What a perfect read for the spooky season! Congratulations to T.J. Eckhart on the release of her magical Urban Fantasy novel, True You 101!
Read on for an exclusive excerpt and book details!
True You 101
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Liminal Press
If one class during high school could help you become the person you were meant to be, would you take it? At the Reinholdt Institute of Sortilege Arts, sophomores are required to take True You 101 no matter whether they live in the mortal or magical realm. Over the course of a year, each student must confront all possibilities until their outer form matches their inner self. Blake Trudeau has always just wanted to be normal and hopes the class will make that a reality, but will the final spell conjure Blake’s fondest wishes or worst nightmares?
In the mundane world of Collegiate Academy, where everyone in New York City thinks I go to school, Professor Russo’s course would be called Human Sexuality. Here at the Reinholdt Institute of Sortilege Arts, the course is called True You 101. It’s the most loved and hated course of the sophomore year.
I look at the textbook, similar to the school journals, because each copy will be blood-bound to one student. The magics we’ll be working with can track our progress, our changes, and our reactions on physical, emotional, and mystical levels. However, professors, tutors, and even administration can read it at any time. At the end of the course, the books erase and reset for the next year.
How do I know? I read all the materials my uncle gave me about this place at the end of eighth grade, when Grandmother informed me that I needed to leave the private school in Brooklyn and attend a magic school in Manhattan. My family taught me that the best way to keep a secret from the mortal world is to learn everything about it. I read, watch, and listen to everything I can get my hands on. I study things that not even my family knows about, and certainly not anyone at school. I once thought about telling Seb, but I’m worried that he’ll be afraid of me, as I am of myself most days. I’m grateful when the professor speaks up again, because it disrupts this distressing line of thought.
Since 1995, TJ Eckhart’s fiction and non-fiction work has been challenging readers to look at themselves and their world through a different lens. True You 101 continues Eckhart’s challenge to reimagine a magic world colliding with the mortal one in regard to our true nature, one that rejects either a reversal or continuation of our everyday biases in favor of the more realistic complexities of what such a realm might be like. If you’re willing to risk opening up your mind, you may find Eckhart’s worlds opening up your heart as well. You may find her via her email (email@example.com), on her main website (https://www.tammyjoeckhart.com/), or join her adventures on Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/tammyjoeckhart).
Jack Galloway has had enough of life and is chasing a high he just can’t seem to find. Upon meeting with a drug dealer from his school, he is given some mysterious, bean-shaped pills that just so happen to be nothing but beans. However, Relatively Normal beans do not grow miles and miles into the sky overnight, drawing attention from everyone around and destroying the very idea of reality on Earth.
Now, in order to restore his Relatively Normal world, Jack must embark on a
mission with a girl he barely knows from high school, Red Crawford, who just
so happens to be the only one he knows who has encountered a tear in the
non-magical reality they live in.
The beanstalk, too tall and too wide to climb, leads them down a rabbit
hole to the strange and nonsensical Underland, where they must go through
insane trials in order to reach the answer to their problems — the Giants,
magical creatures who live in Overland and can rid the Relatively Normal
world of that pesky beanstalk. However, the beanstalk and its effects on
reality might just be the least of their worries when they reach the dark,
“You’re not looking in the right place,” the voice said again. It was distinctly male, although it didn’t necessarily sound human. It was soft and silky, almost like a purr.
Jack frowned, looking all around him, and jumped so hard he crashed into Red when he saw a pair of yellow eyes and a wide, ridiculous smile with pointed fangs on top of the hedge. Slowly, a fuzzy face started to materialize around it, and then a long, thick body and a fluffy tail. A cat, although it didn’t look like any cat Jack had ever seen before. The smile was all-knowing, mysterious, and unnerving. The fur was striped bright blue and dark purple. It studied them with eyes that seemed to peer right into their souls.
“Could you help us find them then?” Jack asked, then rolled his eyes. He couldn’t believe he was talking to a cat, and almost without hesitation. He was starting to think he might be losing his mind.
“I mean you’re not looking in the right place for your question.” Somehow, it seemed as if the cat’s eyes had grown larger. He sat up, tilting his head to stare at them, and began to lick his paw.
Jack looked over at Red, but she appeared just as confused as he felt. His skin prickled in fear as Red said, “Question? What question?”
“I don’t know,” the cat purred. “You tell me. I know you have one. I see it all over your faces. I just know the answer isn’t here. Not with me, not with the queen.”
