Book Review for HOWEVER LONG THE NIGHT by David Pereda

Title: However Long the Night
Author: David Pereda
Publisher: Eternal Press
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-1615725991

However Long the Night
by David Pereda

Book review by S. M. Senden

Old family secrets left unresolved have a way of creating problems for generations to come. Cid Milan heard his father’s death bed confession of events long ago that leave Cid with no choice but to return to Cuba, the land of his ancestors, and delve into the past. David Pereda has written an exciting tale layered with conflict and betrayal full of twists and turns that will keep you reading to the end.

S. M. Senden was raised in Winnetka, a north shore suburb of Chicago. From an early age reading and writing were passions as was travel. Senden has studied, lived and worked in the USA, Europe, the Mid-East and Africa, spending a number of years as an archaeological illustrator for various expeditions. S. M. Senden earned a Masters Degree and has studied creative writing, play writing and screenwriting.

Senden is the author of Clara’s Wish, Lethal Boundaries, and Murder at the Johnson and a number of ghost stories in various magazines.

Excerpt From “Twin Powers” by David Pereda

twinWhile vacationing with her mother in Havana, a ten-year-old American girl is taken by members of a child sex ring intent on selling her into forced prostitution. When the human traffickers avoid capture and escape the island, the father of the girl, surgeon Raymond Peters, decides to take matters into his own hands and intiates a worldwide investigation. The Cuban government assigns a lethal professional assassin named Marcela to help Raymond track down the culprits. The search for Stephanie takes the unlikely pair—a man who has taken an oath to save lives and a woman who kills for a living—to the Middle East in the hunt for the mysterious mastermind, Mohamed. Working against the clock, Raymond and Marcela must pull out all the stops to save Stephanie and flee Dubai before Mohamed and his thugs kill them.

Excerpt from Twin Powers:

The full moon reflected on the beach waters, multiplying itself like enormous gold coins with each gentle wave.

“Let’s go for a swim naked,” Marcela said, tugging at Raymond’s hand. “It’s a beautiful night out.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

They were sitting on the porch of Marcela’s house on a secluded beach in Havana. Raul Castro had been true to his word. Her old house had been intact and spotless. There were a lot of recollections in that house for her. Every room evoked a special memory for her. She had made love, and she had killed, in that house. She had been attacked and beaten, but she had survived.

The altar to Chango in the main room of the house had taken her fifteen years to build. Every object on it was special to her. The two-foot-tall statue of Chango in the middle she had commissioned from Cuba’s finest sculptor and paid for with contraband dollars. She had spent three years carving the huge figures of Oshe and Shere, Chango’s bodyguards, from the hardest and darkest mahogany. The antelope horns, symbolizing Oya, Chango’s wife, she brought from Africa. The jade miniature of twin little girls at Chango’s feet, she bought in Mexico at the Teotihuacan pyramids.

The secluded beach where she swam naked every day held countless reminiscences too; the feel of the sand itself; the salty waters where she once had an encounter with a shark; the training area behind the trees where she practiced four hours every day.

Everything in and around her house brought so many warm recollections to her. And now she was contemplating leaving her home and all her memories to go live permanently in Miami with Ray. She was split in two. Cuba and her home pulled her one way; Ray and her love for him pulled her another way. She had never been so indecisive in her life. One moment she was ready to pack and leave. Five seconds later, she was convinced she would stay. How could she even think of leaving her country, her house, and the only life she had ever known behind? And all because she was in love with one man, an older man at that, one who could be her father. A moment later, she would argue with herself that change was good and necessary when one felt too comfortable in one place. Change builds character, challenges you, and makes you learn new things. Her English wasn’t very good. She could perfect it in the United States, for instance.

All this thinking was giving her a headache. Her decision could wait. Now she needed exercise.

Ray was looking at her with that especial expression of his that always made her want to hug him so hard she could get inside his body.

“Hey, did you fall asleep on me?” he asked. “You’re kidding about going swimming naked, aren’t you?”

“No, I’m not kidding.”

She stood and peeled her clothes off.

“What about your neighbors?”

“What neighbors?” She started undressing him, beginning with his T-shirt. “Have you seen any neighbors? This is a secluded beach, kimosabe. There are no neighbors.”

“Hey, wait a minute,” Raymond protested as she started unzipping his shorts.

“Be quiet and don’t move!”

He did as ordered. When she finished undressing him, she stared appraisingly at his naked body, making a bit production of it. She could tell he was a little nervous.

“Do I pass inspection?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said in a serious tone. “You’re old enough to be my father. Gaining a little weight around the middle, losing your hair; your package is a little too small for my taste.”

“Ouch!” Raymond looked down at himself. “You really know how to make a guy feel good.”


“But what?”

“But I love you anyway.”

Marcela started running toward the beach, feeling the breeze on her face and smelling the salty scent of the sea. A moment later, she heard Ray’s footfalls coming behind her. A long time ago, she had learned that happiness consisted of relishing the little moments in life. She was happy.


DavidPeredaDavid Pereda is an award-winning author who enjoys crafting political thrillers and mainstream novels. His books have won the Lighthouse Book Awards twice, the Royal Palm Awards, the National Indie Excellence Awards, and the Readers Favorite Awards twice. He has traveled to more than thirty countries around the world and speaks four languages. Before devoting his time solely to writing and teaching, Pereda had a rich and successful international consulting career with global giant Booz Allen Hamilton, where he worked with the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and Qatar, among others. A member of MENSA, Pereda earned his MBA from Pepperdine University in California. He earned bachelor degrees in English literature and mathematics at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He loves sports and has won many prizes competing in track and show-jumping equestrian events. Pereda lives with his youngest daughter Sophia in Asheville, North Carolina. He teaches mathematics and English at the Asheville-Buncombe Community College. Visit him online at: Other titles by David Pereda: However Long the Night Havana: Top Secret Havana: Killing Castro

Click here for an Interview With David Pereda, author of “Twin Powers”

Excerpt from A Spark of Heavenly Fire by Pat Bertram

ASHFborderStraight from today’s headlines! In the novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire by Pat Bertram, hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death. In an effort to stop the disease from spreading beyond the state of Colorado where the disease originated, the entire state is quarantined. In this dangerous world, Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Investigative reporter Greg Pullman, is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay.


After an uneventful day at work, Kate hurried home through the silent streets. More than half the houses she passed had fluorescent orange dots splashed on their front doors indicating that someone had died within. Beside some of those doors were small shrines or memorials—artificial flowers, crosses, dolls, teddy bears. Other houses were unlit, mute testimony that entire families had died.

