Written in the Stars
Fallen Eagles MC Series Book 2
Genre: MC Romantic Suspense
In the small town
of Golden Trail, PA, the Fallen Eagles MC isn’t just
any group of veterans. They’re patrons of the community, the
protectors of veterans and townsfolk alike, and a motley group of
world military-trained men and women. And their small town isn’t
afraid to call on the varied skills of this rough and ready crew to
help out on a case or two.
Summer brought us blackmail.
Winter will bring us murder.
With a Philly-based serial murderer on the loose, and the most recent
victim a member of their small town, the Fallen Eagles MC will deal
with one of the hardest cases they’ve ever encountered.
Davis “Eagle” Landon has given a lot for his country—an eye, a leg,
time with his kids. He’s retired now and as the owner of several
small businesses and the founder and President of the Fallen Eagles
MC, this former Texan has his roots firmly planted. He’s ready to
settle down again, and only one woman will do.
Winter is different. A bit of a loner. Quiet. Sarcastic. She’s also the
owner of the one and only full-service salon in Golden Trail and has
an amazingly supportive family and a close-knit group of friends who
love her for the odd woman she’s molded herself into. She still
feels like there’s something missing, though. As the youngest
Markham, she’s seen the many struggles her older sisters have
endured, and as much as the prospect scares her, she wants a love
that is all her own. The problem? Nosy sisters, a murderer killing
women who fit her description, and the guy she loves is a good twelve
years older and way out of her league.
Eagle and Winter have a tough road ahead, but what these two are about
realize is that not even death can separate two souls who are
f**cking written in the stars.
This book contains scenes of violence/sexual violence/gore
that may be difficult for some readers.
A Terrible Beauty
Fallen Eagles MC Series Book 1
In the small town
of Golden Trail, PA, the Fallen Eagles MC isn’t just
any group of veterans. They’re patrons of the community, the
protectors of veterans and townsfolk alike, and a motley group of
world military-trained men and women. And their small town isn’t
afraid to call on the varied skills of this rough and ready crew to
help out on a case or two.
Ten years ago, Kit Markham left her high school sweetheart, Lee
Devereaux, behind to serve her country. The woman who returns is just
a shadow of her former self. She might be the kickass Second of the
Fallen Eagles MC, but she’s also damaged—and it’s an unbearable
struggle at times, just to make it through the day. The only things
that help are her veteran MC, the Fallen Eagles, her family, and
long, quiet rides on the back of Lee’s bike.
Lee has his own share of war wounds, but none worse than the burden
taken on to see that the Kit he once knew finds herself again.
It’s been over two years since she returned home, and Lee still can’t
find the girl he once loved in the woman who’s become so lost. He’s
had it with being kept in the dark. He’s demanding answers—but
he’s not the only one who’s interested in Kit’s past.
When local soldiers, veterans, and their families start getting threats
from a team of blackmailers, Kit’s shocking history is revealed. A
twist that has Lee reeling and wondering if what they once had is
*Novella Length: 31,000 words
This book contains situations of sexual abuse/assault/war
violence that may be difficult for some readers.
Goodreads * Amazon
T. Birmingham believes words are our greatest form of magic. And making magic is what she loves best. But when it’s time to put the words aside, T. enjoys drinking whiskey with her tribe, eating pretzels with Nutella, watching and reading as many stories as she can, especially romances, and traveling wherever the wind takes her-sometimes all at once. She also loves a sturdy (but cute) pair of cowgirl boots, is hoping to one day build a log cabin with her Man Bear, and she writes mystery and suspense in the Paranormal, Contemporary, and MC Romance genres. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads
by C.M. Weaver
Genre: Psychological Thriller
psychological thriller inspired by true events.
Robert Collins is Portland’s best investigative detective. When the
Stevens family goes missing, he goes to work. As he uncovers clues
the family may have been targeted for a professional hit by organized
crime, it gets personal.
Too personal. Can he face down his inner demons before he loses
He confronts the mob and police bureaucracy to find the missing family.
Jake, partner and friend, thinks he’s spiraling into obsession, when
Robert’s taken off the case but refuses to give up the investigation.
Can he get past this shameless tragedy and his own past to move on with
Silent River is a fictionalized version of a real investigation in the late 1950s in
Portland, Oregon, a time when money and power ruled the city. This
story will appeal to fans of true crime and detective fiction alike.
Readers who enjoy Ann Rule, Rex Stout, and Mary Higgins Clark will
love CM Weaver.
Goodreads * Amazon
I live and work in the Pacific Northwest. I’m married and take care of a challenged rescue dog, Ariel. I love writing, but don’t write in one particular genre. I do gravitate more to mysteries as I’m always asking “What if?” Amazon * Goodreads
Detective Robert Collins absently swigged the lukewarm coffee that he’d bought on his way to work that
morning. A few officers sat at their desks. Monday mornings usually weren’t this quiet.
He pushed open the door to his office. He detested the institutional green walls. His desk was falling apart, no
matter how many times he nailed and glued the drawers back together. He threw his coat at the stand along
with his hat. It slid on the curled wood and stayed. The hat twirled but remained in its place. Robert didn’t
bother to watch as he sat the cup on the stained desk and gingerly sat in the wooden, rolling, office chair. It
hated him and had dumped him on the floor a few times.
His inbox overflowed with reports for follow-up and notes on cases he needed to read. There were times when
he wished he had a regular nine-to-five job, and this was one of those times. He’d pulled an all-nighter last
night, and the subject of the stakeout had played him like a cat with a toy mouse.