“Yes. The Queen of Hearts.”
About the Author
Mikaela Miller has not exactly found her place in the world yet, and she’s still trying to understand herself, so there’s not much to say. She loves writing, memes, her friends, and her fur children. She is currently living the small town life but has high hopes of moving to a big city to live out her dreams one day. She loves the darker side of all fairytales and has recently discovered a love for horror novels. This book idea came to her in a dream, as many of her strange ideas do, and she hopes for a bright future as she delves further into her characters’ lives. One day, she would like to be able to rescue lots of homeless animals and be the crazy old cat lady down the street.
A simple missing persons case gets complicated for an L. A. private investigator.
When two young Kardashian-like sisters, Brentwood debutantes, go missing, their father calls in Malone to find them. The client, the ultra-wealthy owner of Los Angeles’ largest luxury car dealership and a candidate for the L. A. city council with a trophy wife half his age, can’t imagine where his daughters have gone. Malone embarks on what he expects to be a routine missing persons gig, a simple bread and butter case for a gumshoe, but things get complicated. After Malone interviews one of the missing girl’s close friends, she inexplicably commits suicide. Next, there’s a mysterious murder. He uncovers hints of blackmail. Once again, Malone must descend into the seedy underbelly of the City of Angeles in his quest to find the missing young women and get the answers to some very pressing questions.
Other Books in the The Malone Mystery Novels Series
A call to unite. A search for truth. Two superhuman teens running from the law…
Paradise, Texas. Fourteen-year-old Carmen isn’t sure what happened to her mother; one day she’s helping cook dinner, but the next day, her mother’s missing and Carmen’s fleeing for her life. Burdened with anger that interferes with her unusual power, she takes to the streets with the only clue her mother left behind. But when she encounters a stranger picking through her belongings, she finds herself in a life or death situation.
Seventeen-year-old Simon survived a tragedy he doesn’t remember; he doesn’t know how or why he’s on the streets. So when his physical needs overtake him, he’ll do anything to satisfy them, including scavenging a homeless den. And when he discovers a drawing on the cardboard ceiling, it sparks a memory that compels him to help the owner.
But with danger lurking in every alleyway and one clue to lead the way, they may not succeed…
Can Carmen and Simon discover how their mutual clue connects them before her mother’s life is taken?
The Gifted Ones The Lost Prince is the exciting final book in The Gifted Ones superhero fantasy trilogy. If you like young heroes, realistic settings, and stories of adventure, then you’ll love PG Shriver’s third book The Lost Prince.
Buy The Gifted Ones The Lost Prince to unlock the superpowered ending today!
Other Books in the The Gifted Ones Trilogy:
The Gifted Ones, Book 1
Publisher: Gean Penny Books
Published: June 1, 2020
San Antonio, Texas. Thirteen-year-old Cheater isn’t sure how she ended up wanted for murder. Burdened with a power she doesn’t understand, that’s triggered by a creeping darkness she can’t remember, she’s both saved and taken lives. But when she makes a vigilante move to stop a mugging, she encounters a boy who might be the key to cracking the mystery of her strange gift.
Fifteen-year-old Jaz has survived too many tragedies to stay on the right side of the law. So when his small gang’s robbery gets interrupted by a teenaged fugitive, he’s perplexed by her act of heroism. And when he discovers they’re both connected to the same mysterious fairytale, he feels drawn to her quest for answers.
But with danger lurking around every corner and the police hot on their trail, they may not even make it past the city limits…
Can Cheater and Jaz discover why Fate linked them together before they land behind bars?
The Gifted Ones Paradise Rising is the captivating first book in The Gifted Ones pre-superhero fantasy series. If you like smart heroines, gritty settings, and stories of hope, then you’ll love PG Shriver’s emotional tale.
An unusual ally. A destined dream. Two superhuman teens hiding from the law…
Godley, Texas. Fourteen-year-old Nathan isn’t sure how the girl in his dream knew to warn him. Burdened with righteous anger, and past events that put him in the wrong place at the wrong time, he’s ready to avenge the tragedies he’s left behind. But when a lost girl in the woods demands his help, he finds himself in another sticky situation— a dead body, a familiar face, and a secret that might be key to deciphering the dream.
Seventeen-year-old Rebecca survived a tragedy that’s kept her locked away in fear. So when she flees for her life and crosses paths with a guy in the woods, she uses her power to push through his anger for help. And when she discovers their connection to the same mysterious girl, she is drawn into his heroic quest for revenge.