A white unmarked delivery van stopped in front of a house that already had one fluorescent dot on the door. When two men jumped out of the truck and ran up the porch steps, she knew that soon another orange mark would appear next to the first.

She could hear the men lamenting the loss of the Broncos while they waited for someone to answer their knock. It seemed strange that they spoke of such a prosaic matter. Shouldn’t they be crying, “Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead,” as their counterparts during the Black Death had done?

As she neared the house, she could see the door open. An old woman with bowed head and trembling shoulders stood aside to let the two men enter.

Kate had passed the house by the time the men emerged with their burden, but she could hear the thud of the body when they threw it into the van.

She thought of Greg and how he had cradled Mrs. Robin in his arms as he carried her down the alley and how he had gently laid her under a tree in the next block.

And how he had said he liked her, Kate, very much.


Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Excerpt From “The Knowledge Holder” by Harry Margulies

TKHFrontsmallGreg Simon is an ordinary man, a salesman, a father, a widower, who just happens to discover that he is “the Knowledge Holder,” the one person who knows a great secret the rest of humanity does not know, and with it comes a unique ability to help others. Nothing is standing in his way – except for a team of FBI agents who specialize in national security issues. Greg’s new-found knowledge, if unleashed on the public, would give life a new meaning, and change the world forever.

Chapter 1

The appointment unfolded with tiresome predictability. My client, wearing a finely woven pastel sweater and coordinating pinkish blush of anticipation, sat with an unsettled, erect posture across from me. She had just purchased a new home. With it came the standard new home backyard, which was nothing but dirt.

“Have you had a pool before, Ms. Becker?” A more clever opening I’m sure had not been discovered.

“No, but I’ve always wanted one, and I promised myself this would be the house.” This was really good for me to hear, as I not only had to design the pool but sell it as well. With her comment she was in fact assuring me that I had already closed the sale and that I’d have to be some sort of blockhead to screw it up. In sales lingo, this is known as a laydown. Losing a laydown sale is like missing your mouth trying to take a sip of water. Since my shirt had been soaked more than once, I proceeded with my usual professional presentation and hoped for the best.

Such is the life of a swimming pool salesman, or Design Specialist, as my business card so eloquently misrepresents. My office is situated along a quiet hallway in a medium-sized Phoenix homebuilder’s design studio, pressed between a landscaper’s botanically embellished space, and a lighting specialist’s optimistically luminous showroom. When a contract is written for a new home, the buyers are asked if they have any interest in adding a pool. A yes answer gets them a two-hour riveting sit-down with me, Greg Simon, Design Specialist.

Sales started to crumble for my homebuilder about a year ago, and seemingly the next day you could shoot a cannon through my leather-bound appointment book and not hit a drop of ink. Other reps in my company would have proclaimed impending doom and glommed on to an extra account or a part-time gig hawking suds at Chase Field by now. But fortunately for me, I had strung together a number of good years during the boom—very good years—and was quite content watching my workload atrophy into a part-time job. I wasn’t flush with cash or anything, but my intermittently functioning, fertile shard of brain somehow prevented quintessential me from squandering my hard-earned riches. A few good appointments a month and my wallet and I were both rosy with contentment.

In any case, Ms. Becker and I were getting along pretty well, as was her pool design. That’s when things took a turn.

I thought I was just as boring as hell, since she was nodding off listening to me ramble on about the virtues of an in-floor cleaning system. It wasn’t until she actually fell off her chair that I realized maybe it wasn’t just me.

I rushed around my desk to where she had been sitting, hoping she had just slid off during a mini lapse of consciousness. Who could blame her, with my monotone and all? Maybe it was the immediate change of the shade of her skin to something in the pallid family, or maybe it was the way her eyes were wide open while actually not looking at anything that tipped me off. She was dead. This was not the sort of laydown I was hoping for.

To my credit, I didn’t even consider the loss of a sale as I dialed 911. I was, I guess, more scared than anything. I had never seen a dead person before. I was sure though. As a big fan of television crime dramas, I’d had as much exposure to dead bodies as most detectives or old-timey, half-baked coroners.

It seemed that I had just finished my conversation with the 911 operator when the paramedics arrived. This was a good thing, as I was a little more than weirded out by the corpse on the floor of my office. Just before the cavalry appeared, my head was jumping with thoughts of what I should be doing. Was it appropriate or necessary to be thinking of CPR? Not that I knew how to perform this on someone, but again, you watch enough television you should be able to attempt almost anything. Once, I made chicken piccata after watching some Food Network show. It wasn’t bad really and not as hard to make as I thought it would be.

It turns out, the paramedics did all these things for me, or I guess instead of me and for Ms. Becker. After all was said and done, I was right. She was gone. She was packed up and rolled away. I was left with maybe even a more creepy feeling than I’d had when she was still lying there on my office floor.


harry mHarry Margulies has written about romance, money, women, and other subjects he thoroughly enjoys but knows nothing about. The balance of his precious time is misspent as an internationally published cartoonist.

Harry is the proud father of two little girls, Jessica and Jill, who somehow are old enough to have graduated college. He resides in the desert city of Scottsdale, Arizona, where it’s imperative to stay hydrated. He lives with Joann, his wife of thirty years, which is the real reason he drinks.

Click here to buy: The Knowledge Holder

False World by JJ Dare

The second book in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy continues where False Positive ends as Joe continues his mission to destroy those who have destroyed his life. As the world changes, Joe’s search for justice takes on a global urgency and he races to find answers before deadly answers find him. 

Beginning in a secluded town in the middle of nowhere, it is not long before Joe is traveling across the country and, ultimately, across a collapsing world on his quest for vengeance. 

The world is not what you see. 

And neither is Joe.

False World is available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC

Excerpt from False World by J J Dare: 

Joe felt more and more like Alice in Wonderland as the day passed.

When he walked into the Citizens’ Identity Office, his first thought was he had walked into Utopia. When the caseworker assigned to him asked him to roll up his sleeves, Joe just looked at him.

“Identifying marks, sir,” the office jockey said. “If you’ve been in the service, you’re granted carte blanche privileges within the scope of the new laws.”

Rolling up his sleeves, the worker looked at Joe’s military tattoos and smiled as he nodded.

“I could tell by you’re bearing, sir, that you were either army or marine,” he said as he filled out the paperwork for Joe’s new identity card. “I’ll have you out of here in just a few minutes, sir.

“If you’d like to register your firearms now, I could expedite that for you, too.” The worker looked sharply at Joe as he continued. “You do pack, don’t you, sir?”

