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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Free Preview of DRT: Dead Right There (First three chapters)

Dead Right There

“And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Matt 10:28 ASV

“A man who does not have something for which he is willing to die is not fit to live.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Civil Rights Speech
Chicago Tenement

Chapter One

Wet snow looked like a spilled cherry snow cone spreading from beneath the man’s downturned face. Detective Nate Richards of the Treasure Valley Metro Police looked down at the body stretched out on the ground at his feet. A quick glance suggested a single blow to the side of the man’s head had ended his life. Nate shook his head, dislodging snow from his loose curls; the white flakes contrasting against the coffee-colored tone of his skin. He shivered, I hate winter. Nate looked up, momentarily drawn by the halo that encircled the streetlight as its russet glow illuminated the night sky.
His partner, Detective Chris MacGilvery, worked a short distance away, talking to the on-scene patrol officer. The unbroken surface of the snow, pristine in its whiteness, made the whole scene eerily bright. MacGilvery cupped his hands and blew into them, attempting to thaw them out; his gray-blue eyes reflecting the light from the snow. He had been assigned as Nate’s partner when Nate’s previous partner, twenty-year veteran Sabrina Jackson, retired after being shot in the line of duty by a rogue cop.
Looking up with the memory, Nate flexed tight muscles in his jaw and stooped to better examine the body. Remembering his scripture reading from that morning, Hebrews chapter nine verse twenty-seven, “Since human beings die only once, after which comes judgment.” Nate wondered where this man’s soul was now.
He looked over the crime scene trying to decipher its secrets. Shaking his head from side to side, he considered the snow. It was not helping, no footprints led to or away from the body. The snow will have to be collected and sifted for possible evidence. He rubbed gloved fingers across his chin.
“Mac,” Nate called out, “witnesses?”
“None. A man walking his dog found the body and called it in.”
Nate made his way over to Chet Baraza, the patrol officer in charge, and looked in the direction of the sirens sounding in the near distance. “I guess we can tell the paramedics to downgrade,” Nate said, extending a hand to Baraza.
The group of patrol officers laughed. Baraza chuckled and shook Nate’s hand. “He’s DRT. Dead right there, man, this one’s not going anywhere on his own. He must’a dropped like a sack of potatoes. Farrumph!” the officer said and gestured as if dropping a heavy load.
Wheels crunched in the snow as the paramedic van pulled up and rolled to a stop just outside the crime scene. The overhead lights flashed brilliantly against the snow perforating the velvet drape of the night sky. The already too bright landscape sparkled like an oversized diorama as the red and white lights of the van played against it. The driver, a middle age balding man, stepped from the van. “What’d’ya got?” he asked nobody in particular.
Nate dipped his chin toward the body. He looked back at the driver and shook his head from side to side in a slow sweep.
Pulling on rubber examination gloves, the paramedic bent over and examined the four-inch gash in the temple of the victim, paying particular attention to the jagged edge. He stood and whistled, blowing air through pursed lips. “Wow, that’s…,” he began. “That’s… that’s bad.” He looked over his shoulder at his partner who was quickly pulling gear from the van. “Bag it, Jeff, this one’s DRT. Better call the coroner, Nate.”

Mac finished talking to the witness, and after getting his contact information, released him to leave. Turning to face the group of officers, he jogged-skidded his way back across the thin sheet of ice on the street to join Nate and the others near the body.

Nate locked eyes with Mac before they both turned to face Baraza. The veteran street cop pulled his note pad from his breast pocket and frowned as he prepared to check his information against what the detectives already had.
“The old guy,” he said, indicating the RP (reporting party) “called in a medical assist man down at about twenty-fifteen hours… just after the first call came into dispatch about what sounded like a single gunshot being fired.”
Nate looked back at the body of the unidentified man lying face down in the snow. “Anybody pull I.D. yet?”
“Naaa, it was obvious he was dead. Thought we’d wait for five-one to call it, and of course you guys.”
“So, you’re a doctor now, Baraza,” Mac chided.
Baraza frowned, feigning injury. “You don’t need an M.D. in front of your name to know you can’t live with a hole like that in the side of your head. I’m thinking long gun, twenty-two caliber maybe.”
“That much damage from a twenty-two?” Mac asked, arching a brow.
“Heavy load, low velocity at close range,” Baraza finished. “Maybe a tumbler; of course it’s just my guess. But I’m only a lowly street cop, not like you bright boys up there in Criminal Investigation Division.” He smiled sarcastically and with a tap of his fingers, tucked his pad back into his jacket pocket.
Nate cupped Baraza on his shoulder and pushed him, causing him to slide on the ice, barely managing to keep his balance. “I’ll see you in the morning, wise guy.”
Baraza laughed. “Heck, we’ll be back for morning briefing before you even finish your paperwork.”
The men laughed, and Nate turned his attention back to the dead man, belly down in the snow. Looking up, Nate saw the coroner’s van pulling into the intersection. The deputy coroner, a tall dark haired man in his mid to late twenties, got out and prepared to bag the body.
“Hold on there, Cowboy,” Mac called to the deputy coroner.
Nate waved a hand to get the coroner’s attention. “We haven’t finished here yet… crime scene’s still mine.”
“Works for me, I’ll wait in my wagon. Too cold out here for me anyway,” he said and hefted his bulk back into the van.
Flipping open his cell phone, Nate called the on-call crime scene tech. Rosie answered on the second ring. “Hey, sorry to bother you this early.”
She cut him off. “I’m already en route. Got in late and heard the call go out. I should be on scene in about…. Now.” She honked her horn as she parked her van across the street from the crime scene. Rosie, a fifty-something Hispanic woman, was almost as tall as she was round, with a personality just as big. She was a no-nonsense, fresh-off-the-streets type girl.
Bumping the van door closed with her hip, Rosie opened her bag and began to set up her camera. “What do you want?” She asked over her shoulder.
Nate and Mac smiled knowingly as Rosie sorted the varied baggies and evidence containers. “Better get everything. We don’t know what we have yet,” Nate answered.
“You can get me the heck out of here,” MacGilvery added sarcastically and glanced over at Rosie.
As Rosie began to create a photo log of the crime scene, recording the location and placement of items of interest, Nate and Mac stepped back to consider what they had discovered. A half hour passed, and Rosie signaled that she had finished with the preliminary photos and was all set to begin evidence collection.
“Ready?” Nate asked.
“Nope,” Mac said joking.
“Oh, shut up,” Rosie cut in. “We’re ready.”
“Okay,” Nate began, “I’ll walk the route. You watch Mac and Rosie you-”
“I’ll stand by for collection and tagging. It’s not my first ride on this train you know”
Nate smiled.
Standing near the head of the body, he looked at the scene again. Studying the body’s position, Nate moved around it trying to determine the victim’s direction of travel at the time of attack. Beginning at the corpse’s feet, taking slow steps moving in a spiral search pattern, he progressed outward from the body. Nearing the head again, he stopped, feeling something hard beneath the toe of his shoe. “Mac… I think I got something.”
Nate knelt down and retrieved a small rectangle shaped piece of plastic from beneath his right foot. Reading the writing on the side of the object, he recognized it to be a sixteen-gigabyte thumb-drive.
Holding the thumb-drive between his index finger and thumb, Nate dropped it into a small evidence bag held by Rosie. She cut her eyes at him. “Next time use rubber gloves, Sherlock.”
He exchanged glances with Mac. “What’d’ya think?”
“I think you should wear gloves.” He cleared his throat and chuckled. “I don’t believe in coincidences,” he answered. “Let’s get it back to the lab and see what the boys in cyber tech can do with it.”
Rosie didn’t smile. “Let’s just get it dried out and see if there’s anything on it.”
Nate nodded and continued the swirl pattern outward to about ten to twelve feet from the body. Mac tracked his progress from the side, looking for anything that Nate may have missed.
Nate positioned himself near the shoulders of the body, directing Mac to the opposite side near its knees. “Okay, let’s roll this fellow over and see who we have here.”
Aided by the cold and rigor mortis, the body rolled easily and rocked onto its back like a saucer settling into place. Its hands and arms splayed, frozen above his head. Blue eyes stared unseeing through ice crystals into the night sky.
“Whoa,” Nate said, “you know who this is?” He reached into the dead man’s pocket and retrieved his wallet. Opening it, he passed the ID to Mac.
Mac forced air through pursed lips. “So, justice finally caught up to old Bobby.”
“When did he get out of prison, anyway? I thought he got fifteen to life on his last jaunt to State.”
“Yeah, fifteen, but only two fixed. He must have made parole.”
“Only two years for child rape.” Nate shook his head. “Maybe he should’a stayed in prison.”

