Exclusive Excerpt: Rainey with a Chance of Hale (A Rainey Bell Thriller Book 6) by R.E. Bradshaw


Rainey Bell, a former FBI Behavioral Analyst, has had a couple of quiet years since her last brush with death. Her old teammate with the BAU and her children’s Godfather, Danny McNally, pays a visit to North Carolina from Quantico to escort Rainey into the Butner Federal Correctional Complex.

Rainey made a promise almost twenty years ago to a distraught mother of a missing child. The opportunity to fulfill that pledge, one she should never have made, presents itself in the form of Chance Obadiah Hale. The teenager Rainey believed responsible for Alyson Grayson’s disappearance was now a man in prison who wanted to talk, but only to Rainey.

Can Rainey and Danny finally get to the truth about Alyson and Chance? Or will Rainey’s stubborn belief in his guilt put everyone she loves in mortal danger? Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Who will be the first to go?


Chapter 2

January 9, 1998

Home of Joshua Lee Hale

Pembina, North Dakota

“It’s cold enough to freeze off body parts.”

Chance Hale ignored the federal agent seated on the other side of the kitchen table. The sixteen-year-old pressed on his temples with the palms of his hands, in what appeared to be an attempt to keep the contents of his skull inside.

FBI Special Agent Rainey Bell noted the pot resin stains on his index finger and thumb, the reek of stale cigarettes, and the nauseating stench of booze-laced puke-breath. While they waited for his father to come back from the garage with the other agent, Rainey kept the hung-over teenager talking. Rather, she talked, and he tried to remain upright.

Chance Hale was in deep trouble. A suspect in the disappearance of his fourteen-year-old neighbor, Alyson Grayson, he was connected by proximity to the two frozen bodies recently discovered in the lake behind his home. Two frozen bodies and a missing girl resulted in FBI involvement. Chance didn’t seem the least bit concerned.

Rainey looked out the window over the sink, continuing her weather observations, “Still spitting snow at zero degrees.” She glanced back at Chance. “What did they say the wind chill was—minus twenty-one? I could be out there, what, thirty minutes before my face froze? This is just nuts. Pulling me from Louisiana to the frozen tundra—I don’t think a prank deserved this assignment.”

Rainey saw a brief millisecond of eye contact. Chance took notice that she may be a fellow rule breaker.

“I’ve only been here a week. The bureau said I was transferred to fill a temporary vacancy. I’m calling bullshit on that one. It was that picture of super-agent Walsh standing in his front yard in his boxers that landed me here.”

Rainey made quote marks in the air and mocked the man she imitated with, “Mr. ‘My Security System Can’t Be Compromised.’ Ha!”

She flashed a self-satisfied smile at Chance. “Patriarchal narcissism is why I am here. Guys like him can’t abide being wrong or laughed at. I proved the one and certainly did the other.”

She waited for a comment, a nod, anything, but received only a vacant teenage stare. Forced to resume her monologue, she continued the tale of her removal to the frozen tundra.

“I suppose his being my supervisor brought with it a tad of insubordination. But, you know, sometimes you have to show a braggart he isn’t all that smart to make a point. Of course, the FBI frowns on that particular type of behavioral modification technique. Thus, here I sit with you freezing my ass off.”

Nothing, no reaction, not even a hint of a smile. Chance closed his eyes and rubbed his temples with his fingertips.

Rainey tried another tack. “You moved up here from North Carolina, didn’t you? Hillsborough, right? I grew up in Chapel Hill.”

A grunt was Chance’s only response, but he did respond. Progress had been made. Rainey abandoned her attempt to bond over shared nonconformist attitudes and stuck with their childhoods in warmer climes.

“You understand it takes time to adjust from coastal temps to ‘Oh, my God! I’m freezing my tits off,’ don’t you?”

“I don’t have tits,” the slump-shouldered teen said, still rubbing his temples.

“Balls then,” Rainey replied, dropping the “we can be friends” tone from her voice and adding, “Most mammals have tits, male and female. Unless you’re a platypus or a species of rodent, you have them too. I’m assuming you didn’t pay much attention in biology class—if you ever went.”

Chance stretched and yawned over a barely concealed, “Fuck you.”

It crossed Rainey’s mind that young Chance Hale needed to be reminded of the seriousness of his situation. He was the last person seen with Alyson Grayson and professed to have no memory of the early morning hours of New Year’s Day when she disappeared. The FBI was now at his home at the crack of dawn. If none of that raised young Chance’s heart rate, Rainey had to wonder what would? She pondered the idea that he was either a cold-blooded killer devoid of empathy, or he was just a drunk, drugged-out teenager with detachment issues.

It was well known that Chance drank excessively. Three days ago, he dropped out of school on his sixteenth birthday, though he had attended only enough to avoid a truancy charge. He worked as a mechanic on his family’s fleet of long-haul trucks. According to a completely frustrated and candid school counselor, the old pickup truck he restored seemed to be all that Chance cared about.

“He’s too smart to drop out like this,” the counselor said. “If he’d just sober up and try a little harder, he could do anything he wanted. He was in our school system for only three semesters. He was already in academic trouble when he enrolled.”

The counselor pulled a folder from one of the file cabinets lining the wall in her office.

“Let me just check my file.”

She read, silently nodding in agreement with her notes before she looked up and finished her assessment of young Mr. Hale.