The sound of taps on leather shoes echoed as it moved toward his office. The announcement of Nate Polentti
was not a welcome sound to Robert. He cringed as the tapping stopped at his door.
“So, you and Jake got some “prime beef” last night.” Nate’s nasal tone grated on his nerves. “Why do you
guys seem to get all the bribes? Oh, that’s right, you two passed through the cleanup with flying colors. Makes
a person think now, doesn’t it? You made front page news. I wonder how my uncle, Chief Gilmore, is going to
take this.” Nate gave a dry laugh as he slapped the newspaper down in front of Robert. The tapping seemed
more pronounced as Nate walked away.
The paper unfolded, allowing Robert to see a large picture, above the fold, of an unmarked police car. The
driver’s arm rested on the frame of the open window. Thankfully, it was just an arm, he thought. He looked
closer at the grainy picture. The prime target of the photographer centered on the person in the background. A
white-jacketed waiter walked away from the car, balancing a tray that bore the remains of two sumptuous
The headline read: Are There Still Cops on the Take? The article stated that two police officers were seen
eating prime rib dinners provided by a known mob leader who had arrived in Portland to possibly open a
casino in the area.
The phone rang. Robert fumbled around under the paper until he found the receiver. He answered, not taking
his eyes from the article.
“Robert, we got a call for you to report to Stan.” The dispatcher gave the address. He pulled a pen and pad
from his pocket and jotted down the information. As if it were one complete motion, he jammed his long arms
into the sleeves of his coat, positioned his fedora over his dark blond crew cut, and hurried through the office.
In the car, he turned the key and pressed the gas pedal. He headed down Alder Street to Sandy. Following
Sandy Boulevard, the traffic kept him to the speed limit, and the drive to Fifty-Seventh Avenue took a little
longer than usual. He’d hit the end of the rush hour and everyone heading to work. He poked down the street,
looking for the address he’d been given.
The houses were well kept. Robert saw people milling on the sidewalks ahead and parked behind a squad car.
He looked at the situation and didn’t see anything that would need a gun drawn, so he got out and slid his hat
in place, running his fingers along the brim. He made his way through the crowd of people the officers tried to
keep on their front lawns.
“Hey, what’s happened?” a reporter called out. “Who’s missing?”
“Stan!” Robert called to a man just going up the front steps of the house.
“Took you long enough,” Stan taunted.
“Took you long enough to call. Couldn’t handle it on your own?”
“I thought you should earn some of those taxpayers’ dollars instead of just reading the sports pages at your
desk on Monday morning.”
“Yeah, well, thanks. What have we got here?” He followed Stan into the living room. A man and a woman sat
on the couch talking to one of the officers.
“This is Tom and Maggie Borman. She claims something happened to her brother and his family.” Stan
consulted his black book, “A Karl and Debra Stevens and their three girls. Mrs. Borman, this is Detective
Robert Collins. Would you tell him what you told me?”
Maggie Borman wore a beige sweater over a plaid shirt and pleated brown skirt. Her salt-and-pepper hair was
pulled into a French roll at the back of her head. She was in her late forties; her brows were furrowed over her
She wrung her hands as she talked. “I called yesterday afternoon to talk to Debra, but they weren’t home. I
kept calling until almost midnight. When I got up this morning, I tried again, but there was still no answer. We
came over here and because I have a key for emergencies, we went in to check. I didn’t find anything missing
or any reason they wouldn’t have come home last night.” Her voice broke, and she began to cry.
“Was the lock forced?” Robert asked Stan.
“No, and we couldn’t find any of the windows forced open either. Everything is locked up tight.”
“Can you give me their names, ages, and descriptions?” he turned to the woman.
“Karl Stevens is my brother; he is fifty-four. Debra, his wife, is forty-eight. Kelly is fourteen; Darla is twelve,
and Sara is ten years old.” Tom spoke the names while Maggie filled in the ages.
“Do you have any idea what they might have been wearing?” Robert asked.
“No, I can only guess. I know that Debra would have been wearing a dress, and the girls were probably
wearing pedal pushers, shirts, and maybe either a sweater or a jacket.”
“Is there anyone they might have gone to visit? Someone they spent the night with? There has been some
snow up the Columbia River Gorge.” Robert directed the questions, while Stan stood to one side looking at his
notepad and adding any details he hadn’t thought to ask.
Maggie shook her head. “They would have called me,” she muttered into her handkerchief.
When Maggie could not continue, Robert left them in Stan’s care and walked through the house. He watched a
team of men search for any clues. The house was clean, but the Sunday paper lay on the side table, as if Mr.
Stevens had just put the sections down after reading them. The comic pages had been divided, and some were
on the floor while others were folded on the coffee table.
The kitchen had been used, for breakfast dishes soaked in oily water.
He opened the fridge, but there was no roast waiting to be put in the oven. His mom liked to have a roast
cooking when they came home after church. He took a deep breath, remembering the smell that greeted the
family as they all trooped through the door after the church service. This family either ate before going to
church or didn’t go that Sunday. What would cause this family to skip church?
Taking a quick look in the bedrooms upstairs, he saw the parent’s bedroom. No clothes lying around; the items
on the vanity were lined up on the runner. A quick check in the closet revealed no suitcases; he’d check the
hall closet later. The next door down the short hall had the name “Kelly” written on a card tacked to the door.