Joe laughed as he told the desk jockey, “Hell, yeah.”

As the worker relaxed, Joe again wondered what rabbit hole he had dropped into. People required to carry firearms, military given prestige above non-military, and Texas the capital of the country.

Well, whatever psycho civilization he had wandered into, he liked it.

“Sir, this is your new identity card. If you lose it, you’ll be issued a new one and the old one will deactivate. All of your information is stored on a chip inside the card and in our database. As military, you already have five thousand credits, which equals roughly a dollar per credit.”

Holding up the Joe’s new identity card, the worker continued. “As a citizen of the new United States of the Americas, you swear to uphold the laws of the military and of the government. You swear to be vigilant and to protect yourself and other citizens against those outside of our nation. You swear to be vigilant and to protect your fellow citizens should the need arise.”

The worker looked at Joe and waited. Joe looked back at him.

“You’re supposed to agree, sir,” the worker said.

“Oh,” Joe replied. “I agree to everything.”

“Thank you, sir. Now, if you’d just sign your full name, Mr. Daniels, you can be on your way.”

Joe signed the papers, pocketed his new identity card, took back his guns, and left.

In the open air, he was waiting for someone to come after him. Of all the things he had imagined might be going on in the world while he was in seclusion, this was not one of them.

The world was not was it seemed. Now, the world he thought he had known was radically different. Climbing into his truck, he realized that, more than anything, the tattoos he wore carried more weight in this new country than anything in his pockets.

A month ago when he had gone with Liz into the survivalists’ camp, the United States had been a country pandering to too many special interests, too many foreign countries, and too many lost causes.

The country he had stepped back into was a far cry from the namby-pamby one he had known. It was now the United we’ll-kick-your-ass States of the Americas.


J J Dare lives in a small, sleepy town with family and pets. Having visited many parts of the country, Dare has woven these places into stories and these stories have been incorporated into novels. 

Writing since the age of seven, the love of the written word has kept Dare grounded in the curiousity-laden world of writers. Constantly thinking what if?, has given Dare the seed for many stories.

 The first stories published by Dare were written for Rutger Hauer’s website many years ago. Since that time, other short stories have been published academically and in mainstream fiction. 

Excerpt from IMAGES OF BETRAYAL by Claire Collins

Abandoned by her family, Tysan works as a waitress in a cheap diner. One cold evening, a beguiling, rugged young man barges into her life. He possesses the remarkable ability to take photographs of events that have not yet happened. Ty narrowly avoids a harrowing death in a disastrous explosion, only to be drawn into a dizzying cascade of conflicts involving a new family that takes her in, Walker-her apparent savior, David-her new admirer and her own family. Kidnapping, betrayal, obsessive love and courageous lovers co-mingle in this romantic thriller.


His eyes darted to the envelope on the table. He took a drink of coffee, swallowing too hard. When he turned back to me, his eyes were haunted. He reached out, grasped the envelope, and pulled out another picture. As he handed it to me, his words registered.

“You’re supposed to keep yourself safe.”

The photo I held was taken in the restaurant. I was standing behind the front counter, the picture taken from across the room. A man sat in front of me, only the back of his head visible in the picture. He was covered in soot and ashes. Pieces of his clothing were burned away and blackened. My skin was blistered and the remnants of my hair were singed. My uniform had burned to my body, sticking to me as I stood there, coffee pot in hand. The ceiling of the restaurant was behind me, or at least part of it. Grey, cloudy skies formed a backdrop where some of the ceiling and the wall to the kitchen used to be. The pieces of the restaurant in the picture were burnt; smoke still rising from the embers surrounding me.

The picture was dated two days from today.I dropped the picture like the paper itself was on fire. I didn’t want to touch it. In the photo, I stood there with a coffee pot in my hand, while everything around me and my clothes were in utter destruction. Walker snatched the picture from the table, dropping it back into the envelope.

“I’m sorry,” he said, taking my hand in his again. “Short of kidnapping you that day, I didn’t know any other way to tell you about this.”


Claire Collins resides in North Carolina and writes across many genres. She loves reading when she gets the time around her family and her work schedule. She currently has two novels available through Second Wind Publishing and is working on her third, Seeds of September. 


Click here to buy: Images of Betrayal

Excerpt From “Unauthorized Access,” A Thriller by Andrew McAllister

Young computer programmer Rob Donovan receives an emergency call from his boss at the First Malden Bank in Boston after the first successful cyberattack in American banking history scrambles thousands of account records. First Malden’s survival is on the line as furious customers and voracious reporters descend on the bank. Rob is part of the team trying to fix the damage, until the FBI charges him with the crime and brings his world crashing down. Facing prison time and the loss of his fiancée Lesley, Rob’s only chance of reclaiming his life lies in cutting through a web of mistrust and betrayal to uncover the startling truth behind the attack.

 “McAllister keeps the tension high with a new surprise on every page. A master of the genre, the realism screams from every chapter.” – Gary Ryman, Author of “Fire Men: Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family”


Rob and Lesley sat on a bench by the Charles River Basin while seagulls wheeled lazily overhead. Pigeons squabbled and searched the paved walkway for tidbits.

The late-morning sun struggled to provide the heat it would so easily dispense during the afternoon. Lesley hugged herself to stay warm but Rob knew this was not the right moment to slide over and put an arm around her. The walk from the courthouse had been a silent affair.

Rob had never truly understood what freedom meant before. The on-again, off-again breeze felt fresher on his face than he could ever remember. The walkway stretched off into the distance along the river and he was free to walk the entire length of it if that was what he felt like doing. He could choose. No bars or guards prevented him from standing up and walking off. The simple fact of it was intoxicating.

He looked to his right, toward where the Charles River met the Atlantic. He pictured himself on the water, rowing. Long, effortless strokes that propelled him further and further east with each pull. Spray from the bow splashed on his back, soaking him, cleansing him. Freeing him. He could just keep going, never look back.

Or a quick plane ride. But to where? South America, maybe. Which countries had extradition treaties?

Right. As if.

No, in two short months he had to go back in a courtroom and face the possibility―the strong possibility it seemed―of going to prison. He felt a cold shiver shake his shoulders and run down his back.

Lesley interrupted his thoughts. “It was nice of your parents to give Mom a lift back to my place.”

“They’re heading back home to Worcester, and it was right on their way.” Rob shrugged. “And I think they could tell we wanted to be alone.”

She took a deep, raggedy breath.