“What I can tell you by law is that I believe his mother leaving when he was four years old did severe damage to such a young boy. I recommended to his mostly absent father that he get Chance into rehab and counseling. He refused to take the list of therapists I offered. It’s just a shame, really. Chance can be quite charming and engaging when he wants to be. Just ask that gaggle of girls that swoon every time he walks by.”

After an initial witness interview with Chance, who was not an official suspect at the time, he refused further questioning from Rainey and Supervisory Special Agent Stanley Hébert. Chance claimed his long-haul truck-driving father advised against it. Hébert, who had been observing Chance, was convinced it was not a coincidence two other bodies had been found behind his home.

“I know it in my bones, Bell. Something’s wrong in that house,” he said the previous evening when he dropped her back at the office. With his graying temples reflecting the car’s dome light, he declared, “I’m not going to let that son of a bitch get away with killing those girls.”

Rainey had only known SSA Hébert for seven days, but she liked him. She liked him enough not to be snarky when he called her hotel room in Grand Forks before dawn.

“Bell, get downstairs. We have to run up to Pembina. Locals say Joshua Hale came home about two this morning.”

“What time is it now?” Rainey had to ask because her eyes were not yet cooperating. They only burned and watered from lack of sleep on the unfamiliar hotel mattress, when she tried to focus on the bedside clock.

“It’s five a.m. The snow will slow us down a bit, but if we’re on the road in thirty, we can be there by sunrise.”

“I’ll be down in fifteen,” Rainey said, coming fully awake.

“Dress accordingly, we’re in for negative temps today.”

Rainey chuckled. “This adds a whole new level to being frozen out.”

Hébert, in standard North Dakota form, answered, “It’s not so bad. You’ll get used to it.”

“I don’t want to be here long enough to get used to it,” Rainey said without thinking.

“Well now, Special Agent Bell, you should have thought of that while you were down in the sunny south and before you told your last supervisor to ‘lighten up.’ Care to piss off two in a row?”

Rainey wasn’t about to let her career crash over a prank. She responded with a crisp, “No, sir. I’ll be right down.”

After a harrowing drive up US Highway-29, even with an experienced North Dakota winter driver, they arrived just as the sun began to rise. The ruse for a visit was a verification of the whereabouts of all males in the vicinity the night of Alyson Grayson’s disappearance, but they really wanted another crack at Chance. In his previous interviews, he had informed them that his dad was in Canada on a short run and didn’t make it back until the afternoon on the first day of 1998. Joshua Hale left again before Alyson was reported missing and had been on the road until late last night.

The polite knock garnered no interest from the occupants of the Hale home. The much more intrusive cop knock brought a woman wearing a turban and face cream to the door, where two freezing but smiling federal agents greeted her. She was tall and a redhead, judging by the curl peeking from the headdress. That’s about all Rainey could say about her, other than she looked unhappy to be answering the door at the crack of dawn.

“It’s a little early. What can I do for you?” she asked, tugging the thick robe tighter against the cold seeping under the storm door.

“Good morning. I’m SSA Hébert. Are you Jean Berry? I believe we’ve spoken on the phone.”

“Yes, Agent Hébert. How can I help you?”

“I’m here to see Joshua.”

“Wait here. I’ll get him,” she replied, in an accent Rainey recognized as originating in the Piedmont area of North Carolina.

“Who was that?” Rainey asked.

Hébert’s answer formed a trail of smoke, as he said, “Jean Berry. She works for Hale Trucking. That garage out back keeps their rigs on the road. Ms. Berry is here from the Carolina office to do parts inventory and accounting work for the shop. She does that about once a month. She has a private apartment and an office in the basement.”

Rainey wondered why she hadn’t seen anything about Jean Berry in Hébert’s case notes, or why this was the first she knew of a private apartment. He seemed to read her expression.

“This house was searched top to bottom. Alyson is not here.”

“What did she tell you about New Year’s Eve?”

“She wasn’t here that night. I verified with the home office in North Carolina that she drove up the next day after Alyson was reported missing. She answered the phone a time or two when I called to ask about Mr. Hale’s whereabouts. She’s usually a little nicer, but I guess it is early.”

Rainey didn’t think Jean Berry was all that “nice,” having left them to freeze on the steps until Joshua Lee Hale came to the door.

“Good morning, Mr. Hale. Sorry to knock so early, but you’re a hard man to catch at home. I’m Supervisory Special Agent Hébert with the FBI, and this is Special Agent Bell. Do you mind if we come in out of the cold to chat for a few minutes? It won’t take long.”

Hébert managed an invitation to the kitchen and scored a couple of hot cups of coffee, while he cagily pried information from Joshua Hale. Rainey admired Hébert’s non-confrontational style and relaxed into the role of quiet sidekick. She mostly watched Chance, who reluctantly joined them at his father’s request. The redhead had not reappeared.

“I got my logbook out in the cab of my truck. It’ll show when I entered the country from Canada on New Year’s Day,” Joshua said, as a way to back up his alibi. “I was on a run to Mexico City and stopped by the house for a couple of hours, then I was back on the road.”

Joshua started for the back door when Hébert asked, “May I come with you? I’d like to see this truck Chance restored. I hear it’s something.” He turned back to Chance. “A ’51 Chevy 3100, five-window, right?”

Chance only grunted, which Rainey was learning was his preferred response.