Inside, there wasn’t anything out of place—too neat for a teenager. He stepped inside. The bed had perfect
hospital corners, the books so neat they were aligned by height. With his pen, he hooked the desk drawer and
pulled it open. All the pens and pencils were in neat rows, small to large, sharpened to a point.
He looked for any notes she might have left, but the notepad was blank. He would have the guys bag it and
bring it to him at the office, along with her schoolbag.
All the drawers held her clothes neatly folded in vertical stacks. Robert opened the closet door to see dresses,
blouses, and skirts hanging in even spaces. She must have been obsessive about her room, which wasn’t
normal in his book. He had no sisters, but he did have a brother who would sleep in and on his clothes. He
backed out of the door, taking one more look at the dresser, small desk, bed, and night table with a single
Two cards with “Sara” and “Darla” printed on them were stuck to the next door. The beds were made, but not
as neatly as Kelly’s. A wicker basket of folded clothes sat on each bed, ready to be put away. A bookshelf held
books and games stuffed haphazardly on the shelves, some of the pieces falling out of the half-closed boxes.
Schoolbags in this room peeked out from under the beds, nothing out of the ordinary.
He opened the last door in the hallway and found a stairway to the attic. A door at the top was closed but it
opened when he turned the knob. A bedroom. He sniffed. A boy’s room. Perhaps a boarder? A single bed with
a quilt over it, a short dresser, a chair, and an empty closet. He turned and went down the stairs. 6
Back on the main floor, he made a note that there was no sign of a struggle and no note left on the pad near the
phone or on the refrigerator, where most people would leave one if they were going out of town.
In the basement, he touched the sawdust furnace. Still warm, even though the fire was out. It must have been
going for quite a while before the fire died from lack of fuel. Robert judged it to have been out about four or
In the living room, the Christmas tree was decorated, a Santa suit lay neatly over a chair, and a bag of candy
canes lay right next to it. A few Christmas decorations adorned the windows. Probably done by the girls, he
thought. It was December 7, 1958, and Christmas was just around the corner. Not a time for a family to go
missing. The Bormans remained on the couch, watching the officers.
“Mrs. Borman, who else might have a key to the house?”
“No one that I know of, but anyone could get in, the back door is never locked.”
Robert frowned; he turned and walked back to the kitchen. Maggie stood and followed him. He stood looking
at the lock, a standard, turn knob with a button-slide, locking mechanism. Maggie reached past him toward the
knob. Robert pushed her hand down, intercepting her reach.
“What!?” Maggie gasped.
“Fingerprints. If this door is normally unlocked, someone locked it. We will need to fingerprint the lock. We’ll
need your prints to disqualify you, and we’ll have the others in the house. Anyone different, we will need to
question them. I’m sorry I startled you.”
He met Stan on the porch.
“What do you think?” Stan asked.
“Mrs. Borman said they never went anywhere overnight that they didn’t notify her first. It’s possible this
might be the exception. Let’s question the neighbors and see what comes up.”
“I have a team already on it, though we are shorthanded if you want to help out.”
“Always ready to help, after all, this could be my department—homicide.”
Robert talked to the occupants in the house next to the Stevens and one person across the street. None had seen
anything that morning or the day before. One family had been gone all day, and the other had sick children
and hadn’t been outside.
“Hey, Robert, the chief wants you in his office right away.” Deputy Nate’s grin almost wrapped around his
head as he made the announcement.
Robert ground his teeth and nodded at the young man. The kid must have his ear on the phone every moment.
At the office of Chief Arnold Gilmore, better known as Arnie, he rapped his knuckles firmly and waited for an
“Come in,” the gruff voice called out.
Robert opened the door, but the chief was on the phone. The man waved him to a seat across from him and
finished his conversation.
“Good to see you, Collins. What are you working on right now?” Chief Gilmore had a balding, round head
with a few wisps of white hair that grew near his left ear and were pasted across the top of his head almost to
his right ear. He had a barrel of a chest and a stomach that overshot his belt buckle if he had one on. He wore
wide suspenders that crossed over at his shoulder blades.
“The usual, sir. Following mob bosses who show up in our city and have to submit to their haranguing the
department to the media, who then make us look like fools.” He tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice,
but he was sure the irony was not lost on the chief.
Arnie laughed. “Yes, I saw your picture in the paper this morning. Was that your arm or Jake’s?”
“Don’t worry about it. The hoopla’s over. The man you were watching was here to put a deal together to buy a
plot of land on Sauvie Island. He planned to build a casino here. Wanted to build a little Las Vegas.” Robert
frowned and leaned closer to ask if that had happened. Arnie continued. “No, it didn’t happen. It’s rained here
for the past two weeks. The area he wanted to see is flooded with about a foot of water. He’d been heard to
say, ‘Who would want to live in this godforsaken place, much less want to visit here?’ He had his dinner
Sunday night with his boys and now is probably back in sunny Las Vegas.”
“For once, thank goodness for our rain.” Robert sighed.
“Yes, that might be true, but a casino would have brought in jobs and money to the community.”
Robert schooled his expression. He was against legalizing gambling. It was bad enough they had their own
little organized crime gang running the city.
“Jobs. Yes, we would have had to hire more men, build bigger jails, and then you would have another corrupt
department to clean up.”
This time Robert didn’t bother to hide his sarcasm. “Yes, we can be thankful that it isn’t going to happen. One
cleanup was enough. I never want to go through that again.”