“This is a nightmare,” she said without looking at him. “The whole thing. The engagement, Uncle Stan, the mess at the TV station. Even my mother. It feels like the whole world exploded and the pieces landed on us.”

“What’s wrong with your mother?”

“She’s upset,” Lesley said. “Doesn’t want me to get hurt.”

Rob felt himself deflate even more. “And she thinks I’m some big criminal.”

Lesley didn’t deny it, which was answer enough.

“Figures,” he said.

The hardening of Lesley’s jaw and the sharp flash of her eyes should have been a warning to Rob of what was to come. He was in no mood to read the signs, though, even those the size of billboards.

“It really ticks me off that everybody assumes the police are right about me,” he said. “This is hard enough without people jumping to conclusions.”

“Don’t lay your problems on her. She didn’t cause them.”

Rob scowled at her. “Oh, and I did, right?”

Her nostrils flared as she returned his glare. “You think this is easy for me?” she said. “I feel like I’m being ripped apart by chains pulling in ten different directions.”

“You’re not the one they want to throw in prison.”

“No? Yesterday the FBI accused me of being an accomplice. They asked about Monday night. Wanted to know if you used your computer while I was in the bathroom or if I helped you do it.”

Rob’s temples started to throb. “I didn’t go near the computer.”

“Somebody did, and nobody else was there.”

Rob leaned his head back, grabbed his hair with both hands and shouted at the sky.

“Great. This is just . . . perfect.”

A tiny dog happened to be walking by. It jumped and skittered away at the sound of Rob’s outburst. The elderly lady holding the leash quickened her pace and scuttled away, looking back at them over her shoulder.

Lesley crossed her arms and legs and looked away. Her foot started pumping in agitation.

“Do you think I’d create all these headaches on purpose?” Rob said. “Is that who you think I am?”

“No, but―”

“But what? But the FBI has a fingerprint. That should be enough to wipe out everything we’ve been through together, shouldn’t it?”

She turned her head away from him. He could see her jaw working from side to side in tiny, jerky movements.

“If I really did want to mess with the bank’s computers,” he said, “why would I be stupid enough to leave behind all that evidence pointing at myself?”

Rob felt the hurt sting his eyes when she didn’t respond. He stood up abruptly, took a few steps, and stood with his back to her, arms crossed, looking toward the water but not seeing. A vast emptiness seemed to open up in his gut.

“You don’t believe me, do you?” he said.

He waited, wanting to look at her but afraid of what he might see. No answer came.

“Fine,” he said, and started to walk upriver. He had no idea where he was going, only that he didn’t want to stay where he was.

Rob felt Lesley’s hand on his elbow. He stopped and turned back to face her. Tears ran down her cheeks.

“I want more than anything to believe you,” she said. “If someone had asked me a week ago if you were capable of this sort of thing, I would have laughed in their face. But how can you explain all the stuff that FBI guy talked about in court today? It just doesn’t seem possible.”

He wrenched his arm out of her grasp.

“I shouldn’t have to explain anything,” he said. “We’re going to be married, for crying out loud. You should trust me by now.”

Lesley raised her hands in exasperation. “How can we make wedding plans with all this going on? Oh, I know, we’ll get invitations made. Ceremony at three, reception to follow, if the groom isn’t in prison, that is. And we can tell the guests about the night we slipped the ring on me and the handcuffs on you.”

“If it’s such a problem for you, maybe we shouldn’t bother.”

“Is that what you want?”

“I want someone who believes in me,” Rob shouted.

“I did,” Lesley shouted back, “and look where that got us.”

“Fine. Just forget it.”

Rob turned and started to walk away again. Something small hit his back and landed with a tinkling noise on the walkway. He swung around to see Lesley running in the opposite direction.

The diamond ring lay at his feet.


Andrew McAllister writes both fiction and non-fiction, including the relationship advice blog To Love, Honor, and Dismay. He has a psychology degree and over twenty-five years of experience in the IT industry as a professor, consultant, and software company executive. In other words he can fix your computer software . . . but only if it really wants to change. He lives with his family in New Brunswick, Canada, where he is busy working on his next project, a relationship self-help book entitled “How To End The Housework Wars So You Both Win.”




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Excerpt From “Crystal White” by David DeLee

DEA agent Nick Lafferty leads the investigation to track down a new and deadly form of synthetic crack cocaine called Crystal White that has hit the streets of Southern California. But when everything he holds dear is suddenly ripped away from him—and the cartel kingpin responsible escapes—Nick Lafferty is left a broken man, a man with nothing left to life for.

On forced leave from his agency and not knowing if he’ll ever go back, Nick Lafferty returns to his hometown in the suburbs of New York to attend his father’s funeral. While there, he learns that the street poison he knew as Crystal White—whose production and distribution he stopped at an overwhelming personal cost—has begun to appear on the streets in cities and towns in lower Westchester County.

With nothing left to lose, Lafferty sets out to determine if the same person who destroyed his life is also responsible for this new wave of synthetic death. Aided by his ex-partner, Delmar Harley, an alcoholic cop on the edge, Lafferty is dogged by a beautiful assistant district attorney who believes Lafferty is a rogue agent, a danger to himself and the public at large.

Undeterred and driven by rage, Lafferty relentlessly embarks on a dark and vengeful journey of revenge, mounting a full-on assault against the Crystal White drug cartel. He will stop at nothing to make them pay—with their lives…or his.


Warehouse District
Ontario, California

SPECIAL AGENT NICK LAFFERTY swore at the vibrating cell phone, trapped in the breast pocket of his suit jacket under his DEA-issued body armor. He ripped open the top Velcro strap and fished his hand under the vest trying to reach the damn thing before it buzzed again. A passing police sergeant, dressed in urban fatigues and body armor, and carrying an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, said, “Sharp shooters are in position, Agent Lafferty. Ready when you are.”

He nodded thanks. With the cell phone firmly in hand, he flipped it open. “Lafferty here.”

“Lafferty here, too.” His wife, Renee, mimicked what she called his command voice before bursting out laughing. “Except, for us, here is on the boat. We’re missing you. Any chance you’ll be able to join us later?”

It was Sunday morning. He’d promised to take Renee and Vicki, his seven-year-old daughter, out for a cruise on their thirty-two-foot Chris-Craft Catalina, You Can Run. The two “girls” were on the boat docked at the marina off Harbor Drive in San Diego Bay. By now, the sun would be full up, warm, baking the dry, gray wharf and the teak aft decking of the boat.

