Just the other day we announced that Jennifer Chase’s suspense-filled DARK MIND (EMILY STONE SERIES) is our new Thriller of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the thriller, mystery, and suspense categories: over 200 free titles, over 600 quality 99-centers, and thousands more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!
Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Thriller excerpt, and we’re happy to share the news that this terrific read at $2.99 for Kindle Nation readers during its TOTW reign!
by Jennifer Chase
A Serial Killer Plagues an Island Paradise
Vigilante detective Emily Stone continues her covert pursuits to find serial killers and child abductors, all under the radar while shadowing police investigations.
Emily searches for an abducted nine-year-old girl taken by ruthless and enterprising slave brokers. Following the clues from California to the garden island of Kauai, she begins to piecetogether the evidence and ventures deep into the jungle.
It doesn’t take long before Emily is thrown into the middle of murder, mayhem, and conspiracy. Locals aren’t talking as serial killer now stalks the island, taking women in a brutal frenzy of ancient superstitions and folklore. Local cops are unprepared for what lies ahead. In a race against the clock, Emily and her team must identify the killer before time runs out.
“Author Jennifer Chase takes the reader into the world of black magic, sorcery, child porn, murder and the Dark Mind of a serial killer with an ending you just won’t see coming with a final twist that let’s you know that there is much more in store for Emily and Rick. Where the next case leads them only author Jennifer Chase knows and we all hope to find out soon.” – Fran Lewis, Book Pleasures
About The Author
Jennifer Chase holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology. Her intense curiosity in the psychological aspect of crime is what drives her to write crime fiction. She lives in California, where she’s currently at work on her next book in the series.
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
Tuesday 1030 Hours
Intensity overrode the room’s rising humidity. The claustrophobic staleness of the tight quarters pushed the confrontation between interrogator and suspect to the extreme.
Emily Stone calmly watched her partner from her cramped vantage point.
His eyes, dark and piercing, focused on the suspect. Sculpted biceps appeared pumped and ready for action – nerves heightened. He showed restraint, but clearly wanted to unleash mayhem.
“Where’s the little girl?” Rick Lopez demanded with his jaw clenched.
“I… I… don’t know who you mean.” The man’s voice wavered and he couldn’t keep eye contact.
“You know where she is. Give me the address. Now!”
Rick pushed the skinny, young man backward against the wall. Cornered. Sweat saturated his receding hairline of straggly, sun-bleached hair as his shoulders slumped forward making him appear older. Weakening, he would cave in and spill the truth.
Time stood still for the trapped man.
He rubbed his stubby fingers tightly against one another on the bottom fabric of his loose Hawaiian shirt. The bright yellow pineapples and colorful surfboards twisted and morphed on the garment beneath his sweaty hands.
Rick took a deep breath. He backed up a couple of feet from the man and averted his gaze for a few seconds, hands slightly trembling; obviously he wanted to pummel the guy’s face out of pure hatred.
Time ticked away for a nine-year-old girl.
The corner of the cramped depot conveniently used for storing small sailboats, catamarans, and kayaks remained still and silent. Cluttered with miscellaneous parts, the room waited, quiet like a strange fiberglass tomb.
A calming breeze wafted in with a comfortable, steady eighty-degree temperature. Trade winds never disappointed in the time of need as the distinct trace of Kauai’s moisture integrated into the atmosphere, from the concentrated outside plant growth, daily rainfall, and close proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
Emily stood in the corner, shifting her weight somewhat from side to side, and continued to observe her partner’s interrogation. She surveyed Rick closely as his frustration level accelerated. All of his typical warning signs radiated in the room with his clenched jaw, brusque voice inflection, prominent vein in his forehead, and a stare that could stop an angry mob dead in its tracks.
She loved Rick for his skill and perseverance; but most of all, making her passion of hunting down serial killers, child abductors and pedophiles his own.
She loved him.
She knew Rick felt at a disadvantage without his trusted Glock pressed firmly in his right hand.