But with a sheriff hot on their trail and two strangers breaking into their safe haven, they may not even make it out of the city…
Can Nathan and Rebecca discover why Fate drew them together before the sheriff locks them up?
P.G. Shriver holds a Masters in Education, a Bachelors in English and is currently retired from teaching. Shriver writes from her country home in Texas. She lives with her family among three Great Pyrenees, an eighty-five pound Chihuahua, four horses, six cats and many of my favorite books from various genres, seventeen of which are her own published works, seven picture books for children, five first reader chapter books, and five middle grade-young adult novels. Somewhere in the menagerie is my retired husband who enjoys his role as sounding board.
FBI Agent Joseph Trammell retires to a beachfront home on a Georgia island.
Six months later, PI Red Farlow finds him dying in a pool of blood. Someone shot him four times. Five shell casings litter the floor. Drops of blood lead out of the house and onto East Beach on St. Simons Island. Red sets out to find out who killed Joe Trammell and why.
Did the local drug and arms smuggler hire a hit? And who caught the fifth bullet?
Farlow wades into the murky water of intrigue, conflicting love affairs, and danger as he tracks down the killer. It’s not exactly a relaxing day at the beach.
About the Author
W.F. Ranew is a former newspaper reporter, editor, and communication executive. He started his journalism career covering sports, police, and city council meetings at his hometown newspaper, The Quitman Free Press. He also worked as a reporter and editor for several regional dailies: The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, The Florida Times-Union, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Ranew has written two previous novels: Schoolhouse Man and Candyman’s Sorrow. He lives with his wife in Atlanta and St. Simons Island, Ga.
Science fiction and fantasy, Paranormal, Christian
Date Published: July 21, 2020
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
CAN CHOICE EXIST WITHIN THE CONSTRAINTS OF A PROPHECY?
Angelika Juris unexpectedly becomes legal guardian to her sister’s rejected child, Dani… a child with the potential to develop supernatural abilities.
After witnessing a horrific event, Dani develops mental health issues, but is able to overcome her inner turmoil through treatment and her parents’ love. Their lives fall into a comfortable routine filled with dance classes, sleepovers, and video game marathons.
Until the accident.
At the age of thirteen, Dani is involved in a tragic highway disaster, and as a result of her injuries, her powers manifest. Afraid to tell her parents about her newfound abilities, and even more afraid of harming them, Dani is lured away to find her estranged mutant brothers, seeking answers about her origins and how to control her new power.
Guided by an amulet and map—a gift sent from her brother, Tomas Scholz—Dani embarks on an adventure where she meets a young boy, Jonathan. He is lost, with no memories of his identity, his family, or his home. With nowhere else to turn, Jonathan joins Dani on her quest, and together they battle pirates, the undead, and finally, her evil family—a family that is a far cry from what she expected.
Will Dani deny her destiny and resist the evil plans of her siblings, or will she succumb to her role in fulfilling the prophecy—being the path and the key—that ends in the fall of mankind?
The next day, Ang was showered and dressed in beige slacks, a white lace blouse and a powder‑blue scarf by eight o’clock in the morning. Not only did she have a funeral to plan, having an appointment with the Lakehead Funeral Home scheduled for later that afternoon, but most importantly, they had their first family therapy appointment at nine o’clock.
“Anthony, time to get up.” Ang nudged the mound of snoring covers as she left the bedroom and crept up the stairs to Dani’s room. The door was ajar.
Dani always insisted on sleeping with her door closed. Ang suddenly had an overwhelming sensation that something was wrong. Fear dampened her skin.
“Dani?” she called out before entering the darkened room.
The butterfly comforter was rumpled and thrown aside in a heap. The bed, empty.
“Dani!” Ang hollered, looking around the room and finding it vacant. Sprinting down the hall to the bathroom, she found it, too, was empty.
“Dani!” Ang yelled. Why wasn’t Dani responding? Surely, she could hear her, no matter what part of the house she was in. Frantic now, Ang scrambled back down the stairs, hair on end, muscles tense.
Anthony, hearing his wife’s screams, met her at the base of the stairs.
“It’s Dani. She’s not in her room.” Grabbing Anthony’s forearms, she desperately searched his eyes, “Have you seen her?”
“No, not since last night,” he replied. “Where would she go? She hasn’t left her room in days. Relax Angel, she’s in here somewhere.”
