, but after he cooled down a bit, he got to feeling guilty, on account of the kid. Said he went back into the parking lot to check on them and they were already gone. He assumed they walked up the road to the convenience store.” “They didn’t,” Paige sighed. “The bagger, Toby, was in the parking lot. Netty was livid about getting kicked out and she was yelling at Brodie, blaming him for the whole thing. Then, she pushed Brodie toward the driver’s side of the car and handed him the keys. 129

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 That’s when Toby tried to intervene. He told Netty she couldn’t let a kid drive the car; they’d both end up dead. Netty shoved him into a line of shopping carts and told him to mind his own business. Then, she shoved Brodie toward the car and told him to drive home. Apparently, the boy was worried about a stranger seeing him drive and he tried to talk Netty into walking home. She lashed out, slapped Brodie across the face and told him to do as he was told. Toby started to leave; but was stopped by Brodie, who begged him not to tell anyone what happened. Brodie said it would only make things worse. Toby decided to let it drop. I asked him why and he said it was the terrified look Brodie gave him.” “I knew there was something off with that woman,” Lovato grumbled. “Are you still awake?” Paige teased. “Or are you talking in your sleep?” “He’s going home as soon as he reports,” Jericho answered. “Go ahead, Mike.” “I don’t have much to report,” Lovato began. “We’ve talked to someone at every house on this street; both sides all the way to the intersection. Most of the neighbors allowed us inside to search in window wells and under beds. There were a couple that balked so we just moved on. The kid’s not here, not in the immediate area, anyway.” He handed Margie a sheet of paper. “That’s the complete list of who we talked to at each house, what time we made contact, and at the bottom, there’s a list of addresses that need a follow-up.” “I appreciate the extra duty,” Jericho held out a hand to Mike. “Now, go get some rest. I might need you back on tomorrow if we don’t wrap this up tonight.” “I’ll call you after I get a couple hours, see where things are at,” Lovato promised. “For what it’s worth, I think you should let Paige give that woman hell. She might get answers that we can’t.” Then, he turned and headed out the door. “I can talk to her again,” Paige offered. “Maybe later,” Jericho glanced at Gage. “Anything else you want to add?” “No,” Gage shook his head. “I think Paige got more at the market than I did.” “Okay, Dean?” “Lo pretty much covered it,” he shrugged. “We also checked the sex offender register and there are a couple guys in the area; but, none on this street. The ones that live within a mile of here all have alibis. It’s all in my notes. Some are airtight, others have a little more 130

Hijacked Innocence wiggle room. I’m leaning towards the family on this one. If the dad came here to get his kid though, he must have done it in the middle of the night. None of the neighbors saw or heard anything.” “Well, based on the timeline,” Havilland considered. “Walker left work just after nine. We don’t know how urgent that call was, but it would take at least three to three and a half hours to get here. And that’s if he came straight here, didn’t stop in at home for a change of clothes or a shower first.” “I think he came straight here,” Jericho decided. “If Brodie’s call made him abandon his job, he wouldn’t waste time at home. He’d pick up his kid and shower when he knew the boy was safe.” “I need to point out, we’re all jumping to a lot of conclusions,” Paige warned. “We have evidence in the house that doesn’t match mom’s story and a large dent in the wall; but, that’s it.” “And dad rushing out after a call,” Havilland corrected. “And the reports from the market that mom is abusive when she’s drunk,” Gage added. “I think we all know she was drunk.” “Logan?” Jericho turned to his newest deputy. “This was originally your call; do you have anything to add?” “Just that I agree,” Logan frowned. “Netty Simmons has been lying to us from the beginning. It’s the reason we waited to issue the alert. Nothing seemed to add up.” “What about the alert?” Dean asked. “Do we cancel it or leave it active? Someone might see dad or the kid and call it in?” “For now, we leave it,” Jericho told them. “We don’t have the kid; so, we don’t know he’s safe. Plus, Paige is right. Dad is the prime suspect; but we can’t rule out the possibility we got it wrong. We have no idea, at this point, who has Brodie Simmons.” “So,” Margie addressed the group. “Where do we go from here?” “Any word on those tips that we sent to Laurel Bluffs?” Jericho asked. “Not so far,” Margie shook her head. “They’ve gone through several of them; but so far, 131