The exhausting clues for three days led them to Kauai from the San Francisco area; the island provided a stopping point for child slavery brokers. They were able to determine that this man provided transportation and they weren’t leaving until he gave them all of the information he knew. They hoped that they weren’t too late and that the little girl wasn’t already on her way to another country, only to disappear into the mass culture of black market slavery.
Emily’s fists clenched as her knuckles protruded an ashen white. Occasionally, her hands brushed by her side out of habit. Absent of her own Beretta, she couldn’t get used to being unarmed and vulnerable on the island paradise. Her petite body braced. She waited for the right moment to move into the conflict, as her unwavering eyes never averted from the weakening man.
The young man began to weep. “Look, I don’t know…” He slowly sank to the floor with his head in his hands.
Forcefully, Emily stepped forward with purpose and thrust a photograph into the suspect’s face. “Where is she?” In the picture, a beautiful little girl with long brown hair and wispy bangs smiled sweetly at the camera. The photo represented a much happier time taken during a family picnic at the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
The man couldn’t bear to look at her, but finally focused his gaze on the innocent, shining face.
The man knew. Eventually he would break.
Emily slapped his face with the photo and insisted, “Where is she!” The picture with dog-eared corners and moisture damage from the humidity shook slightly in her hand as she waited for an answer.
* * * *
The sickly sweet, rotted tropical fruit and moldy earth filled her nose and burned her eyes. Tears welled up and spilled over, falling down her tender cheeks. She clenched her fists against the dank soil underneath her. Tightening and releasing her tiny hands and slim fingers, she held her breath. Each compressed grip helped to stable her heightened fear and kept her from screaming, but it didn’t stop an escaped whimper or two. She didn’t want to alert the bad men.
Cassie Thompson listened for them, frightened of what they were capable of doing to her. Knees pulled up in front of her weak body, she pressed her spine up against the weather beaten foundation of the basement. The cool, mustiness of the structure chilled her bones even though she was hot to the touch. Her teeth chattered slightly. The sound of her stomach grumbled from the lack of food for the past several days. Her lips were dry from thirst. She managed to find a piece of a mango that wasn’t rotten, but that was hours ago.
Her time neared.
Cassie listened, poised, not ready to accept the terrible things in the mind of her captors. The floors creaked and groaned above her, one set of beams moved with a heavy footing.
When they had removed her blindfold and tight plastic restraints after the long plane ride, the stocky, dark haired man with black, smeared tattoos on his neck, face, and arms tried to touch her in a groping manner. His long ponytail mesmerized her and she thought about how she wanted to grow her own hair longer, but her mom had said no.
The other man, tall, clean cut with a slight British accent looked like someone’s dad, stopped the burly man and stated he shouldn’t touch the girl. He stressed the importance of untainted merchandise and receiving top American dollars.
The weakening floorboards stopped momentarily just above her head. Muffled voices engaged in casual conversation with idle laughter and raised voice inflections every other sentence. Wooden chair legs scraped across the floor, stopped, and then followed with a heavy affirming creak. Lighter, quicker footsteps moved away and faintly disappeared to another part of the house, perhaps out the front door.
Desperation filled Cassie again. She crawled cautiously on her hands and knees to the one area of the basement that revealed a crack of light filtering through. Dust particles swirled around like delicate confetti through the spotlight of freedom, which drew the little girl closer to its precipice. She stopped for a moment to listen for any incoming danger.
Wiping her tear stained face with grains of putrefied earth, she willed herself to continue. She softly told herself that she could do it. Remembering a story about a young girl, about her age that survived under the rubble of a building after an earthquake. Cassie could survive this horrible situation too.
Letting out a breath stifled from a whimper, she inched toward the light as the crawlspace narrowed above her head. The native island soil pushed between her little fingers and packed down firmer into the earth, it felt warmer to the touch than from the other side, and the distinct odor increased in intensity to more of old garbage and feces.
A few small gnats and flies buzzed about their business, swooping around her head.
Cassie leaned toward the tiny crack, focused her eyes and prayed it was a way out. At first she couldn’t see anything but a brown color and a blinding light. Realizing that it was a palm tree trunk, she moved her gaze farther to the left and surveyed the yard and saw miscellaneous junk, tires, and an old car mixed between the overgrown jungle foliage.