Chapter Two

The next morning, Nate, from behind heavy eyelids, sat listening to his portable police radio. With a slow deliberate motion, he picked up his coffee mug and, holding it against his face, rubbed it across closed eyes. He sighed. Across the table sat Mac, his head, back and eyes closed. The morning crowd at the Library Coffeehouse was just starting to thin out, and the back room was warm, dark, and quiet.
Nate eyed his partner through the wafting veil of steam and swallowing a mouth full of the sweetened dark liquid, winced. “We should probably check that out,” he said, indicating the radio traffic, a teasing tone in his voice.
Mac leaned forward and stirred lazy circles in his coffee, clinking the spoon against the sides of the cup, “Yeah, probably, huh?”
Neither made a move to get up.
Nate looked out the window and sighed as wet snow fell in silent clumps, accumulating up on the grass and dirt while leaving the paved surfaces relatively clear. For now, I hate snow.
The dispatcher’s voice came over the radio again, disturbing the stillness of the coffeehouse’s sense of peace, rows of books lining the walls giving the Library Coffeehouse its name. “Ten-fifty P.I. Main south of Fairview. Available units respond. Repeat: ten-fifty with personal injuries. Main at Fairview. Respond!”
Jackie, the morning shift manager, placed two cups of steaming coffee in front of the men. She tilted her chin, listening to the radio traffic. “Looks like another accident, personal injury this time. The snow’s winning again, I guess,” she said smiling.
They looked up in surprise then smiled at the attractive brunette. “What? You feeling generous all of a sudden?” Nate asked and then chuckled.
“Now boys,” she said in playful flirtation, “you know, you two are my favorite customers, but this came from the lady over there leaving with the group of students. Says it was, ‘…for the two officers’.”
They looked up to see a woman in her mid to late thirties ushering a group of feisty teenagers out the door. The laughter and teenage boy-girl-conversation rose and fell as the adolescents collected their beverages and poured out into the snow. As the door swung shut, the petite woman turned and pushed her small framed glasses back up the bridge of her nose and offered a shy, but focused smile at the two detectives.
“Who is she?” Mac asked pushing his cold cup of coffee aside in favor of the fresh cup.
Nate watched as the woman wrapped the scarf around her neck and pulled her head lower into her collar against the wind. He couldn’t hear her, but judging from the way the teens were responding, Nate could see the power and connection she had with them.
Nate smiled at the woman through the frosted glass and looked back at his partner. “You know, that’s what I love about this job… this town, the people are real nice.” He stood and grabbed his coat off the back of the chair and picked up his handheld. “Let’s have a look and see what this is.” He pointed the radio toward Mac who still slouched in his chair.
“It’s a patrol call, let‘em handle it.”
Nate tucked a dark curl behind his ear and lifted the collar of his jacket; his coffee colored skin dry in the cold morning. “Who knows? Maybe it’s one of the guys we’re looking for. Let’s just drive by.”
Mac drained his cup and rubbed his eyes. With an audible grunt he lifted himself from the chair, locking his legs into a standing position.
“You’re too young to be grunting like that,” Nate said.
“Oh yeah, let’s see you try and keep up with a three month old who hates sleeping and likes the sound of her own voice, and we’ll see how well you do.” Mac grunted again, looked over at Jackie, and then back at Nate. “Besides, you’re too young to be living on just a memory.”
Nate stopped. Staring at his partner, he arched a brow and sighed.
“How long since you even heard from Amber, anyway? Three, four, five months?” Mac asked, his voice taking on a softer tone.
Nate looked away returning his gaze to the snow covered landscape. For a minute he sat lost in thought, his mind on the only woman he had ever truly loved. He remembered how for years he and Amber had denied their feelings for each other only to confess it once it was too late. Amber had left Treasure Valley confused and hurt. She needed time she’d said. She had not only left the valley, she’d left him. And that had been much too long ago, longer than he’d cared to admit.
Almost 15 months had passed since Amber had been caught up in one of Nate’s homicide investigations and kidnapped by the leader of a local street gang. Barely escaping, her faith had been badly shaken. Her once confident assurance in her ability to handle the dangers inherent in Nate’s job eroded. She fled to give herself ‘some time’ she had said. Nate shook his head against the memory.
“She talks to my mom and dad-”
“Yeah, your parents,” Mac said, stuffing his arms into his jacket. “But when was the last time she called you?” He placed a hand on Nate’s shoulder. “Look man, Amber’s gone,” Mac sighed, “but Jackie’s right over there; and she’s all woman.” Mac tilted his head toward the manager of the coffee shop, who smiled when she noticed the men looking at her.
Nate turned and walked away. Mac followed him out, the door swung shut with a soft swoosh. Nate’s cell phone rang as he settled in behind the steering wheel, “Richards.”
Mac rolled his eyes and settled his head against the neck rest. “Who is it?” he mouthed.
Nate looked at his friend and held up a finger before fishing a notepad out of his breast pocket. He began scribbling.
“Who is it?” Mac asked again, leaning over trying to read the note. “Who is it?”
Nate smiled and flipped the phone shut, passing the note to Mac. “Got a report of an assault at the high school. We’d better roll.”
“Man,” Mac sighed, “this stuff never ends.”

Parking his green Jeep Cherokee along the yellow painted curb, Nate closed the door behind him and ran toward the ramp leading to the second floor of Meridian City High School. “You coming or what?” he called back to Mac who was still moving slowly. “We need to check with the librarian, she’s the RP.”
“The library ain’t going nowhere. Besides it’s nice out here.” He tilted his head back allowing snow to fall onto his face.
Nate stopped at the top of the ramp and turned to watch his partner playing in the snow. “Will you come on! Morning break isn’t until ten.” He looked at his watch. “She only has twenty-minutes left on her break.”
The two men made their way into the upstairs hallway stamping wet snow from their feet as they did. The bell rang just as they entered the hall, and the passage quickly filled with the noise of students hurrying to their next class.
“Come on,” Nate said, “we can hide in here.” He pulled Mac after him toward the lounge against the flow of students who were making their way out the door.
After a few minutes, the noise died away and the throng thinned. The detectives stepped out of their alcove and ventured back into the hall. “Hey look is-,” Mac began.
“Isn’t that the woman that bought us the coffee this morning?” Nate finished for him.
From down the hallway, Nate watched the woman laughing freely with her students as they exited her classroom and the new ones entered. He and Mac headed toward their benefactor just as a straggling couple made their way around the corner into the main hall.
“Stop! Come on, Josh! Stop already!” the female student said smiling, despite the irritated tone of her voice. The male ignoring the girl’s complaint, draped himself over her, continuing to try and kiss her.
The girl smiled weakly and elbowed the boy in the ribs, but the blow lacked any real conviction.
The boy laughed, and again, paying no heed to the girl’s protest, began to force her face around to kiss her, his hands taking liberties with her body. Before Nate could respond, the teacher left her doorway and zeroed in on the couple.
With a violent jerk, the teacher snatched the boy’s arm from around the girl’s shoulders, and grabbing him by his collar pushed him back against the wall. “She said no, jerk! Which part was too hard for you to understand, the vowel or the consonant?”
In stunned silence the teen hit the wall with a dull thud. “I ah… I was-”
Grabbing him by the shoulder, the teacher pulled him forward and then shoved him down the hall. “Get to the office and you’d better be there when I arrive, Mr. Stanzel. Now get out of my face.”
“Ms. Higgins… its-it’s okay he didn’t mean anything. Please,” the girl said, pulling her blouse closed and brushing away imaginary debris from her face. Her cheeks colored.
Ms. Higgins turned to the girl, her shoulders tense and hands on her hips. “And you…. You let him treat you like trash. Don’t be so weak, Karrie. Get in the classroom, we’ll talk later.”
Nate and Mac exchanged glances and mouthed, “Wow”, to each other.
“You see that?” Nate asked.
“What? I didn’t see anything.” Both men smiled, walking toward the teacher.
“Ahem,” Nate cleared his throat as he and Mac approached the teacher. She turned and faced them. “Ms. Higgins, is it?”
“Yes,” she said, looking directly in to his face.
“Ah, I’m Detective Richards and this is my partner Detective MacGilvery,” he said, expecting that she would remember them.
“Yes.” She looked at them nonplussed.
The men exchanged embarrassed glances.
“May I help you?” she asked.
Taken aback by the fact that she did not recognize them, Nate stumbled over his words. “Well… I… ahh….”
“That was interesting the way you handled that little incident,” Mac said, tilting his head toward the end of the hall where the belligerent student had disappeared.
“And?” she said.
“Well, not that we have a problem with it or anything, but we were here at the school and thought we’d stop by and say thank you for the coffee this morning.” Nate said, finally finding his voice.
“Oh that. You are welcome, of course, but now is hardly the time to celebrate that small gesture. I do have a class to teach.” She stepped toward the open door.
“Of course,” Nate said and extended his hand.
She took his hand and shook it firmly.
“So, what do you teach?” Mac asked.
“Social studies,” Ms. Higgins said and turned to face him, shaking his hand as well. “Gentlemen, while I have really enjoyed this visit, I do have a job to do.” She smiled mordantly.
She turned away from the men and walked back into her class closing the door softly but firmly behind her.
Both Nate and Mac looked at each other in surprise and again mouthed a silent, “Wow.”