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 there doesn’t seem to be a valid lead. The two detectives Chief Beckett sent over are currently inside the residence keeping an eye on our complainant.” “Paige, do you have anything to add?” Jericho asked, then held up a hand when his cellphone began to ring. “Sheriff Walters.” “Hey, Jericho,” Chief Bruce Gorrell said in greeting. “Hey, Bruce,” Jericho answered. “Thanks for all the help your guys have been giving us down there. I really appreciate the assist.” “I have an update,” Gorrell said. “Good news, I hope,” Jericho settled into the seat Lovato had abandoned. “A local nurse that works the graveyards shift in the ER over at Dixie Medical contacted our office,” Gorrell advised. “She said Walker Simmons brought Brodie into the ER just before four this morning. She got off duty, went home and crashed. Didn’t see the Amber Alert until she woke and checked her phone.” “She’s sure it was Brodie and his father?” Jericho asked. “She says yes,” the Chief confirmed. “He even used his real name and Brodie’s.” “What were the injuries?” “That’s the bad news,” Gorrell sobered. “The kid was in bad shape. He told the doctor he was riding his bike and crashed. He said his mother told him he was fine, and he should just sleep it off. He called his dad when he started to feel dizzy. Simmons drove up; and when he saw the shape Brodie was in, he decided to take him home and make sure he got proper care. The nurse asked Walker why he drove all the way back to St. George before he sought medical attention. He said Brodie seemed fine until they were a few miles away from home. The dizziness got worse and he felt nauseous. Walker decided to make the trip to the ER.” “Were the injuries consistent with a bike crash?” Jericho asked. “She said yes and no,” Gorrell ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “It was possible they were telling the truth, but she thought it was suspicious. She called DCFS, but the duo was gone when the case agent arrived.” 132

Hijacked Innocence “What are the chances we can see the kid’s medical records?” “Without a warrant, nil,” Gorell said without hesitation. “But I think, with the Amber Alert, the abduction, and the injuries... I can convince Judge Winston we need a warrant.”

“Keep me posted,” Jericho ended the call. “Brodie’s injured?” Logan asked. “Is it my fault, because I waited on the Amber Alert?” “No,” Jericho shook his head. “Walker took Brodie into the ER around four this morning. I think something happened in this house and Brodie called his father for help. I think Walker Simmons saved his son. He didn’t kidnap him.” “And, that’s why there’s no sign of a struggle,” Paige added. “Brodie called his dad and was waiting for him when he arrived. He escaped willingly. We just need the phone records to confirm our suspicion.” “We got them,” Margie stepped back into the main section with several sheets of papers. “At 2117, a call originating from Netty’s residence was made to Walker Simmons’ cell phone. It lasted...” Margie paused to do the math. “Twenty-three minutes.” “Really?” Paige said in surprise. “That long?” Margie handed the documents to Havilland. Duncan skimmed through them and pulled out a single page. “Walker made a call to an unknown number at exactly twelve-forty-two. That call lasted just over a minute.” “Hey kid, I’m here. Meet me out back and be sure to bring your things,” Dean surmised. “He could have told Brodie to stay on the line until he made it outside.” “But the back door was locked, and he couldn’t get out,” Logan added. “So, he broke out,” Paige ended.

“How do we prove it?” Margie asked the group. “We find the kid,” Jericho answered. “Bruce is working on a warrant for the medical records. That’s going to help in court, but it does nothing to help us find the kid.” “Havilland,” Paige called. “Where’s that list of relatives you were working on?”


Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 “Right here,” Havilland pulled out his notepad. “I made contact with everyone on the list except the younger brother. Uh... here it is, the name is Keith Simmons and he lives in Ivins.” Paige looked at her boss. “Know anyone in Ivins?”

“No,” Jericho pulled out his phone. “But I’m sure Bruce does.” “Where is Ivins?” Gage asked. “It’s north of St. George,” Paige answered. “Have you heard of that Tuacahn place?” “Where they have those outdoor plays?” Margie asked. “Exactly,” Paige nodded. “I think that place is in Ivins, or just outside of it in the State Park... what was the name of that?” “Snow Canyon,” Jericho provided after he hung up the phone. “Bruce said he’ll send someone over to this Keith Simmons’ place and see what they find.” “So, what do we do in the meantime?” Dean asked. “Well,” Jericho looked at Havilland. “You go home and get some rest. You’ve been on nearly fifteen hours straight.” Havilland hesitated, but he knew he wouldn’t last much longer. “Call me in if you find the kid, or I guess if you don’t. I’ll snag six-to-eight hours and call the CP to see where things stand.” “Thanks,” Jericho said sincerely. “I appreciate the long shift.” “What about the calls that come in tonight?” Dean asked. “Beckett said he can spare a couple cars,” Jericho told the group. “I’m still working out a schedule and it’s going to depend on what Bruce finds down south.” “I can stay on,” Dean offered. “Man the Command Post tonight if you want.” “Let’s see how this plays out,” Jericho turned to Paige. “You look almost as bad as Duncan. You up for another interrogation?” “Netty?” Paige asked. “Yeah,” Jericho smiled. “I think it’s time we bumped up the pressure.” 134

Hijacked Innocence ***** It was nearly seven o’clock that night when Chief Bruce Gorrell and his men located Walker Simmons. He was picked up near Santa Clara by one of Gorrell’s men. Brodie wasn’t with him; but dad will remain in police custody and will until they get answers. So far, after over three hours of interrogation, he still wasn’t talking. “No wonder those two split,” Paige grumbled when Jericho finished his update. “They’re both stubborn and uncooperative.” “Actually,” Dean smiled. “I think Ms. Simmons is just hung over and maybe having withdrawals. She’s gone all day without a single drink.” “Well, not since we arrived anyway,” Paige corrected. “I’m not sure she didn’t start the morning off with a Bloody Mary... or ten. That woman oozes alcohol like a bad perfume.” “Margie,” Jericho called. “Yeah,” Margie said absently as she stepped from the back holding a stack of papers. When Jericho didn’t continue, she finally glanced up. “Do you have something important?” Jericho asked. “Not sure,” Margie set the papers on the counter. “What did you need?”