“He ain’t much for conversation in the mornings,” Joshua said of his son, almost apologetically.

While Hébert and Joshua Hale left to recover the trucker’s logbook from the eighteen-wheeler parked in the massive garage behind the house, Rainey was left with the insolent teenage boy. After nearly five years as a federal agent questioning cunning criminals, she knew how to handle the disrespectful, rebellious type. She figured Hébert had left her alone with Chance in hopes that a female could connect with the motherless child the counselor identified as in need of help. It didn’t appear to be working.

Rainey stood and walked to the kitchen counter. She topped off her cup with fresh brew from the half empty pot warming on the coffee maker and looked out the window toward the garage. The snow fell heavier now. The grayness of the day delayed the sunrise. The glass in the garage’s oversized rolling doors glowed with the stark white light of the fluorescent tubes illuminating the interior. As Rainey turned back to Chance, she noticed on the counter a picture of the sheepishly smiling teenager standing beside his pride and joy.

“The paint on this truck looks exactly like the original. That shade of green is hard to come by.”

Chance opened his eyes to see Rainey holding the framed picture in her hand. He didn’t say anything, but at least she had his attention.

She continued, “You did a great job on the woodwork. All hand-sanded and stained, I bet.” Softening her features and smiling not at him, but the photo, Rainey asked, “Did you do a wood floor in the bed too? I can’t tell from this picture.”


Finally, she had drawn out a responsive syllable, and a whole word at that. Rainey leaped at the opening.

“What’s under the hood, restored original or custom?”


That was the last syllable Chance Hale spoke before the wall behind Rainey buckled with an explosive concussion. She noticed a split second of total silence, as if the sound was too loud to hear, then came the blast that sent her diving for the floor. The picture frame and coffee cup flew from her hands. The shattered windows showered the room with tiny shards of glass. Wood splintered into skin ripping projectiles.

Rainey lay stunned on the floor, her ears ringing. As the air and disorientation began to clear, her instincts kicked in. She pushed herself up from the floor, grabbed the Glock from her waist, and went immediately into a defensive posture. She had no idea what had just happened, but it couldn’t be a good sign that snow mixed with bits of insulation floated into the kitchen through the gaping hole in the wall.

She called out to Chance, who was under the table, “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

Chance’s eyes were focused on a hubcap that spun like a top not two feet from the now wide-awake teenager. Rainey thought he might be thinking about how close it had come to taking his head off. A small secondary explosion made them both flinch.

Warily watching the door leading to the back porch for a foe and hoping for a friend, she tried again for a response. “Are you hurt? What the hell just happened?”

Rainey saw the hatred in his eyes when Chance responded, not with concern for his father, but with absolute abhorrence.

“That fucker blew up my truck.”

Rainey was still a bit disoriented she thought. Maybe she didn’t hear him correctly.

She asked one more time, “Are you hurt?”

Chance answered with a question. “If he isn’t dead, will you kill him?”

“Not unless I have to,” she said, moving her eyes from the door to the teenager.

“If I told you he was a killer, would it make a difference?”

Rainey glanced at the door and then back to Chance, before she answered, “No. I can’t just execute him.”

He gave Rainey a cold stare and declared, “I can.”

About the Author


Four-time Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Mystery—Rainey Nights (2012), Molly: House on Fire (2013), The Rainey Season (2014), and Relatively Rainey (2016)—and 2013 Rainbow Awards First Runner-up for Best Lesbian Novel, Out on the Panhandle, author R. E. Bradshaw began publishing in August of 2010. Before beginning a full-time writing career, she worked in professional theatre and also taught at both university and high school levels. A native of North Carolina, the setting for the majority of her novels, Bradshaw now makes her home in Oklahoma. Writing in many genres, from the fun southern romantic romps of the Adventures of Decky and Charlie series to the intensely bone-chilling Rainey Bell Thrillers, R. E. Bradshaw’s books offer something for everyone.

Exclusive Excerpt: Brownstone: A Jack Elliot Thriller (The Jack Elliot Series Book 1) by Dean Kutzler


The key to the world’s fate discovers a devastating secret that has been divinely hidden since the days of Genesis. As the centuries passed, what was once common knowledge of our ancient origins became purposefully hidden within the lies of clergy.

Jack Elliot–a journalist, living in Montréal–returns to his hometown of New York City to pay respect to his dying uncle. Jack soon learns foul play is at hand when he finally gets to visit dear Uncle Terry. The poor man has had a severe stroke, and, is struggling to talk to his favorite nephew.

Or, at least, that, is what Jack thinks.

Uncle Terry wasn’t struggling to talk to Jack, and, what happens next, sends Jack spiraling down a web of mystery. He gets more than he bargained for, on his trip home, when he finds himself entrenched in not one, but, two, murder cases, where he’s the prime suspect.

What Jack doesn’t know is that amidst all the murder, an organization created at the beginning of time has been patiently waiting for him to…ripen! They have big plans for Jack in this mystery and suspense filled book–plans that are tied back to the very beginning of mankind–and, if they find him, the world will be immeasurably changed most certainly not for the better.

What does a clandestine organization as old as creation want with Jack Elliot? Does Jack prove his innocence? Read the first book in the exciting new thriller series, Brownstone, and discover the true facts that will shock the world!