Humid heat and daily rainfall deteriorated and molded anything in its wake. It appeared to be the back yard of a home, long forgotten and neglected.
Her heart sank.
Who would ever find me now?
Her right hand touched something smooth and cool poking up from the dirt basement. Looking down, she gasped in horror as she followed the outline of a small skull, smooth, whitish, and right beneath her vantage point.
Thoughts of horror flashed through her mind. Vivid, gruesome thoughts that no nine year old should ever have to realize or contemplate. Cassie’s breathing quickened and she fought to keep from fainting. Faint light specs floated around her vision like tiny, blinking stars.
The soft whirring of a motor broke her defeated attitude. Her vision cleared. The sound was faint and then the engine stopped altogether, but Cassie knew she had heard a car approaching up through the back way of the property.
Someone drew near.
She willed herself to peek out through the prisoner’s spy gap again.
Please help me.
* * * *
Rick turned off the car ignition. The convertible Jeep engine pinged, ticked, and then quietly settled down among the overgrown island plants. The lookout point, obscured by the neglected junkyard used as a dumping ground, hid the house. A disgusting display of the lack of environmental awareness in such a beautiful, untainted part of the Hawaiian Islands greeted their covert approach.
Emily and Rick assessed their opportunities and weighed their options in an unfamiliar setting in silence, scanning the entry and exit points, backup alternatives, ambush areas, potential weapons that would be useable, and odds of being spotted and identified by law enforcement or nearby nosey neighbors.
Emily broke the tense silence and asked, “What do you think?”
“I’m beginning to think that we were lied to.” He pushed back against the seat with his hands still on the steering wheel. “Bastard.”
“You sure that the GPS is correct?”
Looking down at his cell phone, “Yes, when we actually get a signal out here.” The bars on the cell phone flickered on and off in a hypnotizing, frustrating display. He tossed the phone on the dashboard, the bright screen flashed one more time and then vanished.
Without wasting another moment, Emily pulled the release of the Jeep door and stepped halfway out of the vehicle before Rick touched her arm. She turned to see his face. A look she knew well – be careful.
Rick had met Emily during a case in California, while investigating a series of homicides; more accurately two serial killers terrorized their beach town. His path had crossed hers and he had chosen to retire his position as a police detective to hunt down these predatory animals that stalk children in order to kill by impulse and compulsive need. All of this accomplished behind the scene, covertly and under the radar, pushed the couple to act.
Emily smiled as she looked directly into Rick’s eyes. “I know the drill.” She paused and spoke softly. “Let’s bring Cassie Thompson home… safe.”
Rick nodded. He grabbed his small, zippered pack filled with a few techno gadgets along with the cell phone and hooked it around his waist. A miniscule earpiece with a thin wire microphone clipped to his right ear and extended down half his cheek became a standard operating piece of equipment. He scanned the immediate area before he shut the driver’s door.
They were close. The heaviness of the air shifted.
Emily pressed the car door gently shut after she firmly placed the earpiece around her ear. They relied on their high-tech walkie-talkies to communicate. The oversized leaves from what resembled a common household plant flapped in the island breeze on both sides of the Jeep, tapping the sides of the quarter panels in a primitive drumming manner.
Emily tapped her jean’s front right pocket to make sure that her emergency zip ties and cell phone hadn’t fallen out. Still annoyed that she didn’t have her trusted Glock or even her small Beretta, she would have to improvise if it came to a sticky situation.
The humidity turned up the wet, sticky button of Mother Nature. She paused – statute-like. A peculiar gut feeling tightened in her lower stomach and overrode her senses making each breath laborious. The faint, almost lulling sounds of the overgrown foliage seemed to stop on cue and take notice of something unnatural or even more chilling. She always felt in tune with nature and paid close attention to the subtle cues.
Emily turned and made intense eye contact with Rick for a few seconds, acknowledged silently what they were about to do, then quietly they both moved in opposite directions, stealthily, closer to the house and into the unknown.