“Or Tomas has her.”
“We can’t jump to conclusions. We’ll find her…don’t worry.”
Together they scoured the upstairs, looking behind sofas, in closets, Anthony even running outside and checking the backyard behind the bushes where Dani had hidden before.
One place remained unsearched. The basement.
Dani would never go down to the basement. The child had been so terrified of Ronnie, it hadn’t even crossed Ang’s mind to look there, but they had run out of other options. Unless Dani had left the house, it was the last place she could be hiding.
Stumbling down the stairs, legs weak from fear, Ang then entered Ronnie’s room. It had been ages since she had gone down there, hadn’t even bothered to clean up after her ever since she discovered Ronnie was using drugs. Denial? Perhaps. Even when the police searched the house, Ang had remained upstairs. She knew eventually she would have come down to pack up her sister’s belongings, but procrastination had set in. The task too difficult to withstand just yet.
She was immediately accosted by the smell of her sister, and although stale and sour it sparked childhood memories…back to times when they were less hateful toward each other.
Ang flicked on the light. She didn’t see Dani at first. A heap of unwashed blankets blocked her view. Then she noticed a little pink slipper poking out. Dani’s foot? Her heart dropped out of her chest.
About the Author
Lanie Mores has her Honours Bachelor of Science Degree and a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology and is a certified hypnotherapist and personal trainer. She lives in Ontario with her husband, son, and forever barking fur babies, Batman and Petri. Sea of Forgetfulness follows Father of Contention and the award‑winning Guardian of Angel in a four‑part series.
While working independently as a pre-med student at Cleary University, the soon-to-be physician, Mary Austin, discovers a remarkable, non-toxic drug that could offer tremendous hope to cancer patients. Her work is headed for publication in a top medical journal until a drug company begins negotiations with her bosses from which she is mysteriously excluded.
Amid egregious sexual harassment, Mary’s materials are blatantly sabotaged.
As death threats follow and her work becomes impossible, she is accepted at
Whitehead College of Medicine despite evidence that her bosses tampered with
her application process. After becoming a pediatrics resident, she shares
her story with her beloved mentor, Dr. Daniel Taylor, who allows her to
temporarily leave her residency training to reproduce the work. Her joy
turns to sorrow and then determination when she learns that Dr. Taylor is
battling terminal pancreatic cancer. Even as a chain of events prompts the
sabotage of Mary’s drug stock and leaves her seemingly without any choice
but to permanently leave academic medicine, the story of her drug is not
In this novel inspired by a true story, after a young cancer researcher
discovers a breakthrough drug that could change chemotherapy, the drug
industry suppresses the breakthrough and transforms her life and career
The Camera Aversion of Scientists
If you want to see a lab empty out like the place is on fire, get a camera.
Almost everybody who works in labs is camera shy. This can be a problem if
you’re in that large majority and land in a prominent lab where the
university (or even local media crews) might be around on a regular basis
depending on what’s been discovered. These poor guys, who are just
trying to do their jobs, want to film scientists doing science, but the
problem is that almost all of the scientists want to run away.
One postdoc I remember even hid in the lab’s “hot room”
to avoid a news crew. That’s the term for the room where all the
radioactive materials are stored— very safely, really; there’s
little to no risk to going in that room despite its off-putting appearance.
The university’s radiation safety staff inspects those rooms
regularly, and nobody’s allowed in there without knowing what
But the door has those giant radiation warning signs on it, and my
colleague correctly guessed that the camera people sure as hell
wouldn’t follow him there.
…That guy in the hot room stood around for almost an hour with
nothing to do, until he was sure the crew was gone. Having successfully
avoided appearing in the video, he went back to work and faced nothing but a
bit of ribbing from the rest of us.
About the Author
Mary Austin is the pseudonym for a physician who, in order to publicize a
suppressed discovery in cancer research, had to sacrifice first her academic
career, then a career as a board-certified pediatrician, and then her
personal safety. She would do it again.
An orphan discovers he can wield ancient, mysterious technology but will
pay a terrible price if he uses his wondrous skills to fight for his
As winter settles in an old man sits down to pen the tale of his youth. A
sense of melancholy, of love lost, and the disappointment of labors
performed in vain cloak his shoulders as he leans forward, the quill in the
weathered knuckles of his hand hovering over parchment. Asking himself where
it all began was unnecessary … time could not erase the flames that leapt
in his mind’s eye.