2000 B.C.E.

The Temple at Dusk…

SHE HELD IT tightly to her chest, as though her unwavering determination could fulfill her prophecy. There was a time when a mere nod of her head could send the will of men withering from her sight before the red locks of her hair fell back into place. That time has long passed; stepping aside until the day it shall reign again.

Her day.

No one saw her enter the temple, coveted under the moonless night like felt, shifting on black satin. The night breeze cool across her back as she slipped passed the entrance.

No one must see.

Once inside, she held her torch beside the iron sconce protruding from the wall and its flame burst and flickered to life. The smell of sulfur reassured her safe passage; she could not trust all the sconces to be lit. Where she needed to journey was deep within the temple and what she held was too important for her to fail.

They could not harm her, the wrongful pact had been sealed, but foul her plans they certainly could.

The passageway was dark. Her feet fell softly on the solid hewn stone, barely visible between the lengths of sconces despite her torch, as she made her way around the first turn. She stopped to relight the iron sconce there, like a beacon. The temple should be empty, but she had to be careful. It had to be done and no one could know.

Especially Him.

She hefted it closer to her chest, cradling it like a stolen newborn and thrust the torch higher as she ventured down the impossible steps. The steps her people built. The steps her people had died for, never having the privilege of their use. What He’d done to them went beyond any justification that existed in this world. Had she not been warned by the infernal source, her fate would have followed and everything would have been lost to this new world.

A world of inequality.

The steps were never-ending, like the heat of her rage. The sweat of her people has long since dried on these stones, no one left to be avenged. Their unjust fate has been hidden from the infancy of this new world. A veil of lies disguised within a deceitful beginning and set off on the heels of destruction. She could not set her plan of the ages into motion until this deed was done. She’d vowed her existence to the cause. The cause for the original beginning.

Her cause.

She finished walking down the never-ending steps, out onto a small landing made from a large block of finely hewn stone. Her face softened at the struggle her people must have had with such a quarry. The landing led down a shorter set of steps, allowing access into a room or branching off to the right, into another passageway. She gazed down that passageway and sorrow filled the perfection of her face. She no longer needed to travel down that path. She forced her gaze forward and squeezed it, yet tighter, to her chest. The memory of her people heavy with this burden she now carried. Once she’s finished, she’d never walk these corridors in this form again.

She trotted down the short set of steps with renewed purpose and entered the immense chamber. Time would be the true test for this room, but not in her time. Wasting not another second, she traversed the great expanse of the chamber to a doorway at the back. It was unfair, she thought, what she was about to do. Then rage once more bubbled up from beneath and chased the fleeting thought. How could she feel such emotion when her people had suffered such an unfair fate? Were they not innocent once, too?

She took one last look at the chamber before she drove her torch through the doorway and entered the passageway. She could not falter now. She could not blanch at the injustice she was about to serve. Sorrow may have filled her heart, but her innocence had been ripped away along with her people.

She glanced up at the hopeful seed-filled pots lining the ledge of the passage while she made her way down toward the sacred footbath. Seeds of such hope, dashed by the light of day. It wouldn’t seem possible, but darkness was their only chance. She left the pots behind along with the memories and continued down the passageway.

She could hear the trickling of the sacred footbath now. The sound as soothing on her nerves as sipping from a communal bowl filled with a strong batch of the bappir drink. She marveled at the lost ingenuity of her people in the construction of this bath. Freshwater ran continuously down from inside the temple walls, filling the stone basin at the bottom and back out, never drying up, nor ever flooding the temple.

She rested her torch alongside the clever stone chair built into the temple wall for this simple yet necessary pleasure, lest she be marked, but she would not release her charge from her grasp, not even for a mere second. For as easily as it was here it could vanish just as simply. The lengths of her struggle must not be in vain.

She gathered her Pala dress around her knees and stepped into the basin. Cool, crystal-pure water splashed over her feet, then flowed from sight beneath the stone and a purifying sensation washed over her, starting from deep within and radiated throughout each perfect pore.

She gently squeezed her eyes shut and sank down into the chair; letting the sin she was about to commit wash from her soul, along with the dirt from her unlikely feet. She no longer needed to play by His rules, but tempt fate she would not. That was beyond both of their control.

She enjoyed the silky purification for as long as time would allow, still bound by the laws of this world. Her task awaited her just in the next chamber.

Stepping over the basin of the sacred footbath, she rose from the stone seat and collected her torch. As she plunged it through the doorway, the immaculate floor shimmered from the flickering flames, shadows growing both tall and short, as she gently padded on clean feet across the room to the corner.

Using the torch like a crutch, she knelt down, keeping her charge tight in her other arm, and angled the flame over the small sprout emerging from the stone floor. Its tiny leaves quivered in time with the flickering of light, and the first true smile since before her people’s fate, bloomed upon her perfect face like a desert blossom. She stared at the little sprout until her eyes grew cold and her smile wavered, and then fell flat.

It was time.

She pulled down heavy on the torch, the weight of her burden intolerable, and lifted herself from the corner. It began to pulse and radiate beneath her tight grasp, knowing its lengthy fate, as she walked away from the hopeful little sprout.

The altar was still warm, the sickeningly sweet scent of burnt flesh hung in the air, as she walked behind it. She glanced about the room to make sure no one had followed her.

Sidestepping the huge stone mural hanging above the altar, she reached up and gently depressed one of the stone blocks in the wall. It moved inward but an inch and muffled sounds of heavy stone wheels could be heard gently rolling behind the wall.