Wishing she had a machete to hack a direct pathway to the shack, Emily pushed the monster vines from her vision, craning her neck awkwardly to avoid a gigantic leaf ready to slap her across the face.
Rain droplets popped like sparkling jewels on many of the plants in the shaded areas. More showers threatened at any moment to wash away the remnants of the previous morning’s downpour.
Emily looked behind her, listening to the steady breathing of Rick through the headset as he hiked up behind the property. Neither of them were used to the high humidity of the islands.
“Everything okay?” She whispered.
“10-4.” Rick’s husky low tone assured her.
She couldn’t see him, but knew that he was working the perimeter of the property to gain a better vantage of the situation at a higher elevation. Her job mandated that she make a brief visual of the house and anything that looked suspicious or a possible place where the kidnappers would keep a child hostage. Whatever they found, they would report it immediately and anonymously to the local police.
That was the plan anyway.
The pungent smell of mold and deteriorating rubber masked the natural aroma of the outdoors. Numerous mismatched tires stacked in several piles, some taller than Emily, obscured her view. The ground sunk uneven in several places, Emily wished she had worn her hiking boots instead of her running shoes. Her feet felt wet and uncomfortable, undermining her steady balance.
She listened as she approached the house. It really wasn’t a house, but more of a makeshift cabin in the jungle. Emily moved in closer to get a better look at the structure. She slid along the back exterior wall where peeling beige paint chipped and shredded in moist, curled chunks.
A faint scraping noise stopped Emily dead in her tracks. At first, she thought it was something in the big palm trees around her, a bird maybe, but she concentrated on the location of the noise. Looking down toward the ground, she squinted her eyes. Along the area where the house was built up on a high foundation to prevent water damage from the heavy rains and floods, she saw tiny movement.
Emily thought her eyes were deceiving her, but then she saw it again. A tiny finger poked through the hole of the loose board followed by a terrified whisper. “Help me.” The finger disappeared.
Instantly, Emily dropped to her knees and peered into the crack leading to the dirt basement. “Cassie?”
A tired little voice replied. “Yes.”
Emily looked around to make sure they were alone. She leaned forward and said softly, “I’m here to help you. Stay put. Help is here honey. Just wait quietly, okay?” She ran her fingers around the loose board and wiggled the planks. The wood was old, but still stubborn under her strength. She would need some type of tool to wedge them loose.
“Please… hurry.” The little voice said.
Rick’s urgent voice crackled in Emily’s ear. “What’s happening?”
“I found her… back of the cottage in the basement.”
“Stay put, I’ll call in for backup.” A click ended the communication.
Emotion overwhelmed Emily. “Okay”, she managed to say. She knew that Rick would get the police and then he’d be at her side almost immediately. Together they would pry the wood loose and whisk Cassie to safety.
The boards were brittle as Emily leaned in and applied a little more muscle. The wood and nails creaked, squeaked a high pitch sound, and then moved slightly. The humidity took hold of Emily as she worked harder to free the little girl as a light mist floated down and attached itself to anything that wasn’t already wet.
Pain radiated through Emily’s body, shot down her arms and ricocheted up through her neck. Her breath caught in her lungs and she tried to overcome the heavy, humid air.
A muzzle of a shotgun pressed hard against Emily’s back.
A man’s voice ordered. “Get up.”
Tuesday 1145 Hours
Tall stacks of administration of justice textbooks covered the small desktop. The phone sat on the far left corner with one line lit up, blinking red. Pencils and pink message stubs divided into three piles of importance neatly arranged on the right side of the desk.
File folders topped the stacks to keep wandering eyes from viewing the actual book titles. Everything anyone wanted or needed to know about crime scene investigation, including evidence collecting and processing, proper investigative photographs, witness statements, and first responder responsibilities encased the volumes. Various neon sticky notes protruded from the tops and sides of the books marking important points to remember.
The rotation of the two ceiling fans kept a constant beat.
Four metal desks shared with detectives and patrol officers with equally uncomfortable chairs rounded out the small room housing the Kauai police department substation – unoccupied at the moment.
A small adjoining room proved just big enough for one administrative dispatcher who doubled as the records clerk. Nothing fancy, but basic amenities sufficed for the small law enforcement work force on the garden isle.