Gulls would be circling and cawing, begging for handouts from the early-morning fishermen lining the piers. A light breeze would be snapping the harbor flags, carrying on it an intoxicating aroma of salt water, wet rope, and diesel fuel. Lafferty could practically hear the lapping of waves, the thump of fiberglass hulls against rubber bumpers, the creak of straining ropes.

He glanced around at the warehouse he had commandeered for that morning’s ad-hoc operation. A far cry from the sunny marina where he wanted to be on his boat, with his family.

Instead, he was with his Mobile Enforcement Team, all of them dressed in heavy bullet-resistant vests under their official, blue, DEA windbreakers. With them was a Special Operations Bureau team from the Ontario, California PD alongside the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Tactical Services Unit, also decked out in urban camouflage, full tactical gear, and body armor.

“I don’t know, honey,” Lafferty said into the phone. “I need to see how this thing plays out.”

“This thing” was an undercover investigation started eighteen months before. One he’d begun and had worked on, supervising a young Latino undercover agent named Oscar Ortiz. Their objective was to bring down a drug cartel kingpin named Ruben Nazario, a Mexican national who dealt a new and deadly kind of street poison called Crystal White. Lafferty had high hopes of wrapping the whole thing up this very day. If they could, it would put Ruben Nazario and his entire crew of poison pushers out of business forever.

“Don’t wait for me,” Lafferty told Renee.

“Well, poo,” Renee playfully pouted. Lafferty smiled. After eight years of marriage to a DEA agent, she knew the drill. She was one in a million. Lafferty snapped the phone shut after an ‘I-love-you’ and dropped it into his front pants pocket.

Lafferty had learned from Ortiz early that morning that Nazario planned to inspect a distribution operation his gang was running out of a small warehouse in the two hundred block of Wanamaker Drive, just off the crossroads between the I-15 and the San Bernardino Freeway, one of seven warehouses clustered together and serviced by three paved roads, each a hop, skip and a jump to the freeways. The building in question had been well chosen and was particularly difficult for Lafferty’s men to reconnoiter and secure without giving themselves away.

Lafferty looked at the men and women gathered inside the warehouse. If they could catch Nazario with the product red-handed, it would be a home run. He said, “All right, you clowns, ready to go to work?”

To a person, they enthusiastically grunted, roared, and called out: “Let’s do it.”

Lafferty climbed into the first of three unmarked panel trucks and sat down with his people. He would lead the two DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: his, and one joining them from the L.A. field office. They would make the initial approach through the building’s office entrance. The sheriff’s Tactical Services Unit would cover the fire exits along the east side of the building, and the Special Ops guys from Ontario had agreed to cover the west side exits and the five overhead bay doors. Also, the building was covered by SWAT snipers, and additional uniform patrol units were in the vicinity, on standby to assist, if needed.

Lafferty’s teams drove the three short blocks to the target warehouse in silence. When the van stopped, Lafferty looked down the two rows of faces, then nodded. They nodded back. Ready. He threw open the van doors. The front entrance to the building was locked but the aluminum frame held little resistance against the battering ram his agents brought to bear. The doors flew back, smashing into walls. The glass panels shattered and rained down a gazillion shards.

Once the entrance was breached, Lafferty’s markswoman and her utility man rushed in, their M14 rifles at the ready. Lafferty, armed with a SIG Sauer, followed, while two more agents brought up the rear. They quickly spread out to the left and the right.

He signaled team two to proceed to the second floor while his own team cleared the first floor waiting area, each of the small offices, and the restrooms, where they encountered no resistance. In fact, they encountered no one at all.

Any misgivings Lafferty had, he dismissed. Everyone would be in the back, examining the product, he reasoned. Team two radioed Lafferty from upstairs. It was empty too.

That left the warehouse itself.

At the single door leading into the warehousing section, agents took up positions on the left side: one high, one low. Two others mirrored them on the right.

Lafferty stood to the side and nodded his go-ahead. The door swung open, and a flash bang grenade was tossed inside. The device exploded, then Lafferty charged through the diffused light and noise, shouting, “DEA! Put your hands in the air!”

Behind him, agents rushed through the open door, their feet thundering across the concrete floor, their gear clattering while they spread out, ready to shoot anything that moved. Having cleared the second floor, team two quickly followed them in to assist in clearing the warehouse space.

Lafferty’s shouted commands echoed in the vast emptiness.

There was no scraping of chairs or tables as people jumped to their feet, no snatching up of weapons or frightened yelling, no scrambling of gangbangers trying to run away or preparing to fight their way out. Like the front offices, the warehouse was completely empty.

Lafferty had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, suddenly afraid they’d been duped.

The teams spread out, cautiously checking the open space, searching the nooks and crannies created by flimsily constructed, unpainted plywood offices and rows of empty metal racks.

Lafferty keyed his radio to speak to the Ontario sergeant in charge of the motorized response team outside. They would be in play by now, screeching to angled stops, blocking each of the five bay doors, preventing anyone from fleeing by car or on foot. But there was nobody inside trying to escape.

Before he could speak, Lafferty released his hold on the radio when he heard an agent cry out. “Oh, fuck, no. Fuck!”

Lafferty charged around a plywood office built on wooden pallets at one end of the row of overhead bay doors. Rounding the corner, he stopped short, coming face to face with his young undercover agent Oscar Ortiz.

Ortiz’s wrists were strapped together with plastic ties, his arms hoisted up and over his head.

The agent hung from a chain and hook. His feet dangled inches off the oil-stained concrete floor and his head lolled forward, stringy, black hair curtaining his handsome, swarthy face. He had on an Army field jacket and a plaid work shirt. Both hung open. His black tee shirt underneath had been torn to shreds, revealing a narrow brown chest—carved open by long, jagged lacerations etched into his skin.

More cuts marred his smooth cheeks and crisscrossed his forehead. Some were superficial, but others were deep and had been fatal. Ortiz swayed over a shiny red puddle, blood from where the man had bled out. Droplets of blood still dripped off the toe of the young agent’s sneakers. The grisly image of his mutilated body reflected up from the macabre, wet pool.

His death had been sadistic, torturous, and painful.

Lafferty stared at Ortiz, unable to move.

An agent stuck his head out from one of the plywood offices. The rough-hewed door he held open was marked receiving in scrawled black magic-marker lettering. “Agent Lafferty. I’m sorry, but you need to see this now.”

I can’t leave. Look at what I’ve done.

When Lafferty failed to respond, the agent called out again. “Sir. You really need to see this now.”