The rolling sounds ceased and the gigantic mural shifted a few feet to the right as pressure could be heard releasing from somewhere, revealing an empty space large enough for what she needed hidden from the world. Hidden, for a very long time to come.

She checked the room once more, then carefully placed the burden inside the secret space and touched the depressed stone.

As the stone raised flush with the wall, the mural slowly shifted back in place and more pressure was released.

The deed was done.

All that was left of her plan was time.

She tossed the torch into the altar and it blazed to life, flames nearly licking the stone ceiling. Once it died to a mere roar, her form appeared between the flames as she stood beneath the mural with both arms straight out from her sides.

She swung her empty palms down in front of her with a violent clap and shen-rings appeared in each. As she slowly raised them above her head her form withered, then fell to dust and the shen-rings disappeared.

Learn more about author Dean Kutzler and his novels; 



Exclusive Excerpt: The Excluded Exile (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 12) by Frank W Butterfield


Monday, February 21, 1955

Nick and Carter are Down Under in Sydney at summer’s end and are looking forward to finally having time to spend at the beach so Carter can get in some surfing while Nick works on his tan as a surf widow.

Everything is going to plan until they forget to make it look like they slept in both beds and are asked to leave their hotel. Fortunately, they’re able to rent a house in the Eastern Suburbs atop a cliff that is two hundred feet above the Pacific. The house is perfect, with new furniture, an ocean-facing sunroom, and a housekeeper.

But then it starts to rain. And a dead body turns up in the kitchen, clobbered with a cast-iron skillet.

The questions start piling up. Who cleaned up the blood after the body was removed? Whose car is that parked at the end of the street? Will they ever make it to the beach?

In the end, it’s another trans-Pacific adventure for Nick and Carter that leads home in a number of unexpected ways.


“Mrs. Tutwiler is my name. You must be Mr. Williams and Mr. Jones.” She looked at Tony and Christine briefly and then back at me. “I was told it was just the two of you.”

I nodded and extended my hand. She didn’t take it, keeping her arms folded. I said, “There’s just the two of us renting the house. Our friends are flying back to San Francisco tomorrow.”

She raised one eyebrow. “I don’t see how, unless you brought your own plane. The next flight to America doesn’t leave until Thursday.”

“As a matter of fact, I did bring my own plane. Mrs. Morris here”—I nodded at Christine—”is the wife of our pilot. And Mr. Kalama is an employee. They’re all flying back to the U.S. in the morning.”

“I see. I suppose you’ll be wanting a tour.”

Without waiting for a reply, she turned and walked through the living room, which was furnished in Danish Modern, and into the front room that looked out over the ocean. “This is the sunroom.” It had a single sofa, bookended by two small tables, facing the windows. A veritable jungle of potted plants of various sizes stood in front of the window but didn’t obscure the stunning view of the cliffs and the water in the distance.

Moving back into the living room, she said, “Lounge.”

I looked at Carter, who shrugged. We followed her back into a room with a dining table and six chairs, china cabinet, and kitchen pass-through.

“Dining room.”

Turning right, she led us into a hallway and made another right that led to a largish bedroom. “Your bedroom.” More Danish Modern. The large bed had a headboard that was comprised of a bookshelf with sliding doors. Matching nightstands on either side had matching elongated lamps. A bureau and a wardrobe, both made of a light teak, faced the bed. There was no bathroom.

Silently moving through us, she led us back down the hall to a second bedroom, smaller than the first, but decorated just the same. “Guest bedroom.”

Further down from that was the bathroom, which was smallish but not too small. Without entering, she said, “Bathroom.”

She then led us back into the dining room and stood in front of a swinging door. “Behind here is the kitchen and my own quarters. I’ll thank you not to disturb my private area.”

I nodded. “Of course, not.”

“Any questions?”

I looked at Carter who appeared to be stunned. Turning back to Mrs. Tutwiler, I said, “I don’t think so. There’s a real estate—”

“Yes. Mr. Willoughby. I phoned him when I saw you drive up. He should be here momentarily.”

We all stood there for a long moment in an uncomfortable silence.

To fill the void, Christine asked, “Have you worked here long?”

Mrs. Tutwiler offered a sour grin. Before she could reply, there was a knock at the door.

Pushing through us, Mrs. Tutwiler said, “Excuse me,” and made her way to the door.

Tony whispered, “Scary.”

Christine said, “I keep waiting for her to say, ‘These are Mrs. DeWinter’s things,’.”

Tony laughed. “Like Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca.”

Christine looked at me. “You’ll have to call this place Manderley.”

I frowned. “What are you two talking about?”

Tony grinned. “You never saw the movie Rebecca?”

I shook my head.

Tony looked at Carter who said, “Me, neither.”

Tony shrugged. “You two are too young. You’ll have to watch it some time. You’ll see what we mean.”

Right then, Mrs. Tutwiler announced, “Mr. Willoughby.” With that, she walked through us and into the kitchen.

Purchase link to the entire Nick Williams Mysteries; 


Exclusive Excerpt: Forever Haunt (The Jimmy McSwain Files Book 5) by Adam Carpenter


Fifteen years ago, NYPD officer Joseph McSwain, was gunned down while trying to stop a robbery. His murder was never solved. Until now.

