Worlds of imagination by Sara B. Gauldin

A Sneak Preview of Off the Record: An Avery Rich Mystery

I am excited to announce that my new, intense mystery: Off the Record will be released in February!  Catch it on my Amazon Author Page!  For now, enjoy my new cover and a sneak preview! Copyright 2016 Sara B Gauldin


Chapter 1

Crime is nothing new to this world. There are daily disturbances, robberies, assaults, and crimes of passion that happen every day. These crimes are pretty straight forward. An addict needs money to fund a fix so they steal. A person feels threatened or scorned so they lash out. There is no great secret motivation in the primal needs that govern the everyday crime.
As a beat cop, I handled every-day deviants well enough to move up the ranks. As a new detective, being transferred to Alexandria was a step in the right direction for my career.
The heat and humidity beat down on the pavement causing mirage ripples to writhe upward. My suit seemed oppressive as I hurried from the car to the station. I brushed a bead of sweat off of my brow as I bundled my chestnut hair into a tight bun. I did not break my stride as I adjusted my tresses. I needed to make the right impression.
My phone buzzed angrily in my pocket. It seemed suddenly alive. I shifted my weight to remove it. “Hello?” I answered in one breath. I did not have time to entertain any interruptions. The scheduled briefing began in only ten minutes.
“Detective Avery Rich?” a man asked.
“This is she,” I said.
“This is Commander Calbert. I need you to report directly to my office as soon as you arrive.” His voice sounded different from when I had interviewed with him.
“Err, yes sir. Will I miss the briefing?” I had just rushed to the station from across town to hear about a series of home invasions. Could he need to talk to me about that? I hadn’t been in town long enough to be second-guessed over a judgment call.
“Never mind that, I’m putting you on something else. I already let dispatch know not to reroute you until they hear from me. I’ll see you in my office.” The call ended with a parting click.
I rushed down the corridor that led from the parking garage into the station. I could not help wondering what the commander had in mind. I had not heard of anything on the dispatch or picked up by the press that was dramatic enough to have him quite so edgy.
By the time I had reached the commander’s office, I was regretting wearing heels. The idea that appearing a bit taller would garner respect really did nothing but slow me down. There were not enough shoes in Virginia to make my five-foot one-inch frame seem more formidable. As I opened the door, the commander stood up. His face seemed flushed. There was a look in his eyes that I had not seen before. The man who had hired me had been calm and composed. This man was more like a caged beast.
“We have a situation,” Calbert said. “Before I get into details I need to make one thing clear to you; this is not a case like anything you’ve experienced in the past. What I tell you in this room cannot be repeated without my express permission. To do so would jeopardize the entire case. Until we know the breadth of this, it can’t be shared.”
“Yes sir, I understand,” I lied; I could not imagine anything that could not be shared among colleagues. That was the strength within the police department; collaboration.
“You know that I hired you because you came highly recommended. That is only half of the truth. I also wanted you because you have a reputation for working independently. You are tough. You have a sense of integrity that has not been corrupted by years of work on the streets. And you are not from this area. I needed you here for just this type of situation.”
“Situation Sir?” I asked. I was beginning to wonder if Calbert was having a breakdown.
“I need you to go off of the grid for a while,” Calbert said. “There is a situation here that I cannot open a formal investigation on. It cuts too deep. There are officers here who would be a detriment, and it would take a long time to sort them all out.”
“I understand sir,” I said. Who was I kidding? I was worried about this guy. The stress from the job was clearly getting to him. However, being the newbie, I was not going to be outright disobedient to my CO. I would be cautious. Warned or not, I was not going to step on any toes until I knew what was going on.
Calbert scribbled a name onto a piece of paper. “Destroy this when you’ve found him.” He nodded towards the name he had written. “I think you’ll find him at the shelter over on Huntington Avenue.”
“Is he homeless sir?” I asked. I wondered why I would need the help of a vagrant.
“He is unconventionally situated; you’ll understand why when you meet him,” Calbert said. His frazzled appearance had not improved. “You’re investigating the disappearance of a bank president: Lawrence Shultz. He was recently named as the head of First National Bank. He’s the third bank president to disappear in the last month.”
“Has he been entered into the missing person’s database?” I asked. I wondered if this was on or off the record.
“He’s never actually been reported missing,” Calbert said. “Neither have the others. The first bank president who disappeared was a good friend of mine, Alan Morris. I noticed he was no longer at his office, ever. I asked about him at the bank; each time I asked they claimed he was in a meeting. I called his wife at home. He was always unavailable to come to the phone. There was something out-of-place. His wife’s voice shook when she lied. The teller could not look me in the eye when she reported him as busy. It never let up.”
“You haven’t been able to track him down?” I asked. Why would the people in this man’s life be hiding him?
“It’s as though he was sucked into a void. There’s no sign of him anywhere. I think the word got out that I was asking around. A couple of weeks after I was sure that he was missing a lady called me here at the station from a disposable cell phone and gave a tip that a second banker; Jim Maple was missing. The call came directly to me. The caller was very brief. She sounded terrified. I traced the call and found the phone in a trash can near Fort Ward Park. It was covered in blood.”
“And Shultz, how did you notice he was gone?” I asked.
“After the second disappearance that was never reported, I started doing some digging,” Calbert said. “I found out that Mr. Shultz was similarly unaccounted for. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were not more that I haven’t discovered. It’s strange. Usually when someone disappears, someone reports them as missing. These are business men, not transients. They have families, careers, and roots here. It is not as though they just wandered off to a new town.”
“I’ll get right on it sir,” I said. I could not help thinking that these men may not want to be found. “Oh and sir, this Ryan Kain person at the shelter, how does he tie into this?” Clearly, I was missing something.
“Kain was a good cop. He was one of the best here in Alexandria. Somewhere along the line, the way he saw the world became different from the way the department could work. Some people said he had lost his mind. He seemed to believe that there were forces around him that couldn’t be measured by the casual observer. I suppose some call his kind ‘conspiracy theorists’,” Calbert said. He betrayed no emotion of judgment.
“Do you think he can help, or do you think he’s a suspect?” I asked. Was I supposed to interview the nutcase or enlist him?
“Kain can’t work within the system anymore. That much has been proven, but he sees patterns in things that others don’t.” Calbert glanced towards the clock nervously.
“Do you mean patterns like missing bankers who aren’t considered missing?” I asked.
“Exactly,” Calbert said.
“I’ll be on my way sir,” I said. I was ready to leave the office before Calbert had a stroke or a heart attack. His face was becoming increasingly red. Sweat beaded around his temples. I wondered what he knew that was upsetting him so much. It crossed my mind that I should be concerned that he did not disclose whatever it was.
As I opened the door to leave, Calbert grunted one last warning: “Keep your head low and be careful.”
I would do that much.

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This entry was posted on January 13, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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