Robert had just become a deputy when someone sent large envelopes to the governor, the Oregonian, and the
Journal. Inside were pictures, dates, and the names of cops who were on the take. The photos were so
incriminating that there was nothing left for the governor to do but initiate a city-wide sweep. There were still
officers and high officials who were on trial.
“Robert, I want you to work with Stan on this missing persons case. He specifically asked for you. You file a
report regularly. That’s all.” Chief Gilmore dismissed Robert.
Walking down the hall to his office, Robert glanced at the men working. He wondered what they thought
when they weren’t buried in police procedures. He’d felt some of their gazes as he passed them, conversations
that suddenly stopped or seemed to change.
After the chief called them all in for a meeting and said there were going to be changes, he’d been
apprehensive. He liked the chief and thought he did a good job. Then half the department disappeared. Older
officers retired early or asked for a transfer. Some were indicted with criminal charges and the few left, like
Jake Monroe, his friend, walked softly around some of those who remained. Not all of them agreed with the
chief but knew their jobs were a thin line from being terminated.
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Nothing About Us Without Us:
The Adventures of the Cartoon Republican Army
by David Perlmutter
Anybody who loves animated cartoons should be
interested in knowing the truth
about them. Which is that they have lives after the camera stops
filming, and pretty interesting ones at that. This book will give you
the truth about who they are and what they feel, direct from their
lips. Particularly about how the leaders of the world want them out
of the way, for good….
Goodreads * Amazon
David Perlmutter is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is the author of America Toons In: A History of Television Animation (McFarland and Co.), The Singular Adventures Of Jefferson Ball (Amazon Kindle/Smashwords), The Pups (Booklocker.com), Certain Private Conversations and Other Stories (Aurora Publishing), Honey and Salt (Scarlet Leaf Publishing), Orthicon; or, the History of a Bad Idea (Linkville Press, forthcoming), The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows (Rowman and Littlefield) and Nothing About Us Without Us (Amazon Kindle Direct Prime). His short stories can be read on Curious Fictions at Curious Fictions/David Perlmutter. He can be reached on Facebook at David Perlmutter-Writer, Twitter at @DKPLJW1, and Tumblr at The Musings of David Perlmutter (yesdavidperlmutterfan). Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Goodreads
It was footage from some sort of clandestine religious service. A Southern accented voice was
declaiming about how cartoon characters were an “abomination”, how they had “sinned” against the
world of the human beings, and how they and their works and deeds deserved to be “destroyed” to
protect the humans from any sort of divine retribution from occurring to them. Then the camera panned
over to a giant pile of TV animation DVDs, T shirts and other paraphernalia, which the Southern
accented man, a tall, gaunt and white bearded fellow, then proceeded to set on fire!
Lone Star Book 2
by Gerry Bartlett
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Scarlett Hall followed a job and a friend to Texas, but that cost her more
than she’d bargained for. Now, wounded but determined to get past
one of the worst days of her life, she decides she has to pull
herself together. First step: cover up the physical scars left from
her ordeal. That’s easy. But the emotional scars are proving harder
Then she meets Ethan
Calhoun. This bad boy seems ready to make his own changes and might
be just what she needs to start a new chapter in her life. When he
offers her a job as manager of his new bar, she decides to go for it.
A change of pace and a hot guy who makes her forget her troubles
while she’s in his arms are a great cure. But it soon becomes clear
that danger will be in Scarlett’s life no matter how many changes
she makes. As Scarlett comes face to face with her worst nightmare,
it seems happiness was just an illusion. Maybe Texas is just too much
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Lone Star Book 1
idea. A city girl in the
country. And a man who
brings out her wild side…
Anna Delaney is thrilled to leave Boston for Austin, Texas, when her
tech company is bought out by a conglomerate. Born into a family of
over-protective brothers, this is her chance at true independence—and
a name-making professional breakthrough.
Even when gorgeous billionaire rancher King Sanders forms a one-man
welcoming committee, Anna insists that she doesn’t need a tour
guide—or another bodyguard. But after she narrowly escapes a
kidnapping attempt, she can’t say no to King spiriting her away to
someplace safe…and very private.
Someone wants the valuable software Anna’s developing, and King is
determined to keep her safe until the culprit is caught. The hunky
cowboy lights her up brighter than the Lone Star sky at night, but
neither one of them is prepared for just how wild Texas can get—and
just how hard they’re willing to fight to stay together…
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Gerry Bartlett is a native Texan who lives halfway between Houston and Galveston. She has an antique business on the island and in Alvin. When she’s not treasure hunting, she loves heading to the Texas capitol of Austin where she attended the University of Texas. She’s managed to set most of her Real Vampires series there and now a new Lone Star Suspense series, coming in November. She also loves writing about her hometown of Houston in her contemporary Texas Heat series. She lives with Jet, a whippet, who keeps her company when she’s at the computer. Gerry collects cookbooks, but rarely cooks, and little boxes that she brings back from her travels. She also has a weakness for purses and posts pictures of her latest finds on Pinterest. When she has time, Gerry loves to read just about anything with a happy ending. Check out her reviews on Goodreads. This former elementary school teacher is lucky enough to have more than twenty published novels. You can read more about Gerry at http://gerrybartlett.com and sign up for her newsletter there for news and giveaways. There are also dozens of articles for aspiring authors on her website under the Perils of Publishing tab. Once a teacher, always a teacher. Whether it’s contemporary or paranormal, Gerry Bartlett writes romance with a Texas twist. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads
Breathe. Turn the lock. She flipped the dead bolt and waited. Someone jiggled the knob, but
it held. God. God. She sagged to the floor. Safe. Please let her be safe.