“Darn kids.” The slow drawl came from near the main entrance where Nate and Mac had entered the hallway. The janitor, a tall thin man, pushed his bucket and mop from one side of the hall to the other collecting small piles of melted snow and muddied water.
Nate walked back to where he’d left a mess of snow and dirt near the door. “Ahh, sorry Mr.?”
The middle-aged man turned to face Nate, looking at him as if he hadn’t noticed him until that moment.
Nate noticed the name badge. “Mr. Jackson, sorry about the mess. I’m afraid that’s me… my partner’s fault.” He smiled. “The kids were clear on this one.”
Mr. Jackson chuckled as if it were a regular response. “Well maybe this time, but they make mess plenty enough for all of us. Be sure of that.” He grasped Nate’s outstretched hand firmly and laughed easily.
Mac waved at Nate from the door of the library. “Fifteen minutes, Partner.”
Nate acknowledged Mac with a tilt of his chin and then slapped the janitor playfully on the shoulder, turned and walked away.


Leaning on the handle of the mop, Mr. Jackson watched the retreating backs of the officers. Then shaking his head, he turned back to cleaning the mess in the hallway mumbling to himself as he did. 

Chapter Three

“Richards! Anybody seen Richards?” Lieutenant Brown called over the pods in the CID workstation. The middle-aged man stood just inside his office doorway with his arms folded loosely over his bulging gut.
“Just look at those veins sticking out on your neck.” A slow southern drawl floated up from beside Brown, drawing his attention back into the office. “You gonna kill your fool self with all that yelling you doing,” Lieutenant Donald Haynes said, as he squeezed by the slightly older man and looked out into the pod. “Larry, come over here, and sit down and use your phone like a civilized person. Your neck is starting to turn red and you know how that scares an old Southern black man like me.”
Lieutenant Brown harrumphed while turning from the door and sauntered back to the desk covered with files. “You know, Don, sometimes you really get on my nerves,” he said and dropped into the chair behind the desk.
“I do try,” Haynes said and poured himself a cup of coffee. “And hurry up and get out of my chair. I don’t want Gwen calling me wondering where you are.”
Brown looked up and rolled his eyes at his friend. “You and Brenda still coming over this weekend to watch the game?” Brown asked, while dialing the phone. “BSU’s playing Fresno, and the Bull Dogs are looking for revenge for last year.”
“And the year before that and the one before that one too if memory serves. It’s been a while since the Bull Dogs beat us on the blue turf. Yeah, we’ll be over, but Brenda will probably want to play a board game or something with Gwen, so let her know.” Haynes picked up the day-sheet and began reviewing the calls for service from the last twenty-four hour period.
“Whew,” Haynes whistled, “a shooting last night….”
Brown turned to his friend. “I was trying to get Richards in here to give me a brief before you came on, but as usual-,”
“You looking for me L.T.?” Nate asked, holding onto the doorframe and leaning his chest in through the open doorway. Behind him the noise volume of the CID, ringing phones and several conversations carried on at once, rose and fell like the swell of a wave.
Lieutenant Brown looked at the receiver in his hand, and then to the ringing phone still clipped to Nate’s waist, and slammed the phone back into its cradle. “Where have you been? You know, Haynes needs that update before p.m. shift begins.”
“Sorry, got stuck at the lab.”
Mac ducked under Nate’s arm, and sat on the corner of the desk. “Got any more of those sunflower seeds, L.T.?” he asked, while moving papers aside and rummaging the desktop.
Haynes looked up and grinned at Mac but didn’t comment.
Brown turned his attention to Mac. “Get off my desk. Between you and Richards, it’s amazing anything right ever gets done around here.”
“Come on, Lieutenant Brown, it’s not that bad. I think you kind of like us.” Mac’s voice had a teasing quality.
In the doorway, Nate lowered his head and shook it from side to side, smiling. He was still amazed at how well Mac fit into the unit. Replacing Sabrina Jackson had been a large order, but Mac had done it and then some.
Haynes looked around his desk and moved a stack of folders, uncovering a square pink dish fashioned in the head of a pig wearing a blue policeman’s cap. Mac removed the policeman’s hat and retrieved a handful of barbeque flavored sunflower seeds.
“I don’t want to see those shells on the floor,” Brown said, as Mac spit the chewed hull toward the trashcan and missed.
Brown closed his eyes and drew his hand roughly across his face.
Haynes chuckled.
Mac stooped to pick up his expelled shells.
“Brief Haynes, so I can go home,” Brown said, rubbing his eyes with the backs of his knuckles.
Nate folded his long arms across his chest and leaned his shoulder against the doorframe. “Well, we know the dead man was Robert Monarch,” he began.
“No loss there,” Haynes said, looking up from the clipboard.
“…a single shot, small caliber long-gun caught him in the temple just above the right ear,” Nate finished. “He apparently was up to his old tricks. He had these in his breast pocket,” Nate said, as he dropped a small stack of ten contact sheets of digital photos. All the images portrayed prepubescent children in seductive poses, either partially clothed or nude.
“Well, Nate, that one’s gone to that Hell you’re always talking about, huh?” Brown said, a slight smile pulling at the corners of his lips.
Nate didn’t look at him, but said, “Well, sir, that’s between him and God, but I’d say so.”
“You can’t believe your God would have anything to do with an animal like Monarch do you? My god man, he raped babies!” Brown slammed his palms onto the desktop.
“The value of a man’s soul can only be-,” Nate began but stopped.
“Tell him about the thumb drive,” Mac said. His interruption had the desired effect, stalling yet another of the well known religious debates between Brown and Nate.
Nate caught his breath and refocused on the stack of papers in his hand. “Yeah,” he muttered, “the thumb drive contained approximately fifty-thousand images just like the ones you have there…. Oh, and that includes videos.”
“Which is why,” Mac added, “we want a search warrant to go toss his house.”
Haynes kicked his feet up onto the corner of the desk and rocked back in his chair lifting the two front legs off the floor. “Its days like this that makes me want to retire. Maybe Sabrina got it right, ‘it’s time we all just got out of here.’” He dropped the chair back on all four and stood up. “Okay Larry, I’ve been briefed. You go on, get out of here and give Gwen my love.”
Brown clearly didn’t want to leave now, just as the investigation was starting to get interesting. Haynes saw the look on his face, grabbed the file from Nate, and tucked it firmly under his arm. He smiled at Brown.
Brown started to speak, “I could always-,”
“Nope. Don’t need ya. Go home.” Haynes said and waved his hand in the direction of the door as if to introduce Brown to the rest of the CID office.
Lieutenant Brown walked slowly toward the door. Frustrated, he turned to look at Nate. “I wonder what your daddy would say about you telling people that God’s taking a baby-raper to Heaven.”
“As a matter of fact, my father is starting a new series on the doctrine of Hell this week at the midweek Bible study. Want to come?” Nate said, unable to resist firing the barb.
“It’ll freeze over first,” Brown said and slid past him.
“I’m gonna tell your daddy,” Haynes said, catching Nate’s eye and smiling.
“But I didn’t start it this time,” Nate said and looked to Mac for support.
Mac put up both hands, palms out. “Leave me out of this, I’m just the newbie.” He sat down and continued eating sunflower seeds.
“So, you need the on-call prosecutor to get a judge to sign a search warrant.” He looked at the clock hanging on the wall. “It’s only six-thirty. You might be able to catch a magistrate still in chambers.”
Mac took a break from the seeds. “Might want to call patrol and get them to sit-up on the house and keep it secured until we can get there.”
“Good idea,” Haynes said and reached for the phone. “You’re gonna make a good investigator before it’s all over, MacGilvery.”
Just as his hand touched the receiver the phone rang, Haynes picked it up. “Lieutenant Haynes, CID.”
For the next few minutes he didn’t speak, just nodded his head and made notes on a sheet of paper in front of him. He looked up at Nate. “Yeah,” he said into the receiver, “he’s standing right here.”
Haynes hung up the phone and leaned back into his chair while locking his fingers behind his head.
Nate and Mac stared at him.
“That was Lieutenant Cypress in patrol. They just found another body. Single gunshot wound to the side of the head.”
Nate turned and exchanged glances with Mac. “Any idea who the victim is?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Haynes said, “its Reginald Willaby.”
“Who’s Reginald Willaby?” Mac asked, seeing the obvious recognition on Nate’s face.
“Another registered sex offender,” Nate stated matter fact.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Special-Special-Special --Free Book Excerpt—Special-Special-Special