Sergeant Lani Candena flipped open his laptop computer, eyes serious and focused, smile forgotten as he cracked his knuckles one by one, and he waited for the operating system to boot up. The recognizable jingle welcomed him as the desktop icons popped into view. He sat for a moment looking at the folder that read: Working Investigations.
It remained empty.
He imagined the unobtrusive file folder full of working investigations, crime scene photos, statements, and persons of interest, but only in his mind.
Kauai had three homicide cases over the past ten years, but the perpetrators hadn’t received swift justice. The murderous trail had turned ice cold almost immediately – they were officially cold cases.
Lani clicked on his email – nothing interesting. The spam software apparently hadn’t been doing its job. He couldn’t get his mind on work; it was preoccupied with his application sitting in human resources at the Los Angeles Police Department.
Growing up in and around Honolulu made Lani even antsier to get to the mainland. Island fever raged inside him. He never fit in with the locals or even the small town police department being a half-breed, dad a native islander and mom from a small farm in Iowa.
There were cutting and hurtful names he had endured growing up, but none of them tainted his dream to become a cop. He spent the first eight years at Honolulu PD, but jumped at the chance to move to Kauai to catch drug dealers, solve a homicide or find a missing tourist. It plagued him daily as big dreams, but with little reality.
Lani’s thoughts of becoming a big city detective were interrupted as Faye bustled through the doorway of her small workspace. Her floral dress shifted on her robust body as she approached the sergeant’s desk. “Lani, here’s a message for ya. Seems some tourists have seen too many movies.”
Lani ignored the pink message note as it floated onto one of his textbooks. “Explain Faye.” He replied patiently.
Rolling her eyes dramatically, waving her arms as rolls of fat jiggled in progression, Faye finally spat out, “Some tourist called in to say that a kidnapped girl from the mainland was seen at a property over in the northeast area.”
Lani raised his eyebrows slightly, but showed no other emotion.
The jolly woman continued, “No one else is available to check it out because of those college kids up at Princeville causing a fuss.” She giggled at Lani’s subtle reaction, but she knew his moods well. “Looks like you’re it. Directions are on the message.” Faye returned to her desk, picked up the phone, and said in a sweet voice, “Kauai PD how may I direct your call?”
Lani picked up the message, quickly read it, and realized the cottage was near the Blackman’s property. It instantly piqued his interest. He knew that they were growing marijuana, but couldn’t catch a break for probable cause.
Maybe now he could?
The large clock on the wall read noon as the second hand slowly clicked away the time.
Food first and then check out the cottage?
Lani thought more about it… He had a large breakfast and lunch could wait.
He opened the bottom drawer of his desk and retrieved his service pistol, a Glock 19, and returned it to his holster on his side. It was the only time he actually felt like a sworn police officer – armed, ready to protect and serve. After shutting the drawer, he adjusted his gun belt against his dark blue uniform, grabbed the message slip, and left the office.
Faye gave him an absent, theatrical wave as his extremely tall, muscular frame disappeared out to the parking lot.
Tuesday 1205 Hours
“Who are you?” The man demanded with a slight British accent as he thrust the rifle harder into Emily’s back. “I said… who are you?”
Slowly Emily stood up straight, keeping her hands held high and in view, and assessed the situation. She turned to face her accuser. He stood tall, not quite six feet, blonde hair clipped meticulously, no facial hair or tattoos, and with the steely blue, dead eyes not likely to forget. He didn’t resemble most child abductors or predators, thought Emily. That observation unsettled her.
“I’m lost. I was out hiking and got completely turned around.” Emily tried to muster some tears with her sweet tone, even though she wanted to shove the rifle butt into his face dropping him to his knees.
The man didn’t blink. “What were you doing?” He gestured toward the bottom of the outside wall.
“What… what do you mean?” Emily wished that her headset was still active and that Rick could hear the conversation.
He took another step toward Emily and jerked the earpiece from her head, crushed it in his fingers and tossed it on the ground. He aimed the barrel at Emily’s face and motioned. “Move.”