“Are you all right?” A man’s voice came from across the dark room.
No, she was not all right. What had she done? Locked herself in with him. Scarlett searched
for a weapon. Shit. She didn’t even have her shoes.
“Calm down. I’m not going to hurt you.” He was coming closer.
“That’s what they all say.” Scarlett jerked her cell out of her bra. She’d started keeping it
there after the attack. “Don’t come any closer. I’m calling 9-1-1.”
“And say what? That you broke into my bar?” He was too close. He hunkered down in front
of her. “Ethan Calhoun. How can I help you?”
“You own this bar?” Scarlett hit reality. Hard. He was right. What was she doing here? She
tried to catch her breath, her heart stuttering as she looked around. She stared at the long wooden
bar across the room as she tried to regulate her breathing. The room was empty except for the man
who just sat there, still too close. She wanted to shove him away. Common sense finally returned as
she gripped her phone and realized he wasn’t making a move, just staring. Of course, she was
“Yeah, I do. Something scared you. Do I need to go outside and kick some butt?” He still
Scarlett checked him out. Tall, good-looking, a little young, but not too young. He looked like
he could enjoy some butt kicking but would prefer something more civilized in his vintage rock band
tee and jeans. She waited, still breathing in and out, her heart finally settling down. If he tried
anything that screamed danger, she had her fingers on her phone. But he just sat there, patient and,
damn it, kind. She finally made a decision.
“You can buy me a drink.”
“That I can do.” He stood and held out his hand. “Usually, it’s no shoes, no service, but I’ll
make an exception if you tell me your name.”
“Scarlett Hall.” Scarlett took his hand and let him pull her to her feet.
“I have to warn you, I’m a head case right now.”
“Honey, I’m way too used to those.” He pulled her to the bar, then walked around and put
two glasses in front of her. “Name your poison.”
“Tequila. I’ve had a rough day. Rough month, rough year.” She sighed. “Told you I was
“Then you’ve come to the right place.” Ethan smiled and poured them each a splash of top-
shelf tequila. “I think I’ve lost my mind too. Never owned a bar before. Now here I am probably about
to lose my shirt. Moved to Austin because I loved going to college here. It’s a common thing with
Texas exes.” He picked up his glass, waited for her to pick up hers, then clinked it. “Here’s to crazy.”
“Crazy.” Scarlett threw back the shot. She wasn’t about to turn to alcohol to solve her
problems, but she liked Ethan’s smile and that was a start. She needed her purse and her shoes.
She had to go back and apologize to Casey. And she wanted that damn tattoo. She shook her head
when Ethan offered her a refill.
“No, I’ve got to go back next door.”
“To Casey’s? You getting a tattoo?” Ethan walked her to the door.
“If I can find my nerve.” Scarlett looked around. The only light came from the dusty windows
and a laptop on the bar. No furniture yet, so obviously he wasn’t ready to open.
“Want me to hold your hand?” He grinned.
Scarlett could imagine that. For the first time since the abduction, she didn’t want to throw up
a stop sign as soon as a man showed interest. And Ethan was definitely interested.
“No, thanks. This is something I have to do myself.” She handed him her phone. “Can I call
you if I need moral support?”
Love, Lies and Murder
by Leslie Wolfe
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Breathtaking suspense unraveling at train-wreck speed, in an
Sometimes the only way to do the right thing is
to break the rules.
Love, Lies, and Murder is a
collection of 19 short stories that explore the extremes of human
emotion and the conflicts that result. Every story will leave you
tense and breathless as the characters race to a conclusion that is
as unexpected as it is satisfying.
Intense and gripping, each
story features a hero that seeks justice and the triumph of good over
evil by whatever means necessary—regardless of what society’s
rules find acceptable.
The collection is taut, visceral, and
addictive. All the emotions we feel every day, when taken to their
extremes, offer a roller coaster of passion, conflict, and chills.
Nineteen droplets of
suspense in a thrilling anthology that will leave you unsettled,
longing for more.
David Baldacci, Robert Dugoni, and James Patterson will love reading
**Only .99 cents!!**Goodreads * Amazon
Leslie Wolfe is a
bestselling author whose novels break the mold of
traditional thrillers. She creates unforgettable, brilliant, strong
women heroes who deliver fast-paced, satisfying suspense, backed up
by extensive background research in technology and psychology.
Leslie released the first novel, Executive
in October 2011. It was very well received, including inquiries from
Hollywood. Since then, Leslie published numerous novels and enjoyed
growing success and recognition in the marketplace. Among Leslie’s
most notable works, The Watson Girl
(2017) was recognized for offering a unique insight into the mind of
a serial killer and a rarely seen first person account of his
actions, in a dramatic and intense procedural thriller.
A complete list of
Leslie’s titles is available at
Leslie enjoys engaging
with readers every day and would love to hear from you.
Become an insider: gain early access to
previews of Leslie’s new novels!
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for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!
He ran parallel with the train as fast as he could, reaching for the handlebar and trying to figure out how he
could hop inside, when the freight car was that high. It was above his waist level, and he needed to grab onto
something with both his hands and pull himself inside the car, if he didn’t want the risk of slipping under the
car and losing one or both of his legs in the process.