“According to Bruce,” he advised the entire group. “Simmons isn’t talking. He’s now demanding his lawyer. They’ve tried to locate the guy, but the lawyer isn’t answering his phone at the moment. I’m calling this for tonight; but I need someone to stay and keep an eye on the house. I don’t want mom going anywhere and I’d prefer it if she were sober when I return in the morning. I know...” he added at the loud groans. “If she has something stashed inside, it’s out of our control. We don’t have a reason to arrest her without the boy. But we don’t have to make it easy on her either.” “I’m still willing to take the night shift,” Dean offered. “I came on later than the rest of you, so I’ll cover it. If we get word from St. George, I’ll call it in.” “Since you’re here,” Jericho agreed. “Go through all the notes. Make sure we covered every residence and double check that stack of leads over there. We skimmed through them as they arrived and sent the obvious ones to the Bluff detectives; but I want you to go over them again. See if we have anything from the St. George, Santa Clara, or Ivins area. 135

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 We want to follow-up on anything we get from down south. Paige and Logan?” “Yeah, boss,” Logan said immediately. “You two be prepared to head down first thing,” Jericho ordered. “To St. George?” Logan frowned. “To St. George,” Jericho affirmed. “You’ll head straight to the local PD and hook up with Chief Gorrell.” “Won’t he be upset?” Paige wondered. “Kind of sends a message you don’t trust him... or his men.” “No,” Jericho approved of the question, but he’d already covered that. “Bruce and I think it would be better if you coordinated with him and his men. Consider it an inter-agency task force. You’re familiar with the house, mom, and the witnesses up here. They’re familiar with the area down there. And, Paige?” “Yeah?” “I want you to interview the father,” Jericho studied her. “But, make sure you get some sleep first. You look like the walking dead. Tell him about the dent in the wall, get on his good side and see if he’ll open up.”

“You mean,” Paige frowned. “Provide a woman’s, softer approach?” Jericho laughed. “Yeah, sure. Just do what you do and see if he’ll reveal where his son is. I’m leaning toward the brother, Keith. Bruce hasn’t been able to locate him, and Brodie has to be with someone.”

***** Paige stepped into the house and frowned. She expected to see Dax waiting but the entire house was dark... and eerily silent. She flipped on a light, removed her gear and started her search. It was several minutes later when she found him, fast asleep, in her bed. She moved to the adjoining bathroom, flipped on the light and turned to study his unmoving form. As she approached the bed, her anger flared... so hot, she could barely contain it. 136

Hijacked Innocence Dax had a large, ugly bruise on his upper arm and his breathing was shallow. His face was contorted, even in sleep; clearly, he was in a lot of pain. Had he damaged his ribs again? Should she wake him and make sure he was okay? Demand answers. A movement outside the window caught her eye, she pivoted, and was out the door in seconds.

“Paige,” Hawk said in greeting. He could see she was angry, and he didn’t blame her. She must have realized Dax had re-injured himself. “Don’t Paige me,” She leaped onto the back porch and moved to stand over the cocky Ranger. “What happened to him?” “Why don’t you ask him,” Hawk lifted a nearly empty beer bottle and took a long swig. “He’s asleep,” Paige growled. “And by the looks of things, he needs all the rest he can get. What did you do to him?” “I’m not even going to dignify that with a response,” Hawk nearly laughed. Somehow, that just intensified Paige’s anger. “What happened,” Paige leaned forward, placing one hand on each of the armrests. She had to force air through her nose and out her mouth — slow, deliberate breaths — before she punched the irritating man in the face. “Dax got a wild hair,” Hawk sighed. “We tried to stop him, but you have to know how he gets. He decided he was going to find whatever Ahmed left him... even if it killed him.” “And you just let him,” Paige straightened. “Great friend. Real classy of you. Let the guy with a broken ankle and a few broken ribs destroy his house... and his health, for something that’s probably not even there.” “I tried to stop him,” Hawk sounded a little defensive. “He was fine... Until he insisted on checking out the crawl space.” “Under the house?” Paige practically yelled. “Is there another one I don’t know about?” Hawk asked flatly. “You know,” Paige turned and started to pace the small back patio. “For someone who claims to care about Dax... someone that insists he’s looking out for his pal... you suck.”


Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 Hawk was out of his chair and across the distance before Paige saw him coming. He moved forward, blocked her path and glared down at her for several seconds. His hands were clenched by his sides and he was trying to decide on a response when he stopped himself. Dax wouldn’t want this. He wanted them to get along, needed them to find some kind of truce. “I don’t want to fight with you, Paige. I won’t. I tried to stop Dax, but he wouldn’t budge. Ahmed died trying to get Intel to him. That alone would drive Dax to push his limits. Then, add in the fact he feels helpless and we still can’t find Zeus...” “And, he had to do something,” Paige sighed and dropped into a chair. “I get it, but I also have to go out-of-town tomorrow and I was counting on you guys to keep him... safe.” “Dax is safe,” Hawk tried not to be offended. “And I did stop him. Otherwise, he’d probably be up on the roof clearing the gutters as we speak.” Paige smiled at that... because Hawk was right. “How bad is he? He sounds like he can barely breathe.” “He tweaked a rib while he was under the house,” Hawk frowned. “Idiot. I told him to let me go down there, but the control freak didn’t trust me.” His frustration finally came through. “He does trust you, Hawk,” Paige heard the tone and she was starting to feel sorry for the arrogant man. She didn’t want to, but the fact that Dax hadn’t completely exonerated his friend was taking a toll. “Right,” Hawk settled back into his chair. “That’s why he had to go under the house to look for clues. Because he totally and completely trusts me to share anything I might have found.” “Is that what you think?” Paige said amazed. “That Dax thinks you’ll find something and hide it from him?” “You got another explanation?” “Sure,” Paige kicked up her feet and rested them on the cushioned ottoman. “He’s a control freak. This is his house; he knows his house better than anyone. Do you honestly think... if you had crawled down that spider-infested hole and declared the area was clear... that Dax wouldn’t have shoved you out of the way and investigated for himself?” Hawk smiled but didn’t respond. 138

Hijacked Innocence “Exactly,” Paige said in triumph. “Because the idiot has to be in charge, has to lead his men... has to freakin’ pretend he’s Superman and can...” Paige paused, trying to come up with the analogy she wanted. “Save the world?” Hawk provided. “Right, single-handedly save the world,” Paige agreed. “Glad you finally get it. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. It’s driving him crazy. All of it. The fact that Zee is still out of contact and Dax can’t rush in and save him like he did in Mexico. This Vato guy is still in Iraq, so he can’t drag him in and interrogate him until he confesses the truth... whatever that is. But, most of all, that he’s on the injured list and he can’t just wave his magic wand and have a miraculous recovery. He’s vulnerable right now and I should have realized having you standing over him, telling him to stop, to be careful, and take it easy...would only make him more determined to continue.” Hawk studied Paige for several seconds without responding. “What?” “I just realized how perfect you are for him,” Hawk admitted. “And I know we got off to a rocky start. I can’t say I can wave my magic wand and make it all better; but I will try. From now on, I’ll try to be more...”

“Human?” Paige grinned. “Be still my heart.” “Nice,” Hawk reached for the empty bottle, picked it up, realized it was empty and set it back on the table with a resounding thud. “Lighten up,” she straightened. “But seriously, I have to go out-of-town tomorrow on a case. Do me a favor... watch out for him. Don’t tell him he can’t do something. Don’t ask him to let you do it. Just step in and do it. I’m trying not to worry, but when I saw that huge bruise that he didn’t have when I left, when I realized he’s in pain and is having a hard time breathing... I panicked. I really do not want to come home to find he’s back in the hospital.” “Give me a little credit,” Hawk rested his elbows on his knees. “I’m his friend first, his subordinate second. I’ll make sure he doesn’t overdo it again. I was already out here kicking myself because I didn’t stop him sooner.” 139

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 “Then I won’t add to it,” Paige stood. “By the way, did you find anything?” “No,” Hawk frowned. “Nothing. And, there are very few places we didn’t check.” “Well,” Paige considered. “You and Dax are the only two people that knew Ahmed. Put your heads together and figure out where he would stash something. I’m sure he tried to catch Dax alone, but with Zeus in town... he was never alone. If he wasn’t with Zeus, he was with me.” “Have a safe trip,” Hawk stood. “And I think taking a day to brainstorm is just what the doctor ordered. I’ll do what I can to keep him out of trouble. Maybe you could do the same... stay out of trouble that is. Because you’re right, Dax is vulnerable right now. And as much as I hate to admit it, you’re the only one that can truly help him through this.” “Give it time,” Paige called over her shoulder as she descended the stairs. “He’s coming around. And if you’re actually going to be nice... he might forgive you sometime this decade.” She laughed when Hawk flipped her the bird and wondered if that was the start of a tentative friendship. She hoped so, for Dax... she seriously hoped so.