No Humans Involved

Praise for NHI: No Humans Involved.

4.0 out of 5 stars “An Entertaining and Thoughtful Story Exploring Human Values and the Value of Humans. Ray Ellis introduces readers to Detective Nathan (Nate) Richards in his debut police procedural, NHI: No Humans Involved. Nate's faith is tested on multiple levels as he investigates the murder of a police officer, a teenager, and the ensuing slaughters of gang members. When his partner is shot while on a robbery call, Nate's faith is further tested. Nate's best friend, Amber, finds herself in harm's way, and Nate struggles to let the investigation proceed according to departmental policy. Using his extensive knowledge and experience as a police detective, Ellis creates a police procedural in which the investigative techniques and the office politics are quite realistic. NHI will pull the reader into the storyline and grab hold until the final page even when the reader disagrees with a character's choice. Ellis creates a cast of characters with varying beliefs and morals who are well-rounded and interesting. He avoids creating caricatures of "good" and "evil" by exploring the idea that all people have the potential for good and the potential for bad in them. In NHI, Ellis imparts a message of hope and acceptance through his characters, their trials, and their faith without becoming preachy.”

--T. L. Cooper, Author of All She Ever Wanted

4.0 out of 5 stars “Compassionate Grit, Ray Ellis is a man of contrasts: soft-spoken gentleman with a twinkle in his eye, a compassionate pastor and a tough police detective. He has written a mystery of redemption and justice that is as interesting a combination as himself: Christian, hard-bitten noir, urban fiction; non-stop action that still takes time for quiet reflection on the meaning of life and moments of romance; full of fascinating insights into police work and authentic detail.

Nate Richards is a hero readers will care about because he cares. A man you can rely on to do his best and yet a far from perfect human being who must struggle with his own terrors while saving his community from a wave of violent crime like it has never faced before led by a self-centered villain worthy of James Bond.”

--Donna Fletcher Crow
Author of A Very Private Grave, The Cambridge Chronicles

4.0 out of 5 stars “Intense Action! This was an excellent first book by Ray Ellis! I enjoy reading books with a lot of action and suspense, and this book sure didn't disappoint me at all!

After I read the book I saw that it was a Christian murder mystery. This book was not at all a church type book trying to preach to you. I have read non-Christian books that have felt more preachy than this book. Don't get me wrong, it did have bible references in it, but they fit well into the story.

We are introduced to Detective Nate Richards. He is trying to solve the case of a murder of a fellow police officer and a teen boy. His partner is also injured during a shooting. The anarchist symbol seems to be the killer's trademark. That leads Nate to think that it is a certain gang that is doing the killings.

I definitely recommend this book! It had a great mix of characters. The action was intense, and the ending was very surprising! I am looking forward to reading the next book written by Ray Ellis!”

Cheryl Francis, (Michigan)
Black Diamond's Book Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars “Super Intense, Must-Read Suspense! I really loved the work of Ray Ellis. This debut novel is fantastically written, gripped me and pulled me into the midst of chaotic street gangs, and rookie detectives. I love crime novels, I love the awesome suspense that comes with them, and this book is definitely overflowing with the suspense and the crime.

Rookie detective Nate Richards is a sex crime detective. His father's a minister and he's bent on following his faith. That is, until his best friend, Amber disappears, a new gang takes over, and his own fellow officers become targeted in a hate crime. He's not sure his faith will hold him up and get him through in time to save the people that mean the most to him.

It was so fun being a "partner" in this crime novel. It is most definitely filled with great characters. I could really feel the intensity of the suspense as Nate raced against time to put the pieces of the puzzle together and solve it. The harsh reality of street gangs and what can happen between the different ones, well it was jaw dropping. At times, I was on the edge of my seat, praying for Nate to solve the mystery. My heart beat faster, my breath was taken away! INTENSE! I love a book like that.

With the humor that Ellis weaves into Nate's life, and the intensity of the crime solving, you get an awesome novel. But, more importantly than that, Ellis uses God's unending guidance and shows, through Nate, that with faith, you CAN do anything, even solve a murderous mystery.

I highly suggest that you read this beyond 5 star debut. It's the start of the Nate Richards novels and I can't wait to read another intense, inspiring, heart pounding suspense novel packed full of amazing action!”

"Reviews By Molly" (Willow Spring,NC USA)

(No Humans Involved)

Ray Ellis

Copyright © 2010 Ray Ellis

All rights reserved as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the publisher.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to a real person, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.

StoneHouse Ink 2011
StoneGate Ink Nampa ID 83686

First eBook Edition: 2011

NHI: by Ray Ellis. -1st ed.
Cover design by Fiji Aamabreorn

Published in the United States of America

StoneHouse Ink

(No Humans Involved)