For his son, Hell’s Kitchen private detective Jimmy McSwain, his father’s death has defined him, defied him, and denied him his chance at happiness. But the shooting death of a young officer named Denson Luke has re-ignited the investigation into the mysterious Blue Death conspiracy. Jimmy still must earn a living, so he cannot ignore a family in distress. New neighbors Carmen Ramirez and her young son, Sonny are clearly running from danger. Overnight, their case becomes one involving a missing father, a Chinese crime syndicate, and an abduction which threatens to overwhelm Jimmy’s mission of solving his father’s case. His relationship status with Frank Frisano on and off again, Jimmy tries to do double duty, jeopardizing his own safety. It’s only when another murder occurs that Jimmy finally finds the path that has eluded him. His investigation finally leads him back home, where a devastating family secret overshadows all he’s learned, and the cost to the McSwain family may never be repaid. Jimmy realizes the blood on his hands will forever haunt him.

Exclusive Excerpt:


Case file #101: THE FOREVER HAUNT

The past stared back at him, a ghost with glowing eyes. He hadn’t looked at these clothes in nearly a year’s time, not since last March, the anniversary of his father’s death. March 18th, mere hours after the entire family had celebrated a traditional, and for them—final–St. Patrick’s Day together. He wasn’t sure what hidden impulse had him withdrawing the plastic bag out of the back of his closet today, or why he was looking at ancient stains, rust colored and crusted, that too long ago bore the bright crimson of freshly spilled blood. A pair of faded jeans, a simple white T-shirt, dirty sneakers, the lone survivors of that awful day. His mother had thought she’d thrown them out. Except he had fetched them out of the dumpster in front of their building and never told her he kept them. Back then when a teen he’d been afraid to say so, fearful she would steal them away. Today, the soiled clothes served not as a reminder of the terrible unsolved crime because he didn’t need one, but instead was more of a talisman in this quest he’d sworn one day to complete. The clothes remained in the plastic, a transparent coffin.

He’d inched closer in the last year to finally adding the word SOLVED to the file, the one cold case that continued to deny him sleep. The case was labeled file 101 because it had been his first ever as a private investigator, he his first client. He’d redoubled his efforts in the past ten months, fresh, unexpected clues starting to fall into place. It was like he could taste a resolution, on his tongue and feel it in his heart, within his soul. Both words, forever and haunt, could at last be laid to rest beside his father.

A new year had at last arrived, and with it came a renewed sense of hope, of salvation, as it always did. Except this year was different, because it would be the fifteenth anniversary of the murder of Joseph McSwain, and the truth had been buried too long. Almost like the dropping of that sparkling, diamond-encrusted ball in Times Square, the anticipation of its descent offered up a sense that brightness filled the future. All you needed was an official countdown. Then you could cheer. Then you could celebrate triumph.

Now, though, distant stars dotted a clear night sky that was slipping into the brightening horizon. Morning was edging in, pushing out the past day, bringing sun-filled promise from the east. Wide-awake and restless, he stared at the window of his office, a studio apartment found on the second floor of a walk-up on Ninth Avenue and 46th Street. The time was approaching 4:30 in the morning, the city gone quiet. It was one of those rare times when Manhattan defied its hard-earned reputation. The bars were closed, people slept, the only signs of life coming from the occasional cabs passing by, empty. The lights on the roofs beamed like fallen stars.

Jimmy McSwain had been asleep but his pattern was interrupted, as it was most nights he stayed here. He easily fell asleep, usually around 1:00 a.m., only to awaken somewhere between four and five. He would then do case work, mostly the online research which only seemed to suck up valuable time during normal waking hours. He was between cases right now, which is when he usually turned to the Forever Haunt. He would take out the thickening file of fading memories and reread articles his lips knew all too well. Tonight he’d altered his routine, left the file in the closed drawer, and instead reached back and found the plastic bag of clothes.

It hadn’t happened far from here, the murder of his father. At the corner of Tenth Avenue and 47th Street, a block from the safety of home, an avenue from here. A nexus between his home life and his business, a perfect storm of tragedy and destiny. He should never have lost his father that day, not in that way. Imagine if Joseph McSwain had lived, where would Jimmy be now? Not awake, not being taunted by darkness that lived not only in the night sky but inside his heart. Morning would shun the night and bring the new day it always did. Not the same for what ached inside him, because the wound never did go away. He knew the feeling too well, especially with the anniversary looming. He could hear the loud blast of a gun just as much as he could the constant ticking of the clock. A countdown indeed, the sort that kept sleep at bay.

Jimmy released the faded curtain, closing out the waking city. Encased in his own world, he sat on the worn sofa, the bag of bloodied clothes keeping him company–his younger self still beside him. He leaned forward and instead grabbed the television remote. He flipped the power button, watched as the TV blared to life. He pressed the mute button, not ready for both sight and sound. The cable box always went directly to NY1, the 24-hour news channel in Manhattan. Time was four thirty-one, the early morning anchor detailing the “weather on the 1s.” It was going to be a normal February day, high of 37. He didn’t have much planned for the day. At night, he had promised his mother he would pick up a sub shift at the Calloway Theatre. Not his favorite job, ushering the people to their seats, but he did help in a pinch.

            Anything for Maggie McSwain.

            Including ultimately solving the murder of the only man she’d ever loved.