***** Paige stepped into the police station and approached the large desk. “We’re here to see Chief Gorrell.” “Deputies Carter and Reed?” the man asked. “Yes,” Logan pulled out his badge and showed the cop his ID card. “They are upstairs, to the right, first door,” the man directed. “They’re waiting for you.” “What does that mean?” Logan asked as they started up the stairs. “No idea,” Paige said casually. “Hopefully, it means they got Simmons talking.” The two of them stepped through a door marked “Investigations” and approached the window. They went through the same procedure as they’d gone through downstairs before the clerk buzzed them in and directed them to the far end of the long hallway and to the right. 140

Hijacked Innocence When they rounded the corner, Paige came face to face with five men. And they were all staring at her with curiosity they didn’t even try to hide. “Uh,” Paige held out a hand. “I’m Deputy Paige Carter and this is my partner, Logan Reed.” “Deputy Carter,” a tall man in a dark suit, jet-black hair and a friendly face stepped forward. “Chief Gorrell.” He took her hand first, gave it a shake then turned to Logan and repeated the gesture. “Mr. Simmons is speaking with his attorney at the moment. I’ve been assured, once they’ve had a few minutes alone... I’m going to get answers.” “Great,” Paige glanced at Logan, casually surveyed the other men, then focused back on Gorrell. “Jericho wanted me to try to speak with him when I got here but...” “I agree,” Gorrell assured her. “I want you to go in with Detective Don Timpson. Don?” “Sir,” a man that looked about fifty with red hair and a bright red mustache answered. He was only five-seven, maybe five-eight and a little on the heavy side but he held himself well and his mannerism screamed competence. Paige hoped her initial impression was right because they were going to need a good detective if they were going to find Brodie and solve the mystery of what really happened. “I want you to go in with Deputy Carter,” Gorrell began. “It’s just Paige,” she smiled at the man she’d be working with. “We’re all friends here.” “Paige,” Gorrell corrected. “Don, you take the lead because you’ve been dealing with him since he arrived; but let her work him some. I have no idea what Kavanaugh has up his sleeve, but you will not let him take control of this situation. He’ll try, believe me... he’s going to try.” “I’ve dealt with Milton Kavanaugh before, sir,” Timpson assured him. “I know how to handle him.” “Good,” Gorrell turned to Paige. “I’ll just follow his lead,” Paige assured him. “I’ll get the hang of his rhythm, no problem. I’m used to working with local detectives with various levels of experience, and I’ll just follow along. Don’t worry.” 141

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 “I heard you left the FBI to go local,” one of the detectives finally spoke. “Rylan,” Gorrell warned. “No,” Paige shrugged. “It’s fine. I did leave Quantico to go back to my roots. I was just lucky, and Jericho had an opening. I think it worked out pretty well.” “So does he,” Bruce assured her. “Believe me, he couldn’t stop singing your praises when he decided to send you out to my neck of the woods. Made me promise not to try to steal you away. Said he was sure, once I saw you in action, that’s exactly what I’d try to do.” “I’m kind of partial to Manti,” Paige smiled. “So, it wouldn’t do you any good.” “And what about you?” Gorrell turned to Logan. Before he had a chance to finish the question, the door to the interview room swung open and a stout man in his forties stood in the opening. “Gentleman,” he glanced at Paige. “And lady. My client is ready to give you his statement. Who will we be dealing with today?” “Told you,” Gorrell warned Timpson. Don Timpson held out his hand, motioning the attorney back into the room. He followed the lawyer inside. Paige took up the rear, closing the door behind her. Logan would just have to fend for himself for a while. “I’d like to start this meeting...” Kavanaugh began. Timpson held up a hand, and the attorney stopped speaking but was clearly annoyed at the interruption. Timpson moved to the far wall and opened a panel. After switching the recording equipment on, he moved to one of the chairs and settled in. “This is a follow-up interview with Walker Simmons and his attorney, Martin Kavanaugh. The interview will be conducted by myself, Detective Don Timpson with the St. George Police Department and Deputy Paige Carter from Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office. The time is eleven-twentythree. Case number is SG18-5026. Mr. Simmons, for the record, during the first interview yesterday is it true that you were read your Miranda Rights and initially you chose to waive those rights and speak with us.” “Yeah, that’s true... at first,” Walker mumbled.


Hijacked Innocence “Once we got into the details of your son’s disappearance, you then decided to invoke your right to counsel?” “Yeah,” Simmons answered.

“Are you willing to talk to us now?” “He said I should,” Walker shrugged. “Does that mean yes?” “Sure,” Walkers scowled. “Before we start,” Martin broke in. “I think you should see the evidence my client has obtained regarding this situation.” He pulled a folder from his briefcase and drew out several photos. They were the pictures of Brodie’s injuries. Paige glanced at the pictures the attorney had slid across the table, trying to strategically maneuver them into her view for effect. It wasn’t going to work... she’d already seen them. Chief Gorrell obtained a warrant hours ago and had shared the information immediately. “I’ve seen them,” Paige said casually and pushed them back toward the attorney. “We both have, I believe.” “Yeah,” Timpson held back a grin. He liked this cop... and clearly, Martin Kavanaugh just received his first disappointment. “I looked at those hours ago. Mr. Simmons,” he turned back to his suspect. “When we concluded the last interview, I asked you to tell me where your son is staying. We need to locate him, assess his condition, and conduct a brief interview to determine what is going on here.” “Before we get to that,” Martin tried again. “I have spent the entire morning with Judge Winston. He has granted temporary custody of Brodie Simmons to his father,” he placed a court document on the table. “Feel free to read through it but he’s also issued a temporary protective order against Ms. Netty Simmons until the parties can have a formal hearing in front of Judge James A. Ross, the magistrate that ruled on the original divorce and custody arrangement. In the meantime, Walker is willing to produce the boy for your inspection. I will need to be present for any questioning, but I think we can clear this up rather quickly.” Paige glanced through the document and determined it was legit. She had to admit it was a relief Brodie wasn’t going to be returned to his mother but before she got ahead of herself, she had some questions for Walker. “Mr. Simmons,” she began. “Can you tell me 143