Herein contains Patrin’s complete first mission, Greater Things than Thou,
All Things Ruin, and That Which Remains From his early childhood memories,
kidnapping, salvation, and finally, the betrayal of his best friend.
About the Author
As a native Texan in the early 90s R.L. Dean created door programs for
bulletin board software. In 1998 R.L. became a Christian and has taught
expositional Sunday School at his local church for eight years. He currently
resides in southeast Texas with his wife of twenty years, ten cats, and two
stray dogs. He works in the IT industry as a technician for a large
restaurant chain, but his dream is to work professionally creating novels,
television shows, and films.
As a model, Mallory Andrews’ good looks had worked for her for years,
but now she’s determined to prove she’s a talented historical
interior designer. To do that she must remain unwavering in her focus
regarding her current project, the restoration of a historical English manor
house turned hotel. The problem is, she keeps getting sidetracked by the
handsome and charming grandson of the owner.
Renowned hotel magnate and business consultant, Evan Townsend is retained
by the board of his estranged grandmother’s company to make
recommendations regarding the failing hotel that could put his grandmother
into bankruptcy. His first chore is to terminate the work Mallory is doing.
She launches a campaign to prove the changes she has made and others she has
planned will benefit his grandmother’s financial bottom line.
Evan’s mounting attraction to the beautiful and clever Mallory has him
reconsidering his stance on her present work, yet he remains resistant to
her requests not to sell the hotel so her work can continue. If only he
could be as unaffected by her kisses.
Both fear the other is using the sexual magnetism between them to get what
they want. Can Mallory and Evan design a way to break through the walls of
half-truths and what-ifs to build a lifetime of love?
Other Books in the Modern Masters of Their Castles Contemporary Romance
Cornerstone of Love
Modern Masters of Their Castles, Book 1
Release Date: March 17, 2020
Ian Chalmers’s dream life didn’t include becoming the Earl of
Hartley or the CEO of Hartley International Shipping, but he obediently
accepted the responsibilities when his father and older brother are killed.
Duty to the Hartley title and business reputation becomes his all-consuming
focus. Ian’s world revolves around unending work and doing
what’s expected of him. Then a nerve-wracking, albeit completely
fascinating, free-spirited female enters his structured life and turns it
Allison Moore is the American constructional engineer hired to direct the
repairs on Hartley castle. Despite their instant attraction, Allison
doesn’t appreciate Ian’s high-handed control of everything in
his sphere of influence. Still she’s determined to placate the vexing
‘master of the castle’ in order to get the job done, bringing
her another step closer to achieving her life’s goal of having a home
of her own. Her strategy is complicated then frustrated when Ian’s
kisses prove so delicious her treacherous heart undermines her immunity to
With the project almost complete and their sizzling interlude ending, Ian
and Allison must decide what they want most in life. Is it possible
they’ve each been laboring towards the wrong goals? Could what they
have with each other be the cornerstone of true love?
Susan Carlisle’s love affair with books began when she made a bad
grade in math in the sixth grade. Not allowed to watch TV until she brought
the grade up, Susan filled her time with books. She turned her love of
reading into a love of writing romance. Susan has currently authored more
than thirty books for the HarperCollins Harlequin medical imprint. Her
Modern Masters of Their Castles trilogy is under her own imprint. Her heroes
are strong, vibrant man and the women that challenge them.
In her past life Susan has been a full time mother to four children, a high
school substitute teacher and now when she isn’t writing she is busy
being a fun grandmother. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband
of over thirty-five years. Susan loves castles, traveling, sewing and reads
voraciously. Visit her at http://www.SusanCarlisle.com
Private investigator Adam Fraley and his colleague, Tamra Fugit, the woman
to whom he is engaged, travel vastly different paths, as they take on two
seemingly unrelated missing person cases. The trails take them through
idyllic lands darkened by underworld intrigue, twisted relationships. carnal
temptation, physical danger, and personal tragedy. Such are the legal
ramifications they confront during their crossing of both state and
international boundaries, that the FBI is eventually drawn into the matter.
From the very beginning, little did the investigators realize that the two
roads they were travelling eventually would come crashing together in a
manner entirely unexpected, testing not only their professional skills and
resolve, but their personal faith in each other.