Lafferty wiped his face with his hand, breaking eye contact with Ortiz’s corpse. On stiff, protesting legs he backed away from his young agent, wondering what could be more damned important than…

He stepped into the temporary office. Inside, there was a cheap metal folding table had been set up. Six feet long. On it sat a computer tower, speakers, a gaming joystick, and other ancillary computer and audio-visual devices arranged around five plasma screens: four small, nineteen-inch ones and a large, forty-two-inch model.

On one small screen, Lafferty recognized the dark, mustached visage of Ruben Nazario staring back at him. His sun-saturated flesh, the color of dried leather, showed up craggy and lined with deeply etched crevices, the result of a youth spent working outside under the harsh Mexican sun. A thick, black moustache shot through with grey framed his mouth looking like a caterpillar glued to his upper lip.

“Ah, Agent Nick Lafferty. A pleasure to finally meet you.” Nazario smiled, adding, “In a manner of speaking. But fear not, Agent Ortiz has told me much about you, so I feel as if you and I are old friends. A shame he didn’t live long enough—”

Lafferty’s blood ran cold. “Where the hell are you, Nazario?”

“Oh,” Nazario said. “I don’t believe it would be in my best interest to divulge such information. I’m quite sure you understand.”

“Why did you do it?” Lafferty asked. “He was just a kid.”

A kid I failed to protect.

Nazario shrugged. “It was nothing personal, Agent Lafferty.” He made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “But I couldn’t allow such a violation of my…trust to go unanswered. What sort of message would that send to others who might consider spying on me, huh?”

Lafferty ground together his back teeth. “You’ll pay for this, Nazario. I swear. If it’s the last thing I do. You’ll pay. Do you hear me?”

Nazario shook his head. “No. I don’t think so. Besides, we have unfinished business of our own to conclude.”

“What unfinished business?” Lafferty blinked when the big screen, along with the remaining smaller ones, suddenly snapped on. He stared at each of the multiple images, his eyes moving from one, to the next, to the next. A cold shiver coursed through him. He recognized immediately what the screens showed: the marina off Harbor Drive in San Diego Bay.

He took a step forward. “What is this?”

But he knew. The cameras were part of a security and surveillance system the management company had installed to protect the marina. Part of a comprehensive burglary, fire, and access control system monitored and operated via a secure Internet connection.

Apparently not secure enough. Nazario had somehow hacked in and hijacked the system.

The large main screen zoomed in on the aft deck of a single boat. His boat. The You Can Run.

“Tell me, Agent Lafferty, do you not recognize your own boat?”

A live feed. He could see Renee and Vicki sitting on the aft deck, a red-and-white-checked picnic cloth spread out between two. An open picnic basket beside Rene, paper plates and napkins, soda bottles, and cups arranged around them while they sat eating fried chicken and, since the large screen came without any audio, laughing silently.

“What is this, Nazario? You trying to scare me? Show me how close you can get to my family?” Lafferty didn’t tell the man he was succeeding. Lafferty, his throat so dry he could barely speak, was terrified.

The primary screen remained on Renee and Vicki. Close up. But the three small screens displayed other areas of the marina. Lafferty watched as three young Hispanic men emerged from shadowy hiding places wearing gang colors and baggy cargo pants, open plaid shirts, and untied sneakers. Each man carried a 9mm handgun. Silently, they moved along the wharf, passing docked boats, and advancing on the You Can Run. Advancing on Renee and Vicki.

Lafferty’s palms began to sweat. “You son of a bitch!”

He fought to keep the panic from his voice. “OK. You made your point. What do you want?”

From the remaining screen, Nazario said, “I want to know, Agent Lafferty…to what lengths will you go to save your family?” When Lafferty didn’t answer, Nazario narrowed his eyes to reptilian slits. “Answer me!”

Lafferty blinked. He shouted, “Anything, you bastard! I’ll do anything!”

Nazario sat back, a sadistic smile spreading across his face. “As I thought.” He shrugged. “Unfortunately, you have nothing that I want. Goodbye, Agent Lafferty.”

Nazario’s image on the screen snapped to black.

Lafferty rushed forward. “No!”

On the three small screens left operating, he watched, helpless, as the gunmen moved closer, advancing on his family. On the large screen, Renee and Vicki had begun a napkin war, blissfully wading napkins up into balls and tossing them at each other, unaware of the danger they were in.

“We’ve got units on the way,” someone said.

Gripped by panic, Lafferty groaned. “I’ve got to get them out of there!”

He fished his phone from his pant’s pocket. His fingers trembling, he opened it and hit Renee’s speed dial number. Lafferty silently prayed while Renee and Vicki sat cross-legged and went back to eating and talking, laughing between bites of fried chicken and potato salad. The phone to his ear, he heard it ring, connecting. Pick up. Pick up. He watched as Renee raised a finger, stopping Vicki in mid-sentence. She reached for the cell phone on the red-and-white picnic cloth next to her.

Lafferty saw her check the LCD readout, read her lip as she said: Hold on. It’s Daddy.

She flipped the phone open, completing the connection.

And the boat exploded.


David DeLee is a native New Yorker, though he and his family now make their home in the great state of New Hampshire. He holds a masters degree in Criminal Justice and is a former licensed private investigator. David is the author of the Grace deHaviland Bounty Hunter series, including the short story, Bling, Bling, which first appeared in the Mystery Writers of America anthology The Rich and the Dead, edited by Nelson DeMille and published by Grand Central Publishing in 2011.

David DeLee can be reached through Dark Road Publishing at

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Excerpt from “World of Mirrors” by Judith Copek

World of Mirrors is set on an island off the Baltic coast in the former DDR, and the year is 1990, the “time of the turn.” The Berlin wall has crumbled, but Germany is not yet reunified. Against the seductive decadence of an old resort with its classic sailboats, nude beaches and crumbling casinos, Zara Gray, a consultant to high tech firms, and T.K. Drummond, a man who finds people and fixes situations, must track down an American software thief before he can fence a stolen copy of his company’s bleeding-edge new software.

Zara narrates the story as she fights the fear that their mission is jinxed from the beginning. Bad decisions and chilling discoveries threaten to sabotage the project. The situation further unravels during a sailing weekend, and turns deadly at a Midsummer Festival. Trapped in a matrix of betrayal, Zara and T.K. must rely on two unlikely people to help them escape the island and in a final, desperate gambit to save the software, Zara must perform her own dangerous treachery.


A sharp wind with a memory of spring assailed us as we stepped into the street. T.K. put his arm around me.

