Monday, February 29, 2016

New Mystery/Thriller from Barbara Winkes!

Title: Amber Alert
Author:Barbara Winkes
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: February 1, 2016

When her two-year-old niece is kidnapped, Major Crimes Detective Ann McCoy uses every bit of leverage she has with Agent Cal Davis to stay on the case. More children are missing. Their parents, like Ann’s sister and her wife, are desperate for answers.

While the investigators look at the disturbing possibilities, a pattern emerges. They find an organization hidden in plain sight that has no boundaries when it comes to pushing their agenda-even at the cost of harming families and children.

Buy Now:

Cal sets a mug of steaming coffee in front of me.

“After this, I want you to go home,” he says, adding “Hear me out?” when I jump to my feet, ready to give him all the reasons why I shouldn’t.

“Your sister and her wife have already been interviewed, but there might be a gap that only you can close. I want you to think hard, about the cases you’ve worked, who got out of prison lately, anyone who is likely to link you to them. Find everyone who ever threw a homophobic slur at them.”

The thought makes me flinch, but I nod and sit back down. “Do you have any suspicion? I thought Martinez said the parents weren’t-”

“I don’t know yet. There were two single mothers, one gay couple, and one het. Then, Chrissie and Rachel. It’s not a pattern.”

“But…?” I prompt. It’s a world I don’t inhabit, but I hear things from Rachel, Chrissie and their friends sometimes. They are frustrated how some groups who pretend to care about faith and family, spread lies about same-sex couples and families. Usually, they don’t revert to crime. The overall lack of equality for these families has for a long time protected the hate-mongers. Not so much anymore since the Supreme Court’s marriage decision.

They might be deluded and angry, but not stupid enough to break the law--or are they? I can’t imagine them going as far as actually snatching children.

“No ‘but’. Just make sure you cover all angles.”

“Will do. God,” I say, “This is a nightmare. I worked on a couple of kidnapping cases.” “What happened?” he asks.

I take a long sip of the coffee, before I answer. “One was a custody battle gone bad. The dad turned himself in and brought back the boy.”

“…and the other one?”

“Didn’t come back.”

He lays a hand on my shoulder, squeezing gently, and I get up once more. I don’t want to get into any details, not now, not ever. What’s equally as important, I don’t want to give him any reasons to cut me off. I finish my coffee and say goodbye, picking up my keys and jacket on the way out.

As I’m driving out to Chrissie and Rachel’s, I’m pondering the homework he’s given me. Is it more than just a distraction? I’m sure Cal and his team are just as aware of any dangerous individual out there as I am, if not a lot more so. No one stands out, and there’s no one who has threatened me personally, or seems likely to do so. We’re aware of hate crimes in the area, but those are usually somewhere in between damage to property and violent assaults.

Rachel and Chrissie go pretty much under the radar, as far as I know. They don’t go out much, especially since they have Rosie. Why them? My train of thought inevitably brings me back to the most horrifying ideas. There are criminals who stop at nothing, people who think that money should buy them everything…and it does. There’s always the theory of the single offender.

Someone new in town? I park in the same spot as just yesterday, a little over twenty-four hours ago. The light has changed, and I only now realize how many hours have passed. My fears are screaming at me, It’s been too long already, but I have to ignore them. I have to go face the parents of a missing two-year-old, and I’ll have to ask them some hard questions.

Their friend Paula is with them, which gives me a pang of guilt for showing up so late. There’s nothing new I have for them, and what I’ve heard earlier, they can’t know. Everyone is subdued, so I try to bring up the subject as diplomatically as possible. I know they’ve had some heated online discussions, enough reason for me to rarely use the Internet for private purposes. There are just too many unpleasant people out there.

“I don’t know what you want, Ann,” Chrissie says. She’s tired, frustrated and scared. It’s showing.

“We don’t start that kind of dispute, and we’ve only answered a few times when somebody sought us out.”

“Lately, was there someone in particular?”

“Don’t you think I’ve asked myself that a million times?” Her voice is rising. “No, there isn’t anyone. Don’t tell me you’re wasting your time looking there. Yes, it’s annoying when people feel compelled to tell you that you’re going to hell. It sucks big time. Those are teenage bullies, and they’re also proud grandfathers, or wives. Unfortunately, it’s not a crime to be a self-righteous asshole, but other than that, they stick to the law. Don’t you watch the news? The ‘turn away the gays’ bills kept popping up even before we had marriage equality, and now there are still many places where you can get married, but also fired or evicted just for being gay. So far, the law works fine for them.”

Rachel and Paula exchange a look, and then Rachel gets up and says, “Honey, I’m sure Ann is hungry. Why don’t you stay here with Paula for a moment?” I have the suspicion that food is the last thought on her mind. No one here cares about food at this moment. When the kitchen door is closed, she wipes a hand over her face before giving me an intent look.

“Okay, tell me the truth. What are we looking at?”

“I told you. There is no news, and you’d be the first to know anyway.” “Really,” Rachel says. I don’t like the sarcasm. “Why are you asking these questions? We both know that it’s not the haters’ M.O. They are happy with leaving a few hateful comments on Facebook, not even knowing how far they’ve gotten their heads up their asses. They won’t even take responsibility for themselves, why would they kidnap a child?”

I let her speak while wondering if I paid so little attention before. I didn’t know she was so angry, or Chrissie, for that matter.

“It’s not that, right?”

“We must consider every angle.” I keep it vague, for her sake and mine.

“We took down the balloons just this morning,” she says, fiddling with her wedding ring. “I can’t stop thinking about that man. What if he’s one of those sickos who--”

“No,” I say firmly. “No. Right now, there’s only very little that we know, so let’s not jump to conclusions.” I can tell from her expression that there’s more.

“Look, if you have any idea, no matter how vague it is, now would be the moment--” “How can you even think that?” she snaps. “I’ve been going over every little detail, every possibility, a million times. We don’t exactly make enemies on a daily basis. You know a lot more about these things than we do, but you’re not telling us anything, just asking questions. You have no idea how much that scares me...I went on the Internet. Chrissie doesn’t know about it.” She swallows hard. “There are some sick people out there. ‘Baby brokers’?”

“Don’t do that.” It’s not a suggestion. “I know it’s hard.”

The look she gives me says clearly “You don’t know anything.”

For what it’s worth, I have to try.

“You can’t do this. You’re going to drive yourself crazy. It’s not the time to think of worst case scenarios. We’ll bring her home, Rachel!” Damn all those cop shows for spelling out all the horrible possibilities in more detail than anyone can bear.

“I can’t take this much longer.” She turns away from my gaze.

“It will be okay.” If we say it a few more times, we might be able to make ourselves believe. Rachel gives me a grateful smile that doesn’t quite cover the underlying emotions of fear and despair.

“Is there something I can fix you?”

“No, thanks. I’ll have something on the way back. It’s going to be-” A long night, I almost say, but stop myself in time. Tonight, tomorrow, no one of us has an idea, but it’s nothing I can say out loud in this house. I follow her back into the living room where the trace is set up. The tension in the room is palpable.


A psychologist/trauma counselor by training, Barbara Winkes left her native Germany to live with her wife in Qu├ębec City. Telling stories has always been her passion. She loves to write suspense and romance with female protagonists who try to solve the puzzle of their love life, a murder case, or sometimes, both.