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
Heb. 9:27

Chapter One

The body of the teenage boy lay face down in the gutter, his bandana, his colors, still clenched in his fist, floated in the water beside him. Blood mixed with rain raced in a gurgling stream down the drain splashing noisily as it made its way to the river.
What had it gained him? What had he proved? These were a few of the questions that flashed through Detective Nate Richards’ mind as he studied the crime scene. Summer rain washed over Richards’ lean frame, soaking his loose brown curls to the scalp. Flexing a muscle in his jaw, he lifted a hand to wipe water from his face. The street light reflected off of his cocoa-colored skin twinkling in the early morning darkness. “Who’s calling the scene?” Nate asked the group of four uniformed officers standing near a row of patrol cars, their overhead lights casting a rainbow effect on the wet pavement.
Three of the four uniformed men walked toward Nate. He looked between the men, and finding the corporal stripes, directed his comments to them. “What d’ya’ got, Benson?” he asked, reading the nametag that went along with them.
“Another one down; one less to worry about shooting me in the back,” Corporal Chad Benson muttered under his breath while using his hand to squeegee rainwater from his short blond hair. He chuckled to himself as he walked past the body headed for his patrol unit. He glanced at Nate as he passed.
“Does the phrase crime scene integrity mean anything to you, Benson?” Nate said.
“What’s your problem?” Benson said in a harsh whisper. “It’s not like it means anything. They breed like rats down here. Who cares if they kill each other off? We’ll have two more by week’s end. Mark my word. And it won’t even make a difference.”
The two uniformed officers, with Benson, smiled at their team commander’s remarks. One of the men stared at Nate, holding his gaze for an extra heart beat longer than necessary before turning away. Nate made a mental note to remember the men’s names.
“Stow it. Now!” Nate cut his gaze to a woman sitting on the curb rocking and hugging herself. The dead teen’s mother. Grabbing Benson by the shoulder, Nate pulled him off to the side. “You can’t see?”
Benson snatched his arm from Nate. “What?”
“You okay, Bens?” one of the other officers called and stepped toward Nate.
“Johnson, right?” Nate asked, making sure he had the man’s name correct. “Is this the way you run a crime scene?” Nate had directed the question to Benson.
Looking down the desolate street, Nate pointed to the nearest intersection. “Block that off and get some cones out in the street to keep paramedics and everyone else from driving through my crime scene.”
Johnson looked at Nate but didn’t move.
“You got a problem with that, Patrolman?” Nate asked.
“Go ‘head,” Benson said, stepping between the two men. “Look, Detective, we do just fine. You take care of your stuff and I’ll take care of mine.”
Without responding, Nate turned away from the officer and approached the woman, hoping she hadn’t overheard Benson’s comments or noticed the patrolmen’s cavalier attitudes.
Shielding his notepad from the rain with his arm, he checked the comments he’d recorded there. He cleared his throat. “Mrs. Fuentes? I’m Detective Nate Richards, Treasure Valley Metro Police Department. I need to ask you a few questions.”
The woman raised her dark eyes like dead pools, lifeless and cold, to meet Nate’s expectant gaze. “What does it matter? We breed like rats anyway, right?” She pulled her jacket collar tight around her neck and turned away from him.
So much for her not having heard, Nate thought. He stooped to meet the woman’s gaze. “Mrs. Fuentes…”
“Miss. I’m not married. But I guess that’s okay when you’re only a Cricetomys emini, huh?”
Struck by the woman’s beauty, Nate thought she didn’t look much older than a teen herself. “Miss Fuentes,” he began again, “A what?”
“A pregnant rat,” she said, anger coloring her voice.
Nate broke eye contact for the briefest of moments but watched her gauging her movements. “I apologize for the officer’s crudeness. There’s no excuse for his behavior. I also assure you that his is not the general attitude of the police department.” Nate was sincere in his response but knew avoiding an officer complaint was a good idea as well.
The woman stood abruptly. She looked again at her son lying dead in the street, took a breath and seemed to gather herself. “Can I take him now?”
“I’m sorry Mrs.—Miss Fuentes, but the body can’t be released until the coroner has been called and finishes his examination.”
“You gonna cut up my baby? You gonna cut him open and play around inside him? For what? We know what killed him. The bullets killed him. Just let me take him and put him to rest.”
Nate looked over the woman’s shoulder at Officer Benson sitting in his patrol unit out of the weather and wished that it was Benson standing in the rain having to explain the bad behavior instead of him. Benson sat leaning back in the passenger’s seat stuffing the last of something into his mouth.
“Miss Fuentes, I’m sorry but certain things have to be done and then—”
“I don’t care. You want to assure me you don’t see my son as some kind of second class citizen? You find the man who killed him and you make him pay.” She walked away, her shoulders heaving as she struggled against the sobs shaking her entire body. Stopping a short distance away, she leaned against the wall and stood there absorbed by the shadows.
Nate stormed over to the patrol car and pulled open the door. “Benson, you’re a pig.”
Benson looked up, a smear of mayonnaise stuck in the corner of his mouth. “What? What’d I do?”
Nate looked in the direction the woman had disappeared. “You couldn’t see the mother sitting not fifteen feet from you? What were you thinking?”
“NHI, man. Why should I get all bothered over nothing?”
Nate clenched and then relaxed his fist. He inhaled and blew out his breath in one explosive sigh, water vapor springing from around his lips. Without speaking, he turned and walked away. Kneeling beside the body, he began his investigation while fighting to control his anger at Benson’s callous behavior.

Chapter Two

Lieutenant Larry Brown, the dayshift Criminal Investigation Division (CID) watch commander, sat at his desk at the Meridian station reviewing the reports from the night before. A cup of bitter, hot coffee sat on the corner of his desk, wafts of steam floating lazily toward the too-bright fluorescent lights overhead. The coffee matched him in both manner and mood. The small office faced the CID pod overlooking the rows of desks and cubicles, its fabricated walls vibrating with the opening and closing of each slammed door.
“Richards! Get in here,” he yelled. He stood up behind his desk as soon as he saw Nate enter the CID section.
“Yeah, what’s up L.T.?” Nate asked, kicking the door closed behind him. He knew from long experience that nothing good would come from this meeting and didn’t care to have it broadcast.
“Just what were you thinking out there last night?” Brown began without preamble. “I come in first thing this morning and find an officer complaint on my desk with your name on it. You care to explain that?”
Deciding not to sit down, which would surrender the high ground to the lieutenant, Nate crossed his arms and leaned back against the door frame. “Good morning to you, too, sir, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I’m talking about you botching up the investigation of the Fuentes shooting last night. Not to mention the hot water you’re in for insulting Professor Fuentes.”
The dawn of recognition rose across Nate’s face. He’d wondered where he’d seen the woman before. She was Serena Fuentes, professor at Boise State University and board member of the Mayor’s Cross Cultural Outreach Program. “Oh,” he said, rubbing tired eyes. “But I still don’t know what this has to do with me.”
“Do the letters N.H.I. mean anything to you?” Lieutenant Brown asked, walking around his desk and stopping within an arm’s reach of Nate. “I can’t believe you could be that stupid.”
Moving forward, Nate closed the distance between them. “Sir, I think you might want to change your tone, sir.”
Taking an involuntary step backward and bumping against the corner of his desk, Brown jumped as his coffee spilled. He tried, with quick hands, to stop the hot liquid’s dash across his desk. Flustered, he made a poor attempt at maintaining his former rant. “Richards, you, you—get your—get out of my office!” He pointed a trembling finger at Nate. “This is not over. I will have your butt this time. I am tired of you and your self-righteous attitude…always looking down your self-righteous nose.”
“As I recall sir, it was you who called me in to your office. Now, as for your officer complaint, I suggest you talk to the boys in your beloved patrol unit. Benson’s team handled that call. Talk to them about their conduct in public. Leave me out of it.”
“Out!” Brown forced the words through clenched teeth while kissing coffee-burned fingers. “You’re the worst excuse for a homicide detective I’ve ever seen. If I had my way, you’d be pushing a black and white on the midnight shift.”
“Sir, I’m not sure how to take that. I don’t work homicide. I was doing you a favor and covering for Gram last night, remember? I work sex crimes.” Seeing Brown’s anger, Nate fought hard to resist the smile attempting to sneak across his face. He knew, though, that it was easily visible in his eyes. Nate raised his hands, palms facing forward. He inhaled and, preparing to speak, he opened his mouth.
“Out!” Brown cut him off.
Nate pulled the door open, shaking the flimsy wall as the door stuck briefly against the jamb. Resisting the urge to slam it behind him, he pulled it shut and let out his breath in one long slow stream.
“That was good,” Amber Coles said sarcastically. “Oh yeah, and very Christian.”
Nate stopped. His smile evaporated and the smug feeling he briefly enjoyed disappeared. He rubbed his hand across his chin and smirked, feeling the fatigue he’d been ignoring. “I forgot I’d left that pass for you at the front desk. I should have known you’d choose now to walk in.”
Amber smiled at him from across the small space between the desks that made up the central corridor of CID. “Really, Nate.” She smiled and it warmed him in ways that embarrassed him.
He loved looking at her. Although he typically liked long hair on women, Amber’s shorter cut suited her. Rich brunette hair framed her heart shaped face causing her chocolate-brown eyes, playing exotically against her olive complexion, to dance with soft lights. But, if he had to choose, he would say it was her smile and Nicole Kidman type nose that were his favorites. The twin dimples set deep in her cheeks didn’t hurt either.
“Mmmh,” he stammered, “I, uh… yeah.”
“That’s what I thought. How in the world are you going to be able to share the gospel with that guy if you keep antagonizing him? Really.” She grinned and took his arm, locking hers through his.
“You forgot you promised to buy me breakfast this morning.” She smiled up at him. It had not been a question.
“No, I just got a little sidetracked with the lieutenant.” He frowned when he saw her expression. “Come on, you don’t like him either.”
“I heard you in there. You’re just trying to cover up the fact that you forgot our date. Either way, you’re still buying. Let’s go.”
“You heard all that, huh?” he asked, indicating Brown’s office with a tilt of his head. “I got called out again last night… another gang shooting. I’ve got to get on this.” He rubbed his face again, trying to erase the effect of another night with too little sleep.
“What time you get called out?” she asked, leading him away from his desk.
“What time you get in?” She grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair as they passed it.
“I just left the morgue, haven’t been home yet.”
“Figured as much,” she said as she pulled him into the elevator.
“That was sneaky.” He said, leaning exhausted against the far wall.
“It worked. Besides, you’re worn out. You’re no good like this. You need to go home and get some sleep.”
Nate stood up straight and stretched his back. Exhaling roughly, he closed his eyes and leaned back again. “You know Brown is serious, don’t you? He really is going to try and slam me for this. If there’s any way he can keep the blame off his beloved patrol, he will. I have no idea why the man ever accepted the promotion to CID. He hates it up here.”
Amber smiled as the elevator doors opened leading to the main lobby and its yellowed tile floor. Grabbing Nate by his arm again, she led him out through the double glass doors marked Treasure Valley CID. She looked up at him and her eyes twinkled. “First breakfast for us and then bed for you.”