The paramount lesson Adam Fraley learned early on in the private
investigation business was to place a premium on case selection. Much like
personnel hiring, you want to make sure you take on the right case, just as
you would the right person, lest you end up drowned in disappointment and
endless damage control. Fortunately, he had thus far successfully managed
this aspect of the business. First, by hiring Tamra Fugit several years ago
as his office manager. Secondly, by relying on her knack for making the
right choices. Still, no selection system was foolproof. As an old boss of
his was fond of saying, “You can only ride horses so many times before
you get bucked off one.” Consequently, the admonition was always in
the back of his mind when he and she met for their regular Monday morning
“What’s on the agenda?” he asked from a visitor’s
chair positioned in front of her desk.
“Two cases—one for you and one for me,” she said, working
her desktop computer.
He halted in mid-motion the sip of coffee he was about to take to look
askance at her.
She swiveled her chair to face him. “I’ve assisted you in
nearly every case we’ve taken on since I was hired here, Adam. And
thanks to your generosity, I will soon own half of the business. No better
time for me to start taking half ownership of some of the cases, don’t
“By ownership you mean taking to the street—the actual gumshoe
“Yes…surveillance and tracking.”
“Who’s going to take care of the office end of it while
we’re out gumshoeing?” he asked, carefully setting his coffee
cup on her desk.
“Think of it this way,” she replied. “As with the modern
family, the mother sometimes stays home to tend to the house and kids while
the father is at work. Conversely, the husband stays home while the working
wife takes to the road. We are destined to become a family business, are we
“You’re looking terrific today,” he abruptly said to the
woman who would have to be subjected to prolonged physical duress, say like
an extended hike through the Mohave desert, to look bad—the woman, by the
way, he happened to be betrothed to. But for her presence, the Adam Fraley
Private Investigations office could best be described as nondescript, he
“Do you realize your auburn hair, beautiful green eyes, and bright
yellow dress offset very well the dull cast of this office?” he
“You’re digressing,” she said. “Or are you
“Okay, what are the two?” he asked in resignation.
“The first is for you,” she said, sorting through some notes on
her desk. “I received a call from a woman by the name of Carmen
Rivera. She was calling from Bogota, Colombia, where she lives. She has a
son by the name of Manny who is attending Coastal State College here. She
and her husband have not heard from Manny in over a month. Normally, he
checks in with them at least once or twice a week. He lives in an off-campus
home which he shares with another student who, for whatever reason, claims
no knowledge of his whereabouts.”
“She’s contacted the cops?”
“Yes, and received the standard reply. Since he is an adult and there
is no evidence of foul play, they will not get involved at this
“We should send the department a thank you note, considering how much
business that policy of theirs generates for us. You have the address for
She again scrambled through the notes on her desk, picked one out and
handed it to him. “Here you go.”
“Before we get started, how are we handling the fees? It’s not
like we have a history of job requests from overseas on which to draw from.
In fact, we have no history of it…right?”
“Correct,” she said. “However, if we do take the case,
she will wire us a down payment upfront with the remainder to follow once we
have concluded our investigation.”
“What do you think?” he asked. “Legitimate?”
“She spoke in a very cultured voice and with a mother’s
concern. My sense is the Rivera family could very well be one of the five
percent of the populace who control the wealth of the country.”
“Five percent…is that a fact or your opinion?”
“It comes from a former roommate of mine who spent a half year in the
“Studying the Colombia rainforest region.”
“Six course credits,” she cracked. “She was in a study
“Well, it’s not likely we’re going to break the parents
financially,” he said. “And the second case—the one
you’ve put a claim to?”
Tamra glanced at another note on her desk. “I received a call from a
man named Mickey Riley. He says his sister went missing about four weeks
ago. He wants us to find her.”
“Let me guess…the cops don’t want to get involved
because she is an adult and there is no evidence of foul play.”
“You got it.”
“So, does Mickey have any idea where his sister might
“With her husband somewhere, he says.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” Adam asked, no doubt repeating
the same question the cops asked the brother.
“According to Mickey, the husband, himself, is a bad thing…a
very bad thing. Apparently, his sister has become a virtual prisoner of her
husband, to the point he won’t even let her out of the house. A
control freak, to say the least.”
“So, you aim to free her?”
“I aim to find her. It’s up to the brother to free her.
He’s coming in for a meeting this afternoon. I should know more then,
including where would be a good place to start looking for her. Meanwhile,
your mother called. She’d like to know if we want a wedding planner.
If so, she knows of a good one.”
