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)
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. p.cm.
Cover design by Fiji Aamabreorn
Published in the United States of America
(No Humans Involved)
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.”
“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 Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com or Smashword.com it would also be very helpful.
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You can download discussion questions or follow my blog entries at http://authorray.blogspot.com or on my web site at http://urbanfictionunleashed.webstarts.com.
If you’d like to read the complete book you can order it from the following sites:
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.
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.
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• D.R.T.: Dead Right There (Nate Richards Book Two)
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