With no other choice and to bide some time, Emily walked around the cottage and up a well-used path with uneven stepping stones.
* * * *
Rick tried to use the Internet and email from his so-called “smart” cell phone to get any other emergency services to listen to his request on the island about the little girl being held hostage. He tried the local FBI office and SWAT, but just got voice mail with the standard message.
Is it true that everything is slower and more laid back on the islands? Even a kidnapping?
He clicked the high-tech walkie-talkie back on. “Em, we have to go in without backup. Stay where you are.” He waited. “Em?”
That intuitive voice in his head kicked into high gear. He realized that Emily didn’t have her headset and he knew something was wrong. Now, his stomach churned through various layers of acids and knotted the abdominal muscles.
Rick took a higher path through the overgrown jungle, hiked for a couple of minutes, and doubled back to the house. The rain began to pour, warm and inviting, a strange contrast for any kind of weather.
Two large wooden boxes sat next to the house filled with garage items, lumber and spray cans.
He knew the routine as his mind ran through all of their covert investigations and all of the close calls they had together. The scenarios never failed him or kept his adrenaline from surging. It was the part he hated the most – the thought of losing Emily if something were to go wrong.
He pushed through more enormous plants and found himself on far side of the property just as Emily entered the house with a man that had a shotgun sighted at her head.
* * * *
Two tattered wicker chairs sat on opposite sides of the porch in front of two sash windows. The screens around the sitting area used to keep most pesky mosquitoes away had long since deteriorated, curled and ripped vertically from age and constant humidity.
First step, then the second onto the porch felt like a carnival fun house with sloping sides and uneven movement from the weight of two people.
The blonde man pushed Emily’s left shoulder with the barrel of the gun urging her into the house. The rickety screen door squeaked as Emily slowly pulled it open, it slipped slightly off at a strange angle due to neglect.
Darkness greeted her with an unknown agenda.
She contemplated her next move and waited for an opening to pounce – the sooner the better. The man didn’t expect any resistance from a woman who appeared submissive and frightened – all the classic victim behaviors that Emily was not.
The brightness outside wasn’t enough to overexpose her eyesight inside the cottage. The interior windows covered with heavy black drapes and lack of any luminescent made for a creepy entrance. Slasher movies with chainsaw murderers flashed through her mind.
The hair stood up on the back of Emily’s neck even before the pungent smell of old garbage, booze, and human body sweat hit her senses. The putrid odor kept increasing as she moved deeper into the living room and made her swallow hard to keep from gagging. She knew if she continued into the house it would be next to impossible to escape – too many unknowns not in her favor.
Elements of surprise slowed her pace. She counted down the seconds and inventoried the thrift store furniture consisting of a broken down couch with protruding springs, two overstuffed, mismatched chairs, and a small fold out table with two straight back chairs.
Pieces of mangoes, pineapples, and empty beer bottles covered the table; the fruit had turned dark around the edges allowing flies to feast on the blackened remnants.
“Company.” The British man announced as the screen door slammed shut behind them, the broken door still wobbled on its rusted hinges, squeaking for a few seconds.
Emily’s odds for escape now doubled with two people in the house, instead of just one man with a shotgun.
Her uncertainties now realized.
Small steps forward, left foot, right foot, then pivoting to the left and spinning around to face her attacker, Emily pounced on the man, pressed against him close enough to smell his sickly sweat, and shoved the shotgun upward blasting off a shot through the ceiling. Splinters and chunks of drywall sprinkled the living room like an early snow dusting of winter in the mountains.
The room echoed from the blast. A couple of seconds passed before the world had normal audible sounds.
Emily knew she couldn’t over power the man, but she used her quick self-defense moves to her advantage.
Momentarily stunned, the man blinked twice and before he could retaliate, Emily slammed the heel of her right hand into his face making direct contact with his nose. Blood instantly spurted from his membranes and she felt the slippery, warm liquid on her hand spattering her face and white t-shirt.
Rage and adrenaline pumped through her body and catapulted her forward as she landed a solid right hook on his jaw. He didn’t stand a chance and dropped to the floor. The shotgun flew, completing one full revolution, end over end, and rested next to the sagging couch.