Freight train hopping was more difficult than he’d expected. He was almost out of breath and the train seemed
to move faster, catching speed, while the distance between his extended hand and the handle he was aiming
for increased inch by inch. At least that car had its door wide open and seemed empty. If he could only push
forward some more, gain up on the damn thing, come close enough to venture a foot up that step, while
grabbing onto the handle.
The train squealed and slowed down, as the tracks curved a little, and he pushed himself to run faster. Then he
lunged forward with the last drop of energy he had left, and grabbed that handle while his left foot found the
wide step underneath the car’s open door. His right arm flailed in the air, desperately looking for something to
grab, while his body was pushed backward by inertia. Then he felt a strong hand grip his right wrist and yank
him up forcefully. He landed face down on the car’s floor, while the same strong grip dragged him all the way
“A thing like that could get you killed out here,” he heard a man’s voice say calmly.
He looked up at the man who’d pulled him inside. He was young, barely twenty years old, if even. His face
was grimy, smudged with dust and sweat and dirt, and his clothes were nothing unexpected for a habitual train
hopper. His blue eyes were fixed on his Rolex, and he quickly covered it with the sleeve of his windbreaker.
Still panting hard, he pulled himself up to his feet and shook the young man’s hand.
“Thanks,” he said, “I appreciate it.”
“Huh,” the young man replied with a grin, dazzling white teeth sparkling against the grime on his face. “You
should.” Then he laughed, a quick laugh cut short by a few coughs. “You’re no train-hopper material, dude,”
he continued when he was able to catch his breath. “What, you got lost, or somethin’?”
“Nah,” he replied, still panting. “Just looking for someone.”
The young man whistled. “So, you got a place to live, and nice clothes, and food, but you hop trains for fun?”
“Not for fun, no. I’m looking for my brother,” he replied. “Someone said he might have been riding freight
trains through these parts of the country.”
The young man gave him a good look, head to toe, and he felt he was being evaluated. Maybe the kid was
thinking how much money he had on him, or if it was worth killing him. He held his gaze steadily, unafraid,
glad to feel the holster of his weapon tight against his ribs.
“Name’s Travis,” the kid said, extending his dirty hand again.
He took it and shook it firmly. “Jack.”
“Got some food on you, Jack?”
He hesitated a split second, then took out two of the chocolate bars he’d stuffed his pockets with before
leaving the city.
Travis took one carefully, almost as if he expected him to slap him or punch him or something. Then he
whistled again, and slowly unwrapped the bar, savoring the experience. Then he wolfed it down in two good
bites, chewed hastily with his mouth open.
“Umm, good stuff.”
Jack watched him eat and felt something tug at his heart. This kid was about the same age as Conrad, his
younger brother who had vanished almost two months ago. Conrad was going home from school one day, and
it was later than usual. He’d stayed at school longer, working in the lab with three other med-school students,
colleagues of his at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and those three students were the
last people to have seen him.
From the lab, he had to cross the campus and walk a few blocks through Streeterville, to the Brown Line train
station. From what Jack was able to deduct, it was already dark when Conrad had left the university about
seven, his banjo strapped on his back, and a small backpack in his hand. That’s the way his colleagues
described his appearance that day. He was his normal self, maybe a little tired after a long day studying
countless blood samples on the electronic microscope, and he’d told everyone he was hungry.
Then he vanished. When he didn’t come home that night, Jack had called the cops, but Conrad was an adult
and they weren’t going to open an investigation for at least twenty-four hours. His brother’s phone was going
straight to voicemail and, lacking any other means of investigating, Jack had gone to the university the next
morning. He talked with Conrad’s colleagues and heard that he had been in a good mood the day before, doing
his usual routine after lunch, when he sang a couple of songs in front of the building for his cheering
colleagues and passersby. There was no girlfriend who anyone knew about, nor did he seem disturbed by
anything. He’d just left the night before, going home, as he normally did.
Only he’d never made it home.
Jack retraced his steps, with the help of a couple of students who’d walked to the Chicago/Franklin Brown
Line with Conrad before, and knew which side of the street he liked to walk on, and where he usually stopped
for a snack before hitting the train station. He walked the same street, by the ballpark, carefully observing
every detail, yet almost missed the white wood shards that littered the street corner, next to some tangled,
coiled banjo strings.
When he realized what those were, all the blood rushed to his chest and his heart thumped heavily, as if
fighting to escape his chest cavity. He dropped to his knees next to the scattered pieces of wood, and took one
in his hand, gently running his fingers over the glossy finish. Then he crouched lower, looking under the
nearby trash can and saw a photo, barely showing from underneath some street litter. He grabbed it with two
fingers and held his breath. He already knew what it was, an old photo of Conrad and him, when they were
much younger, taken the day Jack had bought Conrad the banjo.
That day Jack had taught him how to play it, and Conrad, a talented guitarist and a natural for anything with
strings, was playing the theme song from Doctor Zhivago before the end of the day. Not perfectly, but it was
recognizable, and soon thereafter it was better, the twangy sound of the banjo warm and full under his fingers,
sounding more and more like the balalaika in the original theme song. Since that day, Conrad had kept their
picture tucked inside his instrument’s pot, taped in place with a piece of transparent adhesive tape still clinging
to the photo in Jack’s hand.
He moaned loudly when he noticed the bloodstain on the photo, and, as if living through a nightmare, he heard
one of Conrad’s colleagues make a 911 call.