Chapter Three

Amber tore open her fourth packet of Splenda sweetener and poured it into her coffee. Adding cream, she stirred gently with her spoon until a small wave of tan liquid spilled over the brim and onto the table. All the time she was speaking, her eyes never leaving Nate’s.
“You know you really do need to give Brown a break. He’s not so bad.”
“Leave any room for your coffee?” Nate said, changing the topic.
“What? Oh, I don’t really like the taste of coffee.”
“So why not order something else?”
Amber turned her attention fully to the cup, finally noticing the spill and with a soft bird like chirp, smiled and wiped it up with her napkin.
Nate leaned back, allowing the floral-patterned bench to absorb his weight. He thought again how much he loved looking at her. She smiled and he focused on her lips. I wonder what it would be like to kiss… He forced his thoughts back under control. She’s your friend, your best friend. Don’t mess it up.
She looked up. “What?” she asked around a fork full of eggs.
“Oh, nothing… just tired, I guess.” As if it had been an omen, Nate suddenly felt very weary, as if his shoulders had gradually turned to lead. He rubbed his eyes, grinding his palms into his eye sockets. He exhaled forcefully and poured himself another cup of the rich dark coffee.
Amber continued talking, telling Nate about her date from the previous evening. The latest guy had been one of her customers at the bookstore where she worked. It had begun promisingly, she said, but a girl could only take so much computer programming chatter.
Nate smiled and swallowed deeply, grimacing against the heat of the liquid. He hoped she hadn’t noticed his reaction, and if she had, that she attributed it to the coffee.
Nate kicked himself mentally for not paying attention to what Amber had been saying. He replayed her last words just in case she asked him a question.
“…so what do you think I should do?” she finished and looked up at him.
“Well,” he began slowly, “the way I see it, if the guy didn’t have enough sense to focus on you, I say you’re better off without him.” He tried to read her eyes, to see if he had guessed correctly.
“You know, Nate, that’s what I love about you. You always seem to know exactly what to say.” Reaching across the table, she grabbed his hands and squeezed them.
“Well, what can I say?”
Nate’s cell phone rang and he sighed as he first patted it and then pulled it out of his chest pocket. “Richards,” he said in a flat, tired voice.
Nate’s face suddenly darkened, his brows knitting together.
“When? How’s he doing?” He sighed, lowered his face into the palm of his left hand and rubbed his eyes again. He pressed the phone tightly against his head, his elbows resting on the table. “I’ll be right there.”
Nate closed the phone and stood.
“Leaving me?”
“There’s been a shooting. Franks has been shot. He’s dead.”
“Dan? Oh, no. What happened? I’m coming with you.” She pushed her seat back and stood quickly. “Oh God, his poor mother.”
“No.” Nate looked past her, unfocused. “Not this time, Amber.” He pulled out a ten dollar bill and dropped it on the table.
“Why not?” She demanded, beginning to pout.
“Just trust me. Not this time. Not now.” Nate tried not to show her the horror of what he was feeling. “Not now Amber, just trust me.” He turned and walked away without saying another word.
Amber sat back down in the now empty booth and exhaled deeply, her earlier happy countenance now crestfallen for more than one reason. She looked longingly after Nate as he hurried from the restaurant. She loved his passion, his commitment to service and wondered what it would feel like to have him be that passionate, that committed to her. Rebuffing herself for letting her thoughts travel in this direction, she said to no one in particular, “That’s all you need, girl, mess up the one true friendship you do have by trying to make more out of it than you should.”
She sighed again and turned her heart to prayer. Somebody, she reasoned, should be praying for poor Mrs. Franks. Her only son killed. How would the old lady take the news?
Amber began, “Dear Father, please send your precious Spirit to comfort Mrs. Franks. Lord, does she even know yet? She’s going to need you like she never has before. Please be with her. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Amber stood and headed for the door. She still had two hours left before her shift at the bookstore began. She hadn’t known Dan’s mother well, had only met her on a few occasions, but as she reasoned, there was no time like the present to fix that.