We strolled over to Unter den Linden, but that famous Berlin boulevard had little traffic and only scattered pedestrians. T.K. pointed to the tall minaret-like television tower that marked Alexanderplatz. Spent linden blossoms, pale yellow and frilly, swirled along our path as we walked alone across vast bare spaces and past the abandoned fifties-style government buildings. The trees’ subtle fragrance perfumed the air.

“I never imagined that I would cross Marx-Engels Platz with a lovely Chicago lady on my arm. Hell, it was only nine months ago when the old regime celebrated its anniversary. Forty years of oppressing the populace, and four weeks later the Wall comes down and the leaders march into the unemployment line.” He hummed a military-sounding march.

“Zara, imagine this vast square populated by May Day celebrations! Forty freakin’ years of them. Hundreds of tanks rumbling by the reviewing stand followed by marching battalions. Giving the people bread and circuses.”

Now those times were as dead as the crushed blossoms we trod on in this huge emptiness that felt like the last night on earth. The accumulation of this century’s ugly history bore down on me as we trekked all the way to Alexanderplatz.

I headed for a bench. T.K. sat next to me and we watched a group of young folks in stonewashed denim jeans trying to decide where to spend the evening.

“When are we supposed to leave for that island?” I asked.

“Soon.” Had he heard the doubt in my voice? T.K. lit a cigarette and inhaled the smoke. “Now tell me what’s on your mind. Is your divorce final?”

“Very final.” I paused to pick my words. “Our split hurt Chloe more than Taylor or me.”


I took a deep breath. “I tried to resign on Monday.” My story came out in a rush of words. “I shouldn’t be here, T.K. I have a little girl who needs me. I need to find a job without travel. And now this murder has me freaked out. I don’t want to get involved in something risky.”

I expected T.K. to react with his typical “oh shit!” and maybe even sympathize or suggest a way out, but he continued to smoke without looking at me.

In a moment I would be weeping. “I really can’t talk about this anymore,” I said, gulping back my tears.

He remained silent. His head was down, and I couldn’t see his face, but I didn’t think my sorrowful confession had pleased him.

“What’s going on in your life?” I asked when he didn’t offer so much as a consoling word.

“Once upon a time there was a pretty woman in Brussels. But since I’m not living there anymore–Zara, did you think I wouldn’t ever wise up to your little tricks on that project last summer? You made me look like an ass.”

“Sorry,” I said, dreading the finger pointing and recriminations. We were both remembering the incident last summer in Berlin. I didn’t believe T.K. wanted to re-hash it any more than I did.

He had spoken in an even voice, and his eyes warned: don’t pull any more stunts like that. Maybe he did carry a grudge.

“We’re colleagues now,” I assured him.

“Understood,” he said. He threw down his cigarette and stood up. I stood, too. Swamped by waves of jet lag, I wanted to collapse and sleep for days. Alone.

“Another walk?” He suggested. “Coffee in the Nikolai Viertel?”

“I’m beat. T.K., we need to lay down some ground rules.”

The faintest irritation passed over his brow. Oh God, I was too tired for another fight.

“I need time to…get reacquainted. It’s been almost a year, and–.”

“Take as much time as you like.” We walked back toward Unter den Linden. T.K. fixed his eyes on the cabstand at a hotel across the street. “How exactly does ‘getting reacquainted’ translate into a rule?” A puckered brow eclipsed his easy-going expression.

Afraid I wouldn’t be able to get so many awkward words out of my mouth, I spoke in a flat, toneless voice without pausing for breath.

“The rule is that we don’t unless both of us want to. Another rule is nothing remotely kinky, as defined by your maiden aunt. I didn’t come over here for a no-holds-barred orgy. The last rule, well, it’s not a rule, but I would like to see a blood donor card or some recent document–of course I will provide same.”

He burst out, “Shit! You clinical women can squash a man’s romantic impulses quicker than a cold shower.” He started across the intersection without even taking my arm.

“These are the nineties, T.K.” I was running after him. “Some things have to be said.”

We climbed into a cab and nobody spoke all the way back to the hotel. I had sounded like the last of the vestal virgins, but I couldn’t think how to make my words less harsh.

I undressed in the bathroom and put on modest white pajamas. T.K. was drinking a cognac from the minibar when I emerged. He didn’t even look at me.

I got into bed, clung to my side of the mattress and immediately feigned sleep. T.K. slid in a few minutes later. So much distance separated us you could have plowed a furrow down the middle of the bed and not touched either of us.

~ * ~

Early the next morning while T.K. slept, I jogged past deserted cafés and a street sweeper whistling as he pushed his wide broom along the Ku’damm. A lion roared in the nearby zoo. Blocks later I ran into the Tiergarden, a sprawling park.

The remnants of my jet lag fell away like an old snakeskin, allowing me to think clearly about the misogynist Putnam, the felonious Charles Goodborn, the dead Bruss, and my deteriorating bond with T.K. Logic told me to take the next plane back to the U.S., but I had never been a quitter. If it weren’t for the murder, I would relish putting my head down, gritting my teeth and seeing it through.

When I returned to the hotel room, T.K. was propped against the pillow, arms crossed behind his head, looking almost contrite.

“I brought you coffee,” I said, putting a Tschibo take-out container on his nightstand.

“I’ve been such a jerk. How could you stand it?” He removed the lid from the cup and took a sip.

I dropped to the rug and started my push-ups. Five sets of ten. ‘Abs tight and breathe through it.’ I flopped onto my back and rested a moment before beginning my sit-ups.

T.K. watched me intently. “I would like to apologize and make amends.”

“I’m listening,” I told him, beginning a set of power crunches.

“We can make a great team.” He sipped his coffee. “I’m willing to reform if you’ll have me.”

“It’s not up to me.” Pause. “Putnam, Smith and especially,” crunch, gasp, “Edgar have to be convinced.”

Finished, I stretched out, arms above my head, as far as I could reach.

He said, “We can convince them.”

I could see him watching me, trying to decide what was in my head, which was that I was conflicted about staying on the project. “If your associates say auf Wiedersehen, I’ll be out of here like greased lightning.”

After easing into one more long stretch, I stood up and tossed a towel around my sweaty neck. A forage through the mini-bar netted two orange juices. I held one out to T.K.

His eyes hadn’t left me. Now he looked like the man I had come here to work with, the man with the wicked gleam in his eye and the crooked carefree smile. I gave him a lot of credit for not propositioning me that very moment.

~ * ~

At eleven o’clock we marched across the square in front of the Europa Center just as we had yesterday. T.K. wore a navy blazer and tan slacks and I had on a navy blazer with a tan skirt, an unplanned Tweedledum and Tweedledee effect that we had only noticed at the last minute.