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 why you didn’t call the police?” “What?” Simmons asked. “When?” “Initially,” Paige pressed. “You got a call at...” she checked her notes, “twenty-oneseventeen. It’s my understanding you were still working... was scheduled to work for at least another hour that night. Instead, you took the call from your son and immediately left the area and drove over three hours to Manti. If your son was in danger, why didn’t you contact the police? A simple welfare check would have resolved a lot of problems and you wouldn’t be here, in this room today. You wouldn’t have been booked for kidnapping last night. I’d like you to explain your reasoning; and, while you’re at it, you can tell me why you didn’t get your son medical assistance for another three-to-three-and-a-half hours. We do have hospitals up north, why wait until you arrived back here, in St. George? Seems a bit reckless and...calculated to me.” “Deputy Carter...” Martin objected. “No,” Walker held up a hand. “I’ll answer the question. I want this cleared up and I can understand her skepticism. I know there is a hospital in Gunnison; but what you might not know, is that Netty’s cousin is an ER nurse at that facility. I was afraid if I stopped in on my way home, Vanna would spot us, move Brodie to a secure room and call his mother. I couldn’t risk it.” “Because prior to this,” Paige pointed to the court documents, “you didn’t have a right to take your son.” “Don’t answer that,” Martin barked. “I’m his father, I believe I have more than a right to protect him... I have an obligation.” “Okay,” Paige wasn’t going to press that. “But there are other facilities. Why wait so long? Why not stop at another hospital along the way? You claim his life was in imminent danger, that he was already severely injured, yet... you didn’t seek medical assistance for over three hours. It was after four in the morning when you checked into the Dixie Medical ER.” “At first, I wanted to take him straight to see a doctor. But, like I said, I couldn’t go to Gunnison. Then, after I got on the freeway, Brodie seemed okay. He even fell asleep for a couple hours. It wasn’t until he woke up and started moving around again that he complained about the headache. Then, he started saying he was dizzy. We were so close to home, I just figured we could make it. He was uncomfortable, but it didn’t seem urgent.” 144

Hijacked Innocence “And you wanted to get back to town and call your attorney?” Timpson pressed. “You were still worried about the police. You couldn’t know if Netty had already discovered Brodie was missing.” “Don’t answer that,” Martin responded. “My client has cooperated. You have the judge’s orders; I think it’s time you released him. Let him go out, pick up Brodie and we’ll return within the hour.” “No,” Paige said immediately. “You, Mr. Kavanaugh, can call his brother Keith. Tell him to bring Brodie to the station. We will interview Brodie... and Keith. Then, if the story checks out, we’ll think about releasing your client.” “Detective Timpson,” Martin began.

“Sounds like a good plan to me,” Don stood and moved to shut off the recorder. “You can make the call from my office. Mr. Simmons, you’ll need to remain here until we get this all settled.” Once the three of them were back in the hallway, Martin Kavanaugh turned on the two officers. “How dare you treat my client with such disrespect? He’s been through more than any father should endure over the past forty-eight hours.” “Because, I don’t care what that man has been through,” Paige said flatly. “My concern is for the child. And that man, the father who was so concerned... has put his son at risk at every turn.” “Ms. Carter,” Martin seethed. “I don’t appreciate your attitude.” “Gee, I’m crushed,” Paige glanced at Timpson, realized he had no intention of stepping in and continued. “That man in there, your client, has tormented and victimized his own son at every turn. He can’t tell me why he didn’t call us in because there’s no excuse for it. His son called his father in distress just after nine o’clock at night. What did Walker Simmons do? He got in a car and drove over three hours to intervene. I would have been there in three minutes. He left his kid in a dangerous situation, one where Netty Simmons was drunk, violent and unpredictable — for over three hours. To a kid of seven, that had to be a lifetime. I can only imagine how terrified and vulnerable that kid felt — for over three hours. So, you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t hail your client a hero that swooped in and saved the day. And, by the way, those documents that you are so proud of... that 145

Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 temporary order that you got the judge to sign off on this morning? Well, those would be permanent. They would have been issued yesterday if Walker had done all of this the right way — not the sneaky, underhanded way. Because, anyone that arrived at that house the night this all happened and spotted Brodie in that condition would have removed him from the home. And, yesterday morning, instead of frantically searching for a missing child, we would have been having an emergency hearing in front of Judge Ross to restrict Netty’s access and give Walker Simmons custody. And, he would have gotten it for free. But, hey... I guess you won’t share that little tidbit with your client. Kind of puts a damper on your celebration of excellence.” She left the two men standing there, speechless, and went to look for Logan. Paige rounded the corner and nearly collided with Chief Gorrell. “Sorry,” she said as she came to an abrupt stop, wondering if he’d just heard her little outburst. Bruce Gorrell just gave her a friendly nod, hesitated then decided to say what he was thinking. “I don’t think I could have said that better myself.” “Oh,” Paige cleared her throat. “Uh...” “Don’t ruin that amazing exit with an apology,” Gorrell advised. “And, you may want to know... Martin won’t have to explain any of it to Walker Simmons. There’s no soundproofing on that door. I’m sure he heard every word.”