Nothing happened after the cops came; nothing useful anyway. Yeah, they’d confirmed the blood on the photo
was his brother’s. But that’s where the trail went cold, despite countless video cameras scattered in the area,
and endless interviews with pedestrians whose normal commute took them along the same street at about the
same time of day. Then they speculated Conrad might be dead, a John Doe in some morgue, or an amnesic lost
somewhere in the hospital system. But they couldn’t find him anywhere, not in any morgue or hospital.
Jack didn’t trust the police would do a good enough job. Per their official statement, they didn’t have anything
to go on. No other evidence, no body, no witnesses. Instead, they had countless crimes happening in Chicago
every day, so many they were overwhelmed with work and unable to continue pursuing a case that had gone
cold that quickly. But Jack didn’t give up. He took the rest of the semester off, leaving his students in the
capable hands of a colleague, and took to the streets, determined to find out what happened to Conrad. He
talked to people, and spent day after day at that street corner, with Conrad’s photo in his hands, showing it to
He was about to give up, defeated, although he still dreamed at night that his brother was out there
somewhere, waiting for him, needing his help. But he’d already spoken with everyone, and he recognized
almost all the people who commuted on that street on a daily basis. He kept going to that street corner though,
as he’d done every day for the past month, and showed Conrad’s photo to anyone willing to take a look. More
and more people threw sympathetic, sad glances his way, while slowly shaking their heads; no, they hadn’t
seen him. Not then, not since.
Until one day, he found a homeless woman at that street corner, going through the trash can with shaky
fingers. She stared at the photo for a long time, then said she must have been mistaken, because the man she’d
seen still had his banjo. It was banged up, but the man still played, mostly at night, riding the freight trains.
She’d seen him on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail, headed south, like many others, fleeing the cold and
bitter wind of Chicago winters. Or maybe it was Union Pacific? She didn’t remember. Probably he was going
to California, but she wasn’t sure; the man she’d seen didn’t talk. He just played sad songs, she’d added, some
reminding her of movies she’d seen, many years ago when she still was somebody who had a life.
Now, looking at that kid munching on the second chocolate bar, he only hoped that someone out there had
shared their food with Conrad, wherever he was.
“So, who you’re looking for?” Travis asked, wiping his mouth with an off-brown sleeve.
Jack took out Conrad’s photo. “This is my brother; his name is Conrad. He disappeared from Chicago, two
months ago. Have you seen him?”
Travis smacked his lips and sucked his teeth. “What if he don’t wanna get found, huh? Man’s got the right to
roam free, ya know.”
“If I find him and he tells me to get lost, I will,” Jack said. “Have you seen him?”
Travis thought for a while, biting his lower lip. “I should be smarter than this and milk you of some cash, but
you’re an okay guy. No, I haven’t seen him, but train beaters barb about some guy playing a banjo on them
“Where? When?” Jack asked, suddenly invigorated.
“On the UP lines, mostly, back and forth from California. It’s like the man doesn’t wanna get anywhere; just
wants to ride. Maybe he’s a gypsy, not like you and me. But that’s just what I heard tramps talk, that’s all. I
haven’t seen him.”
“What the hell is a UP line?” Jack asked, frowning impatiently.
“Union Pacific, man. You gotta learn your trains if you want a future that don’t end up in the big house.”
Jack scrambled to the car’s open door, looking outside as if getting ready to jump off the train.
“Whoa, hold it; you’re on a UP train now. Relax.”
He still stared into the darkness of the moonless night, letting the wind cool off his burning face. One second
his heart swelled with hope, and then next it dropped to the abyss of despair. How was he going to find Conrad
among so many trains, going in all directions? He could spend years searching and not find him, passing him
in the night without even knowing.
Then he turned toward Travis, a glimmer of renewed hope glinting in his eyes. “Will you help me? I got
money. I got more in the bank. I just want to find him.”
Travis stared at him for a long moment, then muttered, “Uh-huh, it’s not like I got any prior engagements, if
you know what I mean,” he laughed, then coughed some more. “Get some sleep. We’ll need to change trains,
hit the California line.”
Jack sat on the dirty floor, leaning against the car’s rusty wall, and tried to doze off but couldn’t. The train was
going faster, rattling and chugging rhythmically against the tracks. Then it slowed and pulled into a side line
where it stopped with a long, screeching sound of iron against iron.
“Uh-oh,” Travis said, jumping to his feet. “Not good. Bulls might come.”
Travis rolled his eyes. “Bulls, as in railroad cops. They catch us here, we’re screwed.” He leaned outside,
checking the surroundings. It was quiet and dark, nothing moved.
“Ah, we’re cool,” he said, “we’re on a branch line. They’re keeping us parked here until another train passes
us by. We’re low priority,” he scoffed, “we’re unimportant. What else is new?”
Then he curled on the floor, hands folded under his head in a makeshift pillow. “Great time to nap,” he
muttered, half-asleep. “It’s quiet for a bloody change.”
He followed suit, but only leaned against the car wall as he’d done before; he couldn’t bring himself to put his
face on that grungy floor. The long hours caught up with him, because he dozed off without even knowing it.