Fighting the urge to kick his face repeatedly for what he had done to the little girl in the basement, Emily took a set of plastic zip ties from her pocket, rolled the bleeding man on his side, and expertly looped his hands. She pulled them tight – too tight. She didn’t care. He moaned, dazed by the blitz attack.
Just as Emily turned to find an entrance to the basement to find Cassie, a large, muscular man with dark tattoos that seemed to ooze around his grubby white tank top grabbed her by the neck and pushed her backwards onto the couch. Her fall wasn’t cushioned and she could feel every sofa steel spring jab into her back. Pain pierced her spine. The hulk of a man pressed his body against Emily and squeezed the air from her lungs.
He groped at her sides and her jeans in a frenzy of excitement.
She couldn’t move her arms or wiggle her body loose from his enormous weight thrust against her one hundred-fifteen pound frame. Slowly turning her head to the left, she saw the dark inked flesh of his right shoulder and sunk her teeth deep into the muscle. The powerful human jaw cut through soft tissue and then sliced through the muscle. He cried out in agony with an animal wail, retreating long enough for Emily to slide out from under him and hit the uneven wooden floor. Emily crawled toward the shotgun and prayed that it had another bullet in the chamber.
Before she could reach the gun, she was tugged roughly by her hair, dragged a couple of feet backward, picked up like a rag doll, and thrown to the floor on the other side of the room. The huge man with a long ponytail stood in front of the door blocking any means of escape for Emily.
Bleeding from his shoulder, red ooze seeped further down his shirt as he stood staring at her with a wide, terrifying smile on his face, reminiscent of the inbred family member intent on wreaking havoc on any unsuspecting visitor who happened upon their place in the woods. It piqued some type of sick, twisted game to him. He was oblivious to his partner lying on the floor whimpering softly and didn’t care if he were alive or dead. His focus was on Emily as his personal sadistic plaything until he killed her.
Not clear if he was a brutal psychopath or merely a caged wild animal that acted as the muscle partner in crime, Emily knew she was out manned, out maneuvered, and out gunned.
She stood up shakily and readied herself in a standoff against her opponent. Her options were to hope that Rick would rescue her, probably not going to happen soon enough, or hand-to-hand combat with an overdriven testosterone, dominated Neanderthal, which was highly unlikely, or plan three…
She tried to stand up straight to size up the fervent man as a sharp, searing pain exploded down the base of her neck to her lower back, like a lightening bolt, which caused her knees to quiver. Light headed with difficulty breathing, Emily remembered her early training at the police academy, which seemed like another lifetime ago. She kept her physical training updated even though she wasn’t a sworn police officer anymore.
She pushed off with her left foot and took three well-placed steps, covered her face leading with her elbows, and crashed through the single paned, sash window. She tucked and rolled at the perfect time, hit the catawampus porch, bounced once, and continued down the two stairs to the soft, reddish dirt of the island.
Continuing to roll to the side, she knew that the hulking man would soon be on her tail.
As Emily caught her breath and happy to see that her arms weren’t sliced to ribbons, she saw some familiar shoes approaching fast. She rolled onto her back to sit up just as the front door opened with a crash that ripped the screen entrance from its hinges.
A two-by-four swung through the air and made precise contact with the angry man’s chest, he dropped immediately to the ground with a dull thud that undoubtedly rattled his internal organs.
Rick stood over the large man with a satisfied look on his face, steadying himself for another blow if necessary.
The large man, face down, windless, remained knocked out cold.
Rick tossed the board aside and helped Emily up, gently touching her cheek and wiping her hair from her face. “You okay?” His eyes said more than his simple words.
“I’m fine.” Emily smiled as her body screamed in agony. “Let’s get these guys contained before the cops get here.”
Rick grumbled. “I don’t think they’re coming.”
“It’s different here.”
“What do you mean?” She said slowly.
“Island police protocol.”
“They didn’t believe you?” Emily looked surprised.
“It may be a while before the cops get here. Let’s get the girl to safety and leave the rest for the local cops to clean up.”
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