Paige considered that for only an instant. “Good.” Gorrell smiled. “Jericho was right about you.” “In what way?” “I’d love to steal you away, but I’ve been warned; so, I won’t,” Gorrell shifted slightly. “Your partner’s in that room over there. We use it for observation. We all enjoyed the first time you put Kavanaugh in his place, I’m sure Logan will be sorry he missed the second.” “Maybe, we could just keep that one our little secret,” Paige suggested. “I promised Jericho I’d behave.” “Not on your life,” Gorrell laughed. “I couldn’t if I wanted to. My guys have ears like a hawk; when they want to. Give them an assignment they find unpleasant and suddenly nobody hears anything. Put a feisty cop in the hallway with an arrogant lawyer and the entire unit becomes a captive audience. Let’s step inside the observation room. It’s a little more 146

Hijacked Innocence comfortable in there. I have Jill watching for Keith and Brodie, she’ll bring them back when they arrive.”

***** It was nearly eight o’clock when Paige climbed into her patrol car and headed for home. Another twelve-hour day. She hoped it was the last for a while. She needed some downtime. It was nearly four by the time she tied things up in St. George and she and Logan hit the road. She talked him into stopping for dinner in Cedar City, then they drove straight through from there. The interview with Keith was short. He didn’t know anything firsthand. His brother showed up at his home early yesterday morning and said they needed a place to hide out for a while. He didn’t hesitate to help out... especially once he saw Brodie’s injuries. Brodie gave a detailed account of what happened the night he left. His mother wasn’t home when he arrived after school. He headed for his room to work on his homework and didn’t come out until it was time for dinner. Netty still hadn’t arrived, so he fixed a peanut butter and jam sandwich and opened a bag of chips. He was just finishing off his last bite when his mom got home. She saw the open chips and went off without warning. Brodie tried to get away, but she just followed him up the stairs and attacked him in the hallway just outside his bedroom. That’s when he fell and struck his head on the wall. The kid had a serious goose egg and a concussion to go with it. He crawled into his room and Netty left him alone for a couple hours. Brodie thought she went back downstairs to drink some more. Just before nine, she returned and attacked again. He wasn’t sure what set her off the second time, but he was afraid what would happen if she came back again. That’s when he called his dad. Paige knew the rest and she was relieved the brave kid wouldn’t have to deal with the drunken outbursts ever again. That didn't mean she would forgive the father. She knew she was right that he had endangered his son for no reason. But, in the end, things worked out okay so she wouldn’t dwell on it... well, not for long anyway. She glanced up, spotted her house and sighed. Now, for another unpleasant confrontation with another arrogant man who thought he knew best. She parked the vehicle and slowly made her way to the front door.


Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 Dax was waiting for Paige to arrive. He hadn’t seen her for nearly two days. He was asleep when she arrived home last night; and she left early this morning before he got up. He stood, the instant she stepped through the door. “We need to talk.” “About?” Paige asked, settling into a chair to pull off her boots. “What happened yesterday, why I did it, and how Hawk is not to blame for my actions,” Dax sat back down. “Did the big, bad Ranger tattle to dad?” “Paige,” Dax warned. “Dax,” Paige said in the same tone. “Look, I got home and saw you were injured and in pain. I confronted Hawk, he explained what happened, and we called a truce... I thought.” “You did,” Dax sighed. “I knew you’d confront him so I wouldn’t let up until he told me what happened. He was more honest than I expected, maybe because you do have a truce. Don’t take this out on him, either.” “Okay,” Paige moved to settle on the couch beside Dax. “Now, you get to explain it to me. Then, I get to explain to you why tearing your house apart from top to bottom was a monumentally stupid idea. After that... we’ll play it by ear.”


Zeus was crouched between two large cedar trees. Reynolds’ compound was no more than a hundred yards away. He’d been camped out here in the wilderness for nearly three days. His water supply was dwindling, his hip was killing him, and his cell phone had died over forty-eight hours ago. Carmen was going to be livid. But he couldn’t bring himself to leave. He knew, without a doubt, if he was ever going to find Thor... it would be here, in the shadows. A noise caught his attention to the left and he silently pushed his body further into the shrubbery. Seconds later, the man he’d been hunting appeared a few feet away. Thor made his way through the desert wilderness as quietly and carefully as he could. He knew he was making noise, but Reynolds’ men were on the other side of the wall; and he 148