Chapter Four

Nate drove beneath the overpass. Even from a distance of a few hundred yards, he could tell that the crime scene would be bad. He was wrong. It was worse.
Parking at the mouth of the alley, Nate decided to walk into the crime scene instead of driving, a habit he picked up from his partner, Sabrina Jackson. Jackson, a 27-year veteran, one of only three black officers on the force and the sole female detective, had been Nate’s partner for the past three years.
The narrow alley opened into an abandoned parking lot. Weeds and sun-browned grasses broke through cracks in the thinning asphalt. Windowless walls rose on three sides, forming the urban box canyon that had been transformed into a killing field. Studying the debris field, Nate reasoned from the pattern and variety of shell casings that Franks had been ambushed, or at least there had been multiple shooters.
Walking around the dead officer’s patrol unit, Nate mentally catalogued the various casings: Nine-millimeter. Forty-caliber, 5.56-millimeter Shot casings that appeared to be twelve-gauge rifle slugs. Military issue.
The inside of the patrol vehicle had been burned; the dashboard twisted into a charred and blackened shell. The glass from the windows, splintered and melted from the heat, pooled in congealed clumps as they had dripped to the ground. Nate judged from the damage that the tires had been shot flat before the fire had been set. The nude body of Officer Dan Franks was stretched spread eagle across the hood of the car. An encircled sideways A, the anarchy symbol had been carved into his chest.
Joining him, Sabrina Jackson interrupted his thoughts. “Ever see anything like this before?” he asked her.
“Not if I don’t count the Klan killings from the south or maybe the religious killings in Iraq.”
She harrumphed and walked past him. “I don’t like this; I don’t like this at all. What is Franks’ body doing in the middle of what looks like a gang war zone?”
Shielding her eyes against the sun, she scanned the perimeter of the crime scene, looking for anyone who might be watching them.
Nate nudged her in the side with his elbow. “Here comes the press. How’d they get inside the tape?”
“I don’t know, but they’re ‘bout to get up out of here.” She turned to meet the camera crew and reporter that were setting up for a direct feed.
“Excuse me, but didn’t y’all see the yellow tape stretched out across the roadway back there?”
“Yes… no… I did… yes, but I thought that was for the general public. Hi, I’m Butch—”
“I know who you are, and I know where you better be in about five seconds if you don’t want to be filming your report from a jail cell downtown.”
“What’s your name, ma’am? You obviously don’t know who I am.”
“Like I said, Butch, I know who you are and the name is Detective. Now get out of my crime scene.” She turned and signaled to a uniformed officer. “Escort Mr. Butch here out of my crime scene, but make sure you log him in as a witness just in case we need to subpoena him later.” She turned and headed back toward Nate.
The officer smiled as he took out his pen and began writing the reporter’s name on his crime scene log. He pointed toward the mouth of the alley. “This way, sir.”
“And they call me pushy,” Nate teased as Sabrina turned back to join him.
“Well Son, when you’ve been here almost thirty years and you’re looking forward to retirement, you finally get to say some of those things that pups like yourself only wish they could say now.” She flashed a saucy smile and looked up as the rumble of an approaching fire engine filled the air and vibrated the ground.
“You going up this time?” Nate asked.
“Nope. That’s for you young kids. Have at it. I’ll get the camera for ya’.”
A few minutes later, Nate found himself about forty feet above the crime scene looking down from the fire engine’s ladder bucket. Nate smiled to himself. Riding in one of these buckets had been a dream of his ever since seeing one demonstrated as an elementary age student. He was amazed how different the alley looked from the higher vantage point.
Using one hand to steady the swinging Nikon D300 digital camera hanging from his neck, he held the hand rail with his other. With a jerking motion, the bucket rose as it started panning over the burned out patrol car and Nate prepared himself to begin snapping photos.
Two hundred and eighty pictures and a 360-degree ride later, Nate was slowly lowered back to the ground. Even from the lofty position above the car, Nate could still see Franks’ eyes frozen open in death. The deep groove in his chest and the cake of baked-on blood beneath him fanning out from the body were in vivid contrast against the white hood of the patrol car.
It was starting to get warm. In this heat the stench would soon rise to engulf the man-made canyon and spread out to announce the death to any unfortunates near the expanding radius. As he stepped out of the bucket and climbed down the short metal ladder from the fire engine, the coroner’s wagon pulled into the crime scene and stopped.
Mary, a rather plain woman with uninspired sandy blond hair, climbed out of the driver’s seat of the coroner’s van and walked directly to Nate. “We’ve got to stop meeting like this or people will start talking.” She gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder. “One of us this time, huh?”
Nate didn’t respond. It wasn’t necessary. He knew she understood. She was young, but she was good. He knew she would handle Franks correctly.
Amber stopped her car in front of the small cottage-like home on the east side of the city. White clouds floated in deep blue skies as birdsong came to her on the wind, mingled with the laughter of playing children. Closing the car door behind her, she was disappointed that the sound of traffic from nearby Eagle Road, the Wal Mart shopping center and outdoor mall, disturbed the otherwise quiet neighborhood.
Mrs. Franks knelt in the dirt of the large flowerbed in front of her single story home. Black-eyed Susans, marigolds, petunias, pansies and sunflowers made up the eclectic garden as they waved in the gentle breeze that did little to ease the oppressive heat. Pushing her sunbonnet back, the small woman stood massaging her lower back. She squinted into the bright sun, gazing at Amber, as if trying to place the face of younger woman walking toward her.
Amber prayed for strength and wisdom as she continued up the short walk. Help me, Lord, to know what to say. “Mrs. Franks,” she began, but her voice failed. She coughed and began again. “Mrs. Franks, I’m Amber Coles, Nate’s—”
“Oh yes, you’re Nate’s lady friend.” The older lady said, her smile stretching across her wrinkled face, causing it to glow.
Amber started at her reference of ‘Nate’s lady friend’ but she forced the thought from her mind as a thing to be dealt with later.
“Come on. Let’s get out of this sun and get us something cool to drink,” Mrs. Franks said, extending her hand in greeting.
Amber could feel her stomach roiling into knots as each step brought her closer to the older woman. “Mrs. Franks, there’s something I need to tell you.”
Mrs. Franks stopped and, focusing on Amber’s face, took notice of the heaviness she saw in the younger lady’s face. “What’s the matter, dear? Come on inside where we can talk; I’m sure it’s nothing the Lord can’t handle.”
Tears in her eyes, Amber looked into the older woman’s face. “Mother Franks… I—”
“What’s this?” Mrs. Franks said, looking past Amber as a dark-colored sedan stopped in front of the house. Two men, one in full dress uniform and the other wearing a gray single-breasted suit, got out and made their way toward the two women.
Mrs. Franks looked from Amber to the two men approaching her. “Amber?” she managed in a soft whisper. “Amber…. What is this all about?” Then looking into the younger woman’s eyes she knew. “Oh God, no…” the older woman cried out and collapsed.
Amber caught the small woman and stumbled backward beneath the sudden added weight. In the next moment strong arms caught them, lifting them both, and they were escorted into the house.
As the door closed behind them, the air conditioning cooling them from the oppressive heat, Amber made her way to the older woman and knelt on the floor beside her. “Mother Franks, I need to make a phone call first, but I’ll stay with you. I’ll be right here as long as you need me.”
The two men looked from one to the other with obvious relief. The older of the two men cleared his throat. “Mrs. Franks, I’m Chief Reese and I am so sorry for your loss. I want you to know we counted Dan as one of our best men, a part of our family. We think of you as part of this family too. I want you to know we will always be here for you. You won’t have to do this alone.”
Amber closed her cell phone and came back to sit beside the older woman. Taking the wrinkled hand in hers, she draped her free arm around the older woman’s bowed shoulders.
Mrs. Franks lifted her face, tears streaking her cheeks, and after whispering a silent prayer, she looked at the men. “Tell me what happened to my son.”

Nate knocked on the jam of the opened door of Lieutenant Brown’s office. “Sir.”
Brown continued reading his report as if he had not heard him.
Nate knocked again, walked in, and sat in the empty chair in front of Brown’s desk. “Sir, I’m sure you’ve heard about Franks by now. I want to be assigned to this case.”
Brown raised his head slowly, a derisive smile playing at the corners of his mouth. He sat back and intertwined his fingers across the paunch overlapping his belt. “So, you want to get back into homicide? Well Richards, I thought you were a sex-crimes-only kind of guy.” The smile blossomed.
Nate tried to remain calm. “Sir, one of our own has been killed. Can’t we put aside our differences for now?” Nate was leaning forward, speaking softly.
“Well you see that’s the advantage of being me, Richards. I get to make the decisions and you get to do what you’re told.” Brown rose and sauntered to the front of his desk.
“You thought you were so funny this morning, didn’t you? Just couldn’t wait to remind me that you were not a homicide detective. Well I agree, you’re not. I don’t want you anywhere near this case, and if I find out you’re poking your nose where it doesn’t belong, I’ll roll you out to patrol so quick—”
“I get it.” Nate stood, cutting Brown off mid-sentence. “The answer is no. Thank you for your time, sir.” He turned and left the office, slapping the wall as he passed, causing it to shake, loosening one of Brown’s framed certifications.
Following him to the door, Brown slammed it behind him and turned with a satisfied smile as he made his way back to his seat behind the desk. Picking up the papers, he tried to resume reading, gave up and, with a harrumph, flung them across the room.
A knock at the door ended his tirade, but before he could respond, the door swung open. Donald Haynes, the second-shift lieutenant, poked his head through the opening. “Why you wanna let that guy get under your skin like that, Larry? Getting all mad the way you do, you’re gonna stroke out, and I don’t do mouth-to-mouth. He ain’t so bad… Why do you hate him so?”
“I don’t hate him. He just gets on my nerves. His always talking about God…” He pushed at the papers with the toe of his boot. “Like he was best friends with him or something stupid—” Brown stooped and began collecting his papers.
Haynes came fully into the office, closing the door behind him. He sat in the seat recently vacated by Nate and smiled playfully at his counterpart. Lifting his legs, Haynes crossed his feet on the edge of the desk and rocked back in the chair. “You really gotta get over this, Larry. It’s gonna give you a heart attack,” he chuckled.
Indicating the splayed papers, Brown said, “You’re gonna help me or what?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Haynes grinned. “You worked so hard on getting those papers spread out just so. Maybe you don’t want my help; maybe I’d just be in your way.” The chair landed with a soft thud as Haynes hefted himself out of the seat and knelt on the floor. Grabbing the first sheet, laughing, he offered it to Brown. He shook his head as Brown continued to fume.
After the papers were collected and the men were seated in their respective chairs, Brown poured them each a cup of coffee. “Don’t mind if I do,” Haynes said, accepting the proffered cup. “I like my coffee like my wife likes her man, black and strong.”
“I guess she settled for just black, huh?” Brown grinned impishly. “That guy didn’t spend any time on the streets,” he pointed toward the wall with his cup. “Come up here straight from California thinking he knows everything.” Seemingly changing gears, Brown spoke as if the words tasted bad in his mouth.
Haynes did not have to ask what guy Brown was referring to. “Yeah, but he came with experience. Besides he spent three years here on the streets before transferring to CID.”
“Three years. Three years, that’s nothing. I’ve got boots with more time on the streets than that.”
“Let it go, old man and get out of here, it’s your forty-two time. Go home.” He laughed.
Brown stood again, moaning as if he were worn out from sitting behind the desk all day. “You got the briefing on Franks?”
“Yeah,” Haynes replied, sobering. “He was a good kid.”
“He’d been on the streets a little over a year… still wet behind the ears.” He sighed. “Too bad.” Brown dragged his briefcase off the desk, allowing it to drop with a thud against his thigh. He headed for the locker room. Stopping at the door, he looked toward the desks where the various detectives sat. Shaking his head, he turned toward the exit.
The last thing Haynes heard before the door closed behind Brown was the man mumbling under his breath, “…holy roller…” and then the door clicked shut.
Haynes laughed softly and shook his head as well. Then turning his attention to the briefing pack on the shooting, he groaned. He dropped himself in the seat behind the desk with sudden weariness. Punching the intercom on the corner of his desk, he called, “Richards, get your butt in here!”
A few minutes later Nate walked into the lieutenant’s office for the third time that day. I’ve got to stop coming in here. “You wanted me, sir?”
“Drop the old innocent-me-act, Richards. I ought to kick your butt myself. What? Are you trying to get written up?”
Nate rubbed his eyes and sat in the familiar seat, again.
“You had better stop irritating that man or he’s going to take a chunk out of your butt and there won’t be a darn thing either you or I will be able to do about it.”
“I know. I know... it’s just that he gets on my nerves.”
“Funny, he said the same thing about you.”
Nate raised an eyebrow.
Haynes continued, “The man gets on everybody’s nerves. The chief don’t even like him.”
Nate laughed and slouched in his seat. “You seem to get along with him pretty well.”
“Yeah, you laugh now, but you won’t be laughing if he rolls you back into a uniform.”
Nate stopped laughing and sat up. “He didn’t say that, did he?”
“No, but he could have. For right now, we need you on the Fuentes case.” He shuffled the papers and flipped through the two files on his desk.
He looked up at Nate, a teasing glint in his eye. “What would your dad say if I told the good reverend that his boy had his thumb screwed tight into the old lieutenant’s eye socket, huh?” He tilted his head forward before finally resting his chin on the backs of his hands, elbows on the desk.
“Don’t that Bible you’re always reading say something about respecting those in authority over you?”
“Yep, in Romans chapter 13 or 14—”
“—but I think it’s thirteen.”
“Don, I—”
“You’re supposed to respect those in charge of you because God put them there in the first place.”
“You know, L.T., for someone who doesn’t believe in God, you sure know a lot about what His book has to say.”
“Well, figured I’d better know what the parameters are, just in case. But, that’s beside the point. You need to watch yourself with Brown; you know he doesn’t like you.”
“Yeah, Amber tried to tell me the same thing this morning.”
“You’ve been here since this morning?” Haynes said, grabbing the duty roster and reading it over. “You been on for eighteen hours. Go home. Now. You’re trying to get me sued.”
“Copy that. But about the Franks case, do you think you can get me assigned?”
“Get out of here and I don’t want to see you until second shift tomorrow. Why don’t you get some sleep?” He smiled roguishly. “Go find that pretty little Amber and make an honest woman of her. I think your Bible says something about that too.”
“I told you there’s nothing going on between Amber and me, we’re just friends.”
“Then you’re a bigger fool than I thought you were. Now get out of here.”