“We’ve already decided we don’t need one, don’t you
“I certainly do, but apparently you failed to pass that bit of info
along to her.”
“I’ll tell her when we finish with these two cases,” he
sighed, perturbed by his oversight.
“You know, this will be a good time to go on the road,” he
followed. “Noelle will be on her school-sponsored camping trip. We
should be home by the time she returns.”
“If all goes well,” Tamra responded with a deadpan
Adam leaned across the desk. “I have a proposition for you. How about
we flip the cases? You trail after the missing student and I chase after the
missing sister? You know how volatile these simmering domestic situations
can get. They’re invariably about some demented guy’s passion to
control another, usually a helpless woman, like the one you describe in this
case. The moment you show up, you become a threat to take away that control.
Needless to say, he’s not going to like that at all.”
“Are you worried for my safety? Would you rather I go chasing after
porch poachers…sit in the car for hours on end waiting for a home
delivery to be stolen? We still have one of those requests on the back
burner waiting for a decision.”
“No, I’m not worried for your safety. It’s the safety of
the captive wife’s husband, I’m worried about,” he joshed,
rising from his chair to give her a quick kiss, followed by a longer one,
before heading out of the office. “Before you leave, I have two other
items to run by you,” she said, halting his movement.
“Harold Jenkins, the attorney from The Justice Brigade called. He
wants to know if you’d like to meet with him regarding the merger idea
that he discussed with you over the phone a while back.”
Adam slipped back into the chair, indicating it was a subject requiring
immediate attention. “What do you think?” he asked of her.
Tamra gave a slight shrug. “I remember you mentioned the idea at the
time. Run it by me again.”
“They’re interested in bringing us into their fold via some
sort of a partnership, whether it be a corporate takeover, merger, or
retainer-type arrangement. Whatever it takes to get us on
“A big operation like theirs? What for?”
“Law firms have a need for tracking missing persons or conducting
background checks, as you well know…”
“Yes, we’ve conducted several for them recently,” she
“Right, and apparently they liked the results. The Justice Brigade is
one of those young, aggressive, fast-growing firms looking to gain a leg up
on their competition. It’s not like they don’t have many law
firms to compete with.”
Tamra flashed a look of surprise. “By doing their own detective
“My guess is they’re planning to become a one-stop shopping
operation, so to speak.”
“What’s in it for us?”
“Well, it could mean a steady work flow, which is no small matter.
Looking down the road a way, there’s Noelle’s college tuition
costs looming on the horizon. Right now, we’re operating at a small
profit margin, enough to keep us afloat for the time being. However, as you
and I have discussed, we’ve reached the stage where we’re either
going to have to raise production or raise prices. I have a hunch joining
forces with the Justice Brigade would lessen our office management burden
significantly. Taking on the bulk of our paperwork would be an insignificant
addition to their overall workload. Doing so would allow us to concentrate
on the detective work.”
“You’re making it sound like—what do they call it in the
business world—a white knight coming to the rescue. I don’t see
it as magnanimous move on their part, Adam. They are simply making a
“Oh, I agree, but at the moment we’re discussing potential
benefits, not the drawbacks. Jenkins also pointed out we would be working
under their legal umbrella.”
“Meaning they would provide us free legal service, both personal and
professional. And depending on the business arrangement, perhaps even
corporate benefits, like retirement plans, something foreign to
“Adam, we may be gaining corporate benefits, but would we not be
losing our corporate identity?”
“That’s going to depend on the details of the proposed
agreement. The question is how much independence we would be surrendering,
starting with the case selection process. Who is going to have the final say
on which ones we take on?”
“I do see one potential benefit in that regard,” Tamra opined.
“They could serve as a filter to the possible legal landmines of each
case. There are always those we have to consider.”
“True, but then there are other issues—potential conflicts of
interest, the need to report to a supervisor, how it may affect the positive
relationship we’ve developed with local law enforcement officials over
the years—not to mention the more logistical items like office
location. No question, there would be details galore to be worked out.
Perhaps not so many if it was a retainer-type agreement, which could
suffice, for all we know.”
“Something along the lines of a rental car company operating in the
maintenance section of a car dealership,” Tamra suggested. “Have
you consulted with your old boss on this?”