Hijacked Innocence knew the rustling of a few branches wouldn’t alert them to trouble. He had just settled in to wait and watch when a large man dropped down beside him. Thor jumped, cursed and reholstered his weapon when he realized it was Zeus. “What are you doing here?” “Funny,” Zeus whispered. “That’s exactly what I was about to ask you.” “Go home,” Thor ordered. “Answer the question,” Zeus countered. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Thor accused. Zeus waited, knowing how to handle his friend... knowing how to get the answers they all needed. “I’m helping Vato,” Thor relented. “He’s stationed in Iraq and can’t deal with the problem himself, so I promised him I’d handle it.” “What problem?” Zeus pressed. He still didn’t believe Thor or Vato was involved in what happened to Dax; but Thor had just confirmed he was working with their questionable comrade. “Why should I trust you?” Thor asked. “You don’t trust me.” “I’m here.” Thor looked away. He knew his team suspected him of wrongdoing and that hurt. He’d never done anything to deserve the skepticism or the lack of trust. But Zeus was right. He was here, that had to mean something. “When you were in Mexico — in prison,” Thor began. “I got a call from Vato. He said he got orders to ship out immediately. They came as a surprise because he was supposed to have downtime, you know. Anyway, he was frantic. Said he tried to call you, but you never returned the call and he couldn’t wait any longer.”

“Hard to make a phone call when someone is beating you half to death,” Zeus pointed out. “I know,” Thor softened. “Anyway, he needed help, or he was going to bolt. He was seriously considering desertion. Not for him,” he added quickly. “Why?”


Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 3 “Because Reynolds and his men kidnapped Camille and nobody has seen her in months,” Thor confided. “I’ve failed Vato. I promised him I would save his sister and I just barely found her. After all this time, I’m only now finding the location where they are keeping her.” “In there?” Zeus realized. There were at least a dozen guards and only one way in that he could see. “Yeah,” Thor ran a frustrated hand through his hair and over his face. “In there. And no matter how many nights I sit here, scouting the place... I can’t come up with a foolproof, tactical plan to get her out.” “Maybe you need an extraction guy,” Zeus decided. “You’re sure she’s inside?” “I’m positive. I saw her last night,” Thor admitted. “On the other side of the building. Two guys brought her outside just after dark. She was shackled and carefully guarded, but she seemed okay. I didn’t see any serious injuries, anyway.” “Okay,” Zeus shifted to adjust his vantage point. “We’ll scout together, then we’ll generate a plan.” “Aren’t you going to call Dax?” Thor asked. “I’m sure he’s the one that sent you. He doesn’t trust me, and I don’t understand why.” Zeus didn’t think it was his place to enlighten his friend, but it was his place to assist him. Together, they would free Camille and once she was safe... they’d decide how deep Vato’s involvement went. Until then? Zeus had a job to do. “My phone died a couple days ago.” “You’ve been out here for days?” “Nearly three to be exact,” Zeus grinned. “Just like the old days.” Thor shook his head in surprise. “Do you need anything? Food? Water?” “Water if you got it,” Zeus decided. “You got your phone on you? I should call Carmen and let her know I’m alright.” “I didn’t bring it,” Thor admitted. “Nobody to call. I figured I was on my own on this one and if it rang...” “The enemy would know your position,” Zeus nodded. “I get it. You ready to hear my plan?” 150

Hijacked Innocence “You already have one?” “Sure,” Zeus stood. “I’m going to walk up to the gate and see what they do. If I get lucky, I’ll be able to take them out two at a time. If not, I’ll get captured and they’ll take me to the same place they’re keeping Camille. Either way, I’ll be inside; and I can develop phase two as I go.” “That’s a terrible plan,” Thor objected. “If anyone is getting captured, it’s me.” “When did you become the extraction guy?” “When did you take over tactics?” Thor challenged. “Because tactically speaking, having a second prisoner that we have to rescue is not even close to sound. You don’t even know they’ll keep you in the same place.” “True, but once I’m inside, I can look around,” Zeus brushed off his jeans. “I can scout the place from the inside rather than sitting out here in the dark wishing I knew how many bad guys there are, the floor plan, and where the prisoner is being held. Just because she seemed fine, doesn’t mean she is fine.” “Zeus, don’t do this,” Thor practically begged. “Thor,” Zeus paused. “You wanted us to trust you... well, I’m trusting you with my life. Now, you have to trust me. And if I can’t fight them off a few at a time, if they take me as a second prisoner, head back to the hotel, hunker down, and call Dax. Because, if I can’t get to Camille in twenty-four... I can’t get to her without help.” “Zeus,” Thor began. It was a waste of breath because his friend had already disappeared into the thick cedar trees, heading for danger and imprisonment. And, this time... he was doing it on purpose. Thor waited, anxious and worried for his friend. He held his breath as five men surrounded Zeus guns drawn, tension clearly high. They must have called for help because another three men joined them almost immediately. It took less than two minutes for Zeus to be flanked on all sides and escorted, at gunpoint, into the large compound. Thor continued to watch the doorway where his friend had disappeared, continued to swear under his breath at Zeus’ reckless and idiotic plan. Then he stood, made his way back to his jeep and headed to his hotel room. Everything just got a lot more complicated; and, the only thing he knew for sure... Dax was going to kill him. 151