A Note from the Author

Thank you for reading this excerpt from NHI: No Humans Involved, the first installment of the Nate Richards Seasons Series. Now that you’ve read this, I would love hear from you. You can email me with your thoughts on the book or friend me on Facebook. You can even sign up for my news letter, which will give you updates on upcoming releases and whatever else is going on in my little corner of the world.
If you’d like to help this book succeed, please tell others about it. You can loan your copy to a friend, and ask your local libraries and bookstores to order it. In addition, if you post a review on, or it would also be very helpful.
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If you’d like to read the complete book you can order it from the following sites:
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As with any project of significance, it is never completed alone or without help. This is no less true of NHI. First I’d like to thank God for His grace and the gift of His wonderful son, Jesus. Without Him none of this would ever had have been possible of necessary.
Secondly, I’d like to thank the ladies of the Tully’s Critique group: Angela, Cheryl, and Ruth. Without you three ladies I would still be stuck on “rain fell in sheets and chilled him to the core…” It’s an inside joke, but I know my ladies will get it.
Next I would like to say thank you to the many talented people who gave me their time and talent to help bring this project to launch: Judy Marker Simmons, Deb Sloane and of course my wife and children who has lived with Nate and Amber as guest in our home for these last few years.
Thanks to my wife especially for believing in me when I began to doubt myself. And finally thanks to my church family at Nampa Christian Center for its prayerful support and lastly thanks to Aaron Patterson ad StoneHouse for believing in me just enough to give me a chance. And thank you to my readers.

About the Author:

Ray Ellis is a 21 year veteran of law enforcement in Idaho, Southern California, and a former United States Marine. He is a public speaker, communicating to groups of all sizes on the topics of community and personal safety. Since 1999 Ray has been a primary instructor for the Idaho POST Academy – Police Training Institution for Idaho- instructing on subjects of Arrest Control, Cultural Diversity and for the last five years exclusively on the topic of Instructor Development, where he teaches other officers to be POST certified instructors. He is currently serving as the lead sex crimes investigator for the agency where he works. He has been married to the same woman for 27 years and has three children; two sons and a daughter. He is also an ordained minister and the associate pastor of the church where he attends. Ray lives with his family in Idaho.

Coming Soon

D.R.T.: Dead Right There
Book Two: Release Date - Fall of 2011

Registered sex offenders in the valley have started showing up dead, killed with apparent violence and forethought; and Detective Nate Richards finds himself pitted against a psychotic killer set on ridding the valley of the unclean.
When Chrystal Johansson, the only female on the killer’s list, barely escapes the attempt on her life, Richards takes her into protective custody. Driven by a voice he calls God and a group of men he calls the Uncles, the killer sets a deadline of two weeks to complete the valley’s cleansing.
Around him, the community divides about the actions of the vigilante. Some hail the killer as a modern day knight, only doing what they wish they could; while others curse him as being part of the sickness he claims to fight.
In the midst of the chaos, Nate finds his faith tested when he discovers a sympathetic link in his own heart for the killer’s ideas, if not his actions. Will he find the strength to keep his own path from falling into darkness and bring the killer in, or will he succumb to the powerful sway of street justice?
With the deadline quickly approaching, and the city threatening to tear itself apart, will the killer fulfill his calling or will Nate stop the killings before another victim turns up D.R.T.

Now that you’ve finished, before you leave Treasure City, Tweet or share that you’ve finished the book.

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More by this author:

• D.R.T.: Dead Right There (Nate Richards Book Two)
• “I” As part of the anthology Intrigue (Stories of Suspense) Released by StoneHouse

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Urban Fiction: Living it Out - Day Eleven: The Hunt

I was thinking about just what it is that I like about working the streets. The thought came to me of a National Geographic special, “Big Cats of Africa” or something like that anyway.

One great thinker has describe police officers as the sheep dogs of society and the image does fit, but as I was saying earlier, when I think of myself out there patrolling at night the thought or rather the image of predatory cat is what comes to mind.

I know, I know some of this is definitely ego, but hear me out. I remember watching as the lions all got up and stretched after a long sleep. They seem to come together and discuss the day’s hunt. I see that as a kind of pre-shift briefing.

Then once the business of the day has been decided on, the group moves out in force. Some going this way and others in a slightly different direction, but they all wind up where the zebras and the gazelles are passing along on their way to the watering hole. See where I’m going with this?

Now the vast majority of these, shall we call them prey animals, pass without the slightest hint of molestation. But then the ears of the lion flick and the tails droops down and she hunches low in her stance. She, the huntress –I know the imagery breaks down here again, but we do have some fine female officers on our force--has seen something.

Now in the world of the street cop we would call this establishing P.C. {Probable Cause} or at the very least A.S. {Articulable Suspicion}, but for the cat, she has seen prey. Now once the prey is sighted, the hunter doesn’t just pounce and give chase, but rather a subtle strategy is set in place.

At first this looks almost like casual observance, but then the net is drown smaller and tighter, other hunters are made aware, then when the timing is perfect. The big cats launch into attack mode. The overhead lights come on and we set the patrol cruiser into optimal position to make the stop.

Prey apprehended. But only in this case we don’t eat them. We bag them for delivery for processing…err; take them to the jail so they can go to court.

You have to admit, that although the sheep dog analogy may be a better fit, the predatory cat imagery is just plain cooler...Just saying.