“Pete? No, though I definitely intend to before any final decision is
Adam was already having second thoughts on the proposed relationship,
particularly its impact on the freedom of choice regarding the case
selection guidelines. Currently, the procedure was greatly influenced by
their location. They were operating out of a street-level office situated on
the corner of a moderately busy street. Walk-in traffic was
steady—granted, not always a good thing for a P.I. outfit. It led to a
significant amount of “impulse buying,” which was not in tune
with most of the trade’s target base. Passersby would spot the store
sign and on the spur of the moment decide they would rid themselves of
lingering suspicions that their spouses were cheating on them, or an
employee of theirs had his or her hand in the till, or they wanted their
outdoor cat trailed so they could find out where it was spending the day.
Following one walk-in guy’s request that they conduct a background
check on his neighbor whom he suspected was a mass murderer, he joked to
Tamra that they should post a sign on the front entrance stating We
don’t do serial killers. It was one of the reasons a growing number of
private investigators were forsaking the brick-and-mortar store for the home
office where there was less chance of the delusional individual wandering in
off the street to seek their assistance. In a home-based operation it was
much easier to concentrate on corporate clients who were interested in
tackling problems like insurance fraud or employee theft. That’s where
the money was.
Yet, despite all the challenges posed by the walk-in trade, it did offer
what Adam considered the most rewarding aspect of the profession—the
opportunity to fix a family for the man or woman in the street. Tamra had
picked up on this preference of his early on and had developed the skills to
take on cases based on the attributes of clients, more so than the task
involved, a distinction that greatly reduced the possibility of subsequent
“In selecting clients, you want to pick someone whose side you wish
to be on,” he had advised her. “There are no honeymoon,
probation, or engagement periods with clients. Therefore, you want to be on
the same page with them from day one. Lawyers may look at it differently,
giving greater consideration to the case.”
Her earlier mention of a white knight potentially acting as a filter for
the business brought him an inward smile, for there was no better filter
than her in screening out the nightmare client.
“Maybe these two cases we’re taking on simultaneously will give
us an indication of how raising the production end of the operation impacts
us…office-wise and field-wise,” Tamra continued.
Adam glanced at the wall clock. “Maybe so…now, what was the second
item you wanted to bring up before I head off?” he asked, hurrying her
“I received my first subpoena.”
“Relating to Adam Fraley Private Investigations, I
“Another good reason to join The Justice Brigade,” he quipped.
“Seriously, you are to be congratulated. I’m surprised it took
this long. In this business you come to expect them. What does it pertain
“Do you recall those background checks I conducted for the Midtown
Mall security people for that job opening they had a few months
“One of the applicants is suing, claiming she lost out to a far less
qualified candidate. I’m not sure why they want my
“Which side are you testifying for?”
“The security firm…any tips?”
“Stick to the facts of the background checks and be very careful with
your opinions. I had a similar case not long after I first got into this
business. I conducted background checks on a group of applicants for an
upper level position in a banking firm. As in your case, one of the
applicants sued for being bypassed for what she called a less qualified
candidate. The bank felt they had a solid case and, in my opinion, they did.
In the court testimony, however, one of the bank’s personnel managers
on the hiring panel stupidly commented on the witness stand that he
considered the plaintiff a dullard. When the judge’s final ruling came
down in favor of the plaintiff, the word ‘dullard’ appeared five
times in the written decision. He cited it as an example of a preconceived
bias. As a result, the plaintiff ended up getting the job and the careless
personnel manager wound up without one. He was fired.”
“I’ll be sure to watch my language,” Tamra
“When’s the court date? It’s not going to interfere with
present business, is it?”
“No, it’s a month away.”
“You’re fortunate, though I should say we’re fortunate.
Often those subpoenas are served hours in advance,” he said.
“Nothing like having a monkey wrench thrown into your regular workday
plans before you even get started on them.”
Adam paused a moment, reflecting on Tamra’s proposal about who would
handle which assignment. Both cases could present dangerous circumstances,
he knew from previous experience, so trading cases based on the facts as
presently known could be premature.
“Tamra, I’m not comfortable leaving you in charge of a domestic
case that could go awry,” he said.
“The future is always unclear, no matter what type of case we take
on,” she countered.
“This is the nature of the business we’re in.”
“Then promise me that you’ll fill me in the moment your
intuition tells you that you’re in over your head.”
“You’ll be the first to know, she said, gathering her notes.
“With that in mind, we best hit the road.”
About the Author
Henry Hoffman is a former newspaper editor and public library manager. He
is the author of the Adam Fraley Mystery Series and is the recipient of the
Florida Publishers Association’s Gold Medal Award for Florida Fiction.