            On the screen Jimmy noticed video of a crime scene unfolding along one of Manhattan’s waterfronts. Emergency lights swirled in the background, adding garish red streaks to the night. The scenario grabbed his attention. He clicked on the sound, rewound to get the report from the start.

            “Breaking news now. Police have responded to a shooting that has taken place along the East River near 14th Street. Early reports have the NYPD harbor patrol retrieving a body from the river, but no other details have emerged yet. We are waiting for word from the officials on hand but until then we go now to our on-scene reporter, Jillian Jansen, who is standing by. Jillian, can you tell us the latest?”

            “Pat, police responded at about 3 a.m. to a call of shots fired on the pier here on the east side. We expect to hear from the responding precinct captain in a matter of minutes…wait, I see someone walking to a makeshift podium…it’s not the precinct captain but NYPD Commissioner Patrick Delaware himself. This is an interesting turn of events, which makes this incident a high priority. Let’s listen in.”

            Jimmy leaned in, as though doing so got him somehow closer to the action. He watched a distinguished, gray at the temples man of about sixty step up to the microphone. As someone who took careful notice of the activities of the NYPD, Jimmy knew Delaware’s florid face quite well, but it was the two men who flanked him that added to the unfolding intrigue. First, he recognized a one-time family friend, Lieutenant Lawrence Dean, and second, on the left side of the commish was another of his trusted lieutenants, Salvatore Frisano—who happened to be father to Francis X. Frisano, captain of the 10th Precinct in Chelsea and Jimmy’s current lover. Seeing such a high-powered press conference unfold had Jimmy wondering who the victim could be. He felt his heart racing quickly, anxiety winning out over curiosity.

            “Good morning, and it is an early one at that,” Commissioner Delaware began. “I stand here with a heavy heart, regret filling me as I report that one of our finest, Officer Denson Luke of the 10th Precinct, was found washed up along the waters of the East River at approximately 3:45 this morning. The circumstances surrounding his death remain a mystery, though I can confirm that it was neither a suicide nor an accidental drowning. Officer Luke was killed by a single gunshot to the forehead, and while an autopsy will be performed, we are treating this as not only a homicide but an execution of a man in blue. His brethren of the NYPD will devote all our waking hours to finding the perpetrator of this terrible crime. We will all know why Officer Denson Luke lost his life.”

            Jimmy felt like the past never stayed where it should, his life a constantly staged revival. The bloodied clothes served as a prop in a tragic play, the men at the podium the leads. Jimmy a mere spectator, the man who put people in their seats, just as he’d been during the days after his father’s murder. That was back when the police swore the same commitment as he’d just heard. No one gets away with killing an NYPD cop. Yet someone had, long ago. The police had come up empty back then, and who knew, perhaps they would now.

            Jimmy focused back on the television, where the Commissioner was still talking.

            “I have asked two of my trusted aides to form a task force to investigate this brutal crime, working in tandem with the 10th Precinct, where Officer Luke was assigned. Many of you know Lieutenant Lawrence Dean, who works within a special branch of our Internal Affairs bureau. And Lieutenant Salvatore Frisano, who has overseen many high-profile cases, though much of his investigative work is done behind the scenes. Together, these two dedicated men in blue will protect one of their own, even when—especially when—one cannot protect himself. Thank you. I wish us all better days ahead.”

            Jimmy sat there, stunned as the three powerful men in uniform broke from the podium. He absorbed what he’d just heard. The 10th Precinct was under Captain Frisano’s command, and now one of his officers was dead. His father heading up the task force. Jimmy thought about calling or texting Frisano, but what would he say, what comfort was there? Frisano was busy no doubt, perhaps even among those first responders assembled on the pier. He gazed at the screen to see if he could recognize anyone walking about but the camera then panned back to where the reporter stood. Jimmy listened in.

            “Pat, we just learned more details about the victim. Officer Luke was on the force for five years, and he leaves behind a wife and two young children. We will have more for you later. For now, I’m Jillian Jansen, live in Manhattan…”

            Jimmy pressed the power button and watched the image disappear. So easy to douse, just like a life. Everything was instant these days. Except pain. That didn’t disappear so quickly, if it ever did. Jimmy thought about Officer Luke, and he thought about the man’s family, who would wake up to the news of his death, if they hadn’t already been informed. Their lives were altered forever. Jimmy understood all too well.

            Crime never solved anything, not for the perp, not for the vic. It just did damage.

            Jimmy tossed the remote aside, wiped a tear from his eye as he retrieved the bag of soiled clothes from the sofa. Walking across the room, he opened the closet and set the bag on a high shelf. Out of sight, but never out of mind. He returned to the window and saw the first break of light on the horizon. He was grateful to see the hint of a new day, an orange glow of hope. Not everyone got to witness such radiance, and so few appreciated it.

            In truth, few appreciated their life. Not until death readied its final nail.

            Resolution was near. He could feel the tingle in his fingertips. Bring on the morning, that fresh start so many sought.

            Through another family’s pain, mourning, Jimmy McSwain had found new determination to finally close out his first case, no matter the circumstances, or consequences. He was going to bring the heat to this cold case.

            Case File #101: THE FOREVER HAUNT.

            Case Status: UNSOLVED


 Learn More about Adam Carpenter’s “Jimmy McSwain” mysteries; 



Exclusive Excerpt: The Sodden Sailor (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 11) by Frank W Butterfield


Sunday, February 6, 1955

It’s Sunday night and Nick has decided he wants to get back in the kitchen to make a couple of pans of lasagna for dinner, something he hasn’t done since he and Carter moved into the big pile of rocks on Nob Hill.