“Do we look like a team, or do we look like a couple of dip shits?” he had asked, as we gaped at each other.

“A jacket conveys authority. I have to wear a jacket. If we start changing now, we’ll be late.”

With my jacket distinguished by the red, blue, and gold nautical patterned scarf and we didn’t look quite so dorky.

My stomach had more knots than a mariner’s handbook and the sight of Putnam made the hair stand up on my arms. I did have a plan to determine if I was still on the payroll.

Like yesterday, Putnam admitted us, and like yesterday, Smith raised his long body out of the chair. I shook hands with as much cordiality as I could summon.

“Putnam began putting glasses on a tray. “No wine for me,” I said.”

“I’ll take a pass, too,” T.K. said.

Putnam shrugged and returned with a bottle of Stout and a glass. His shirtsleeves had been rolled up with military precision, exposing freckled wrists and muscular forearms covered with light brown hair. I couldn’t help noticing that his scarred and misshapen knuckles bore the history of back alley brawls, while his neat, well-tended nails looked like they had been on the receiving end of manicures and nail buffers.

“I want to clarify a few issues before we start,” I said.

Putnam turned, his eyes sharp with suspicion as I stood up.

“We have a contract, executed in good faith by all parties. I expect payment for my services whether you use them or not. That’s the first issue.” My eyes travelled around the room to each of them.

T.K. raised his eyebrows and crossed his ankles.

“Surely Edgar understands about business contracts,” I continued.

Smith’s eyes didn’t look so sanguine.

“The second issue has to do with your misconception that I am not a team player.” I walked across the room, turned and faced them. “I’ve been on sales teams, re-engineering teams, and teams brought together to produce computer systems. No one ever intimated I was not a team player.”

T.K. examined his fingernails. A flush crept out of Putnam’s collar and surged toward his cheeks. Smith folded his hands and looked thoughtful.

The only sound in the room was the faint din of traffic circling the square and a bus shifting gears.


An information systems nerd for twenty-plus years, Judith Copek is a survivor of Dilbert-like re-engineering projects, 3:00 a.m. computer crashes and the Millennium Bug. In her writing, she likes to put a literary spin on technology.

When she’s not gardening, travelling or puttering about the kitchen, she’s researching her next novel at Burning Man or in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Judith is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and New England Pen. She has published poems, short stories and memoir as well as The Shadow Warriors, an earlier novel.

Link to book cover and photo: Judith Copek author page on Facebook or:


Twitter: judyinboston

Excerpt From the “The Surreal Killer” by Jerold Last

A serial killer is leaving a trail of dead women across Chile, Peru, and Bolivia. The gruesome corpses all seem to have died in exactly the same macabre way. There may be a link to a small group of scientists who meet annually in different locations in the region. Roger Bowman and Suzanne Foster are asked by the local police to attend this year’s meeting of the group in Lima, Peru to try to find out who was present at the previous meetings when the murders occurred. And the reader is off on a fast paced pursuit of the killer through Lima, Cuzco, and Machu Picchu in Peru and Chile’s Atacama Desert. This is a true whodunit mystery novel set in an unusual and exotic locale.

Excerpt from “The Surreal Killer”
Chapter 1. Santiago, Chile, A Year Ago

He always thought of this part as cutting the calf out of the herd. The problem: Pick up the woman somewhere, somehow without any witnesses to the event. The solution this time: he found her hitchhiking late at night on the deserted street in a poorly lit part of town. He stopped the rented car and offered her a ride. She looked at him, decided he was safe, jumped in the car, congratulated herself on her good luck, and asked if he was heading towards the next town.

“Yes, I am. Where can I drop you off?”

“Anywhere near the middle of town would be great.”

“You’ve got it.”

The car started off in the right direction.

“Can I offer you a little brandy? It’s cold out there,” he said.

“I’d love a sip or two.”

He removed a flask from his pocket and passed it over.

“Thanks a lot,” she replied, and took a long slow swallow. She returned the flask to the driver.

Five minutes later the long-acting drug in the brandy had worked its magic and she was completely helpless. Wide awake, but totally unable to move or speak. She stared at the driver with terrified eyes. The driver steered the car onto a dirt road and drove about half a mile into the woods. After stopping the car, he came around to the passenger side, and pulled her out onto the ground. She noted that there was grass and dirt in the clearing. He pawed her body for a few moments, but didn’t seem interested in undressing or sexually assaulting her beyond the unwanted touching. Out came his syringe, and with a few well-coordinated movements he injected a few mL of fluid directly into her jugular vein. The powerful drug did its work and she was now completely paralyzed.

He opened the trunk of the car. Out came a disposable paper coverall and disposable latex rubber gloves, which he donned. Out came a large machete and a protective plastic face shield, which he also put on. He returned to his terrified victim, dragged her about 150 feet from the car, and proceeded to systematically whack away at arms and legs with the machete for several minutes after she had completely bled out. The mutilation of the corpse continued for what seemed to be a long time after she was clearly dead. Finally he dropped the machete, picked up a small stick from the ground nearby, and dipped the end of the stick in one of the many pools of blood around the body. Very carefully, using the blood as ink, he wrote the words “no mas” on the ground near the body. At that point he made a low, throaty growl that might have meant that he was finally satisfied with the result, and the machete overkill came to an end.

The bloodstained and splattered paper coveralls, latex gloves, and face shield came off and were thrown on top of the dismembered body. So was the machete. Careful examination revealed that there was no apparent blood visible anywhere on him or his clothing after the disposables were taken off. Back to the trunk of the car from which he removed a large plastic container of gasoline that he poured over the body and the disposables. One flick of a match and everything went up in flames, which burned long and hot. When nothing remained but charred flesh, teeth, bones, and ashes he returned to the car and went on to his destination, satisfied that any forensic evidence had been destroyed in the fire. Nothing remained that could link him to the dead young woman, who was a perfect stranger. He smiled a genuine smile of satisfaction.


Jerold Last is a scientist on the faculty of the University of California and a big fan of California mystery novels. He taught a popular Freshman Seminar on California Mystery novels for several years at UC Davis.

The settings and locales for all three books, The Empanada Affair, The Ambivalent Corpse, and The Surreal Killer are authentic; the author lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay for several months each, and selected several of the most interesting locations he found for Roger and Suzanne to visit. The Empanada Affair’s title comes from a local food served ubiquitously as an appetizer in the region. Another book in this series is in preparation; look for it later in 2012.

Link to book on Amazon:

Click here for an interview with: Jerold Last