He dreamed of his brother, playing the banjo, and sometimes singing with it, although he always thought his
voice didn’t reach the skill of his fingers. But whenever music transported him, he added words and vocals to
the instrument, and Jack loved the end result, although Conrad didn’t always. Then the sound of a chugging
train overlapped, almost drowning the banjo chords, and his eyes opened wide. He lunged to the door and held
There it was, faint, disappearing with the passing train, the sound of a banjo in the darkness. Without thinking,
he got off the train and started running to catch the other one, his feet unstable against the loose ballast. He
didn’t care, and he forged ahead, clinging to the sound of that banjo as if it were a lifeline. Then he heard
Travis behind him, coming fast.
“Move it, if you wanna catch this one, it’s a dicer! Move your ass!” he yelled, and slapped his back as he
passed him. He was younger, taller, faster, all helpful traits with train hopping.
Travis got his footing on a car and pulled himself inside, then yanked his arm and Jack let himself be pulled
up, flailing desperately until he landed on the dirty floor of a freight car covered in loose straw that stunk of
cow dung. But he didn’t care; if he listened hard enough, somewhere under the chugging noise of the train, he
could still hear the sound of the banjo.
“How do we get to him?” he asked, as soon as he could catch his breath.
“Ever been on a train car before?” Travis asked. “On top of it?” he added, gesturing with his finger.
He shook his head.
“It ain’t that hard, I’ll teach you,” Travis said. “Let’s wait until we clear the branch line. Someone might see
Jack looked at the kid with unspoken gratitude. He could’ve robbed him by now, taken his money, his cards,
and his watch, or just killed him altogether. Instead, the kid was helping him, without asking for anything in
“What’s your story?” Jack asked. “How come you’re here?”
Travis smiled crookedly and turned away a little. “It was either this, or the system. My mom died, and they
came to get me. My foster family was crooks, really bad people. I couldn’t stay.”
“How old are you?” Jack asked.
“Almost eighteen,” Travis replied. “Soon I’ll be able to do something other than ride these trains. Don’t know
what, and don’t know how, but at least they won’t chase me no more.”
Slack-jawed, Jack found himself at a loss for words. He worked with young people, he was used to seeing
them in school, clean and fed and loaded with attitude, texting and laughing and undisciplined. He wasn’t
prepared to see someone so young battle life on his own like that, starving on a train.
“Let’s get going, we’re good now,” Travis said. “This cannonball’s slowed down a little.”
He led the way, demonstrating skill and athletic dexterity in getting them to the end of the car, then on top of
the next car. From there, knees shaking worse than they’d ever done, Jack crawled on all fours behind the
daring, young boy, who walked the train upright, wind in his face, unafraid as only teenagers can be.
As they got closer to the engine, the sound of the banjo grew louder, clearer, and Jack started to recognize
some of the songs his brother used to play. Energized, he felt his fear vanish, and came down from the car’s
rooftop like a pro, imitating all of Travis’ moves without hesitation. Then Travis pulled open a panel, and they
entered the car where the banjo sounds were coming from.
It was dark, and the open side door only let occasional, distant light come in. The man didn’t stop playing
when they entered, and didn’t look at them. He continued to play, his fingers comfortable and accomplished
on the strings. Jack approached him, holding his breath.
“Conrad?” he called, but the man didn’t stop playing.
He stared at the man and didn’t recognize his brother. It was dark, and the man wore an unkempt beard that
could have been growing for about two months. His clothes were so grimy, he couldn’t tell if they were the
ones Conrad had last been seen wearing. Jack resigned to listen,crouched on the floor next to the man, not
daring to breathe. Soon a new day would break, and he’d know.
When the early light broke through the panels of the freight car, the man laid his banjo on the floor and closed
his eyes. Jack searched the man’s face, looking for a familiar trait, and couldn’t be sure.
“Conrad,” he called again, quietly. “It’s me, Jack,” he said, touching the man’s arm.
The man kept his eyes closed, as if sleeping.
“May I?” Jack asked, gesturing toward the banjo, but the man didn’t say anything and didn’t open his eyes.
He took the banjo gently and started playing “Lara’s Song,” the theme music from Doctor Zhivago. In his
hand, it sounded weird, almost unrecognizable; he’d never had Conrad’s talent, only schooling. Note after
note, the music came back to him, and his playing became stronger, more confident, and more recognizable.
When he started playing the unmistakable chorus, the man’s eyes opened, and in those green irises Jack
recognized his brother. He smiled and continued playing, hoping Conrad would say something, but he
remained quiet. He watched Jack play the entire song, his eyes speaking volumes, but his words absent.
Then Jack set the banjo down and took out the photo. Conrad looked at it without a sound, but after a while, he
took it and tucked it inside his banjo.
“Yes, yes,” Jack exclaimed, “that’s us, Conrad. You and me.” Whatever had happened to his brother, there
was still a part of him left intact, buried deep inside that man, and that part would guide Conrad home, just as
it had helped him find another banjo to replace the broken one.
The train screeched and stopped, and Travis quickly pulled the door shut. “Trouble,” he said. “Be quiet. We’re
in a big station; I believe it’s Yuma.”
“Good,” Jack replied, and helped his brother to his feet. “We’re going home. Come on, Conrad, let’s go.”
He pulled the car door open and jumped off, then Travis handed him the banjo and helped Conrad down. The
kid’s eyes were hollow, and his lower lip trembled a little. Jack took his hand to his pocket, and then changed
“You too, kid.”
Travis stood there, in the doorway, staring, stunned.
“Yeah, you’re coming home with us. Come on, it will be fun to have another brother. We might even teach
you how to play the banjo.”