Captain Daniel O’Reilly, pilot of The Flirtatious Captain, is bringing a friend for dinner. Instead of his latest love interest, the captain introduces Nick and Carter to an old friend, a man who is on his last legs and who has a favor to ask: can Nick and Carter help him get his girl and her son out of Red China?

That’s where things begin but it’s far from where they end…


The sun had set when we headed out for dinner. We brought Captain O’Reilly and Murphy along with us. Since none of us knew where we were going, I stopped one of the bellboys and asked him about the place that Tony had said was at the end of the beach. He knew where it was and suggested we take a cab since it was after dark and we might get lost.

The cab driver dropped us off in front of an old wood-frame building that looked like it was falling apart. But there was some serious jazz coming from a jukebox inside and that immediately got Carter’s attention.

We walked in and found a mix of people and a lot of noise. No kids, which made sense. The place was more like a juke joint than a restaurant. Once I realized what kind of place it was, I relaxed a bit. There were couples in the life, here and there, but mostly it was either loud groups of sailors and marines in uniform or loud groups of fishermen or loud groups of women gathered together. They were all competing to be heard over the horn of Miles Davis. There was every color under the rainbow but one. The four of us stuck out like snowflakes.

Tony saw us, walked up, and hugged me. “Come on in.” He pulled me over to a table where a grinning Chinese man was holding an unlabeled beer bottle in one hand and chopsticks in the other. He was shoveling some sort of seafood into his mouth as fast as I’d ever seen anyone do.

“Lee, this is Nick.”

The man put down the chopsticks and the beer, swallowed, and wiped his hands on his grungy shirt. “How are ya, Nick?” He offered his hand, which I shook.

“Fine.” I pointed. “This is Carter. And Dan. And Johnny.” Everyone shook as Tony and I brought a couple of stools to the table.

“I didn’t know you’d be bringing friends.”

“They’re the reason we’re going to Hong Kong.” I had to shout to be heard.

Tony nodded. “Let’s eat and then we can all go for a walk on the beach and talk about whatever it is you’re doing.” Once again, I was struck by the hardness in his voice. I looked at his face and saw a grit and a determination I wasn’t expecting. I wondered about that.

. . .

Carter charmed a hamburger sandwich out of the cook by using his southern accent. The rest of us ate whatever Tony ordered for us. I had no idea what most of it was but one dish reminded me of the raw fish that John had made for us over on Kauai that was similar to a dish I’d had down in Mexico.

Lee pointed out that the food was a mix of different things: Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, even Korean. I liked it all. The beer was a local brew that didn’t seem to have a name. All I knew was that it was cold and went down smooth.

I paid for dinner but it came to less than twenty for all us so I added another twenty and we made our way down to the water. Once we were twenty or thirty feet away from the place, I finally felt like I could talk in a normal voice. There were a few couples sitting on the sand and necking. We made our way past them and to a spot where there were picnic tables and sat around one of those. We’d each brought a fresh bottle of beer. Lee produced a bottle opener and passed it around.

“Who makes this?” I asked.

Tony replied, “It’s a place up near where we went today. Not really legal. But it sure is good.”

I nodded. “It sure is.”

Tony got right to the point. “I brought Lee out so you could meet him. I get the feeling that you have some job you’re doing in Hong Kong that might not be on the up-and-up.”

I nodded, surprised for a third time at his change in demeanor. I put up my hand. “Wait. Before we go on, what is this?”

I could see his white teeth in the dark as he grinned. “What’s what?”

Carter asked, “Yeah. What is this?”

Tony took a chug of his beer and shrugged.

Lee answered. “Tony used to do some work for the O.S.S.”

Murphy slammed his hand on the table. “That’s where I recognize you from, isn’t it?”

Tony laughed. “Sure. I know you from working in Chungking.”

Murphy added, “And Canton.”

Tony nodded but didn’t say anything.

I asked, “Did this involve the Nationalists?”

They both said, “Yes,” in unison. They laughed and clinked their bottles together.

I asked Lee, “What about you?”

Tony said, “You’ll never get any answers from him.”

Lee took a swig of his beer and said, “I did my work for the Kuomintang. Lotta good it did ’em, but I did.”

O’Reilly reached over and clinked his bottle against Lee’s. “God bless the generalissimo.”

“Hear, hear,” echoed the other three.

. . .

Once O’Reilly had laid out the plan, I added my latest ideas. After some back and forth about the feasibility of it all, I asked Tony and Lee, “Are you two in?”

They both nodded. Someone had started a bonfire on the beach and I could see their faces in the firelight. They both looked tough. More than I would have expected.

“How much?” asked Lee.

“A hundred a day plus all expenses.” I replied.

He nodded. “Sounds good. When do we leave?”

“At 7 in the morning from the airport. Tony knows the plane. Bring your black tie, if you have it.”

Lee laughed. “The one called The Flying Fireman?”

I nodded and looked at Carter who shrugged.

“You a fireman?” asked Lee.

“He used to be,” I answered. “Don’t you—”

Carter put his hand over my mouth and said, “Just enjoy it, Nick.” He took his hand away and kissed me. I just nodded in agreement.

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