Saturday, November 25, 2017

Untitled Zoe Grey Novella - Chapter 1

Untitled Zoe Grey Novella

This is the first chapter from the Zoe Grey novella I've been working on. This novella currently has no title and no cover, so I'm only missing a few small details! Haha!

This story takes place after book three and probably before book five. As I mentioned, I have gotten edits back from the editor, but I've not been through all of them yet. So here's my disclaimer: The version posted below is unedited. There may be mistakes, and once the novel is published, you may notice changes. That's just an FYI.

One night on my way home from work, a police cruise roared past me, followed by four more--lights and sirens, the whole bit. I wondered if I'd ever know where they'd been headed or what the call was. I made a mental note to call my grandmother the following day and ask if she saw anything in the paper, since I no longer take the paper.

When I arrived home, I was diverted from turning onto my street because five police cars, lights still flashing, were parked in the street in front of my neighbor's house. I circled around and got to my house from the other end of the street, and as I parked in my driveway, I had a very clear view of my neighbor's house.

The police were posted in their open car doors, guns and lights trained on the front door of the house. One of the officers gave commands, his voice booming through the neighborhood without the aid of a  megaphone. I knew I should have gone inside, but I was positively captivated, and so I sat and watched as the front door opened and a man came out of the house with his hands up. He was commanded to walk backward down the driveway and then get on his knees.

The police swarmed toward him, covering him, searching and handcuffing him, and into the house, where I noticed a woman watching from the doorway.

From there, things wrapped up in less than five minutes. Most of the cops left, and I finally did go inside.

To this day, I still have no idea what the call was about. There was nothing in the paper or online, and none of my neighbors knew anything useful. That house had been recently rented, and none of us, apparently, had gotten to know the woman who had moved in. Actually, we didn't even know for sure if the man lived there, too. A few weeks later, I noticed a new man and woman had moved in, these two married with a young daughter. I've still not been able to learn anything concrete about who they are, who owns the house, and whatever happened to the woman and the man the police arrested that night.

It's not very often this kind of thing happens up close and personal, and for weeks my mind played and replayed the event. All I could think was, "This is a story for Zoe Grey."

What would she have done? How would she have handled the situation? What was the back story?

It took a few weeks, but I finally wrote the story. As you'll recognize, some elements are based in truth. But most of them are completely made up, which is why I write this stuff in the first place.


Chapter 1
“Holy shit, Zoe. How did you manage this one?”
“The power of negotiation,” I said, touching my cheek where a shiner was already darkening.
The booking sergeant chuckled. “No kidding. Guy must weight three hundred and fifty pounds.”
“According to his license, yeah, but it’s out of date if you ask me.”
JoJo Malani was Hawaiian, six-five, and beastly enormous. He also had a temper, which was what had landed him in the system to begin with. Last week, he’d missed his court date, which triggered me to track him down and haul him back in again. Had any of the information in his file been accurate, I never would have gone after him.
“Sign right here. And let me get your cuffs.”
“He’s not in cuffs.”
The booking sergeant, a long-time jail deputy named Wilson, glanced at me. This wouldn’t be the weirdest thing he’d seen with the people I’d brought in.
I shrugged and pushed the form back across the steel counter. “They didn’t fit. But I had some rope in my truck, and that seemed to do the trick.”
Actually, I’d had to use all eight feet and wrap it not just around his wrists but up his forearms and around his massive gut. That alone had earned me my eight-hundred dollar bounty.
Behind the intake station, we both heard someone shout, “Hey!” followed by an enormous crash.
Wilson looked at me.
I immediately raised both hands and took a step back. “No way. He’s your problem now.”
“Oh, come on, Zoe,” he said, ripping off my copy of the body receipt, “you brought him down once. You’re an expert.”
“Yeah, right. Good luck.”
I left, the steel door of the detention center finally cutting off sounds of the ensuing struggle. I felt a tiny twinge of guilt leaving the deputies to deal with JoJo on their own, but it wasn’t enough to make me jump back in the ring again. That knock down, drag out with JoJo earlier had cost me dearly, and the shiner was the least of my problems. I was certain at least one rib was broken, and I’d taken a blow to the kidney that would leave me peeing blood for a week. If I got into it with him again, one of us would kill the other, because I didn’t have the strength or energy for another calculated, extended engagement designed to bring him down with minimal damage.
And anyway, those deputies were not only trained for situations like this, they were armed for them. Not to mention they had the ability to simply disengage and contain the man, which was my favorite of all the options.
I winced as I climbed into my ’78 Scout International. Were broken ribs worth eight hundred bucks? Probably not.
I sighed.
Dasch licked my face, no doubt sensing my pain.
“It’s okay, buddy,” I told him, scratching his ears. “I’m okay. Just a little banged up.”
I started the engine and he settled into the passenger seat, his nose out the open windows.
In hindsight, I probably should have let Dasch take JoJo down. I almost never let that happen, because if the lawsuits piled up, it would be a death sentence for Dasch, trained police dog or not.
With that, I called it a day. It was nearly dark anyway, and most of my day had consisted of tracking and sparring with JoJo. I was spent. And with the adrenaline burning off now, I could feel the pain worsening.
I cruised south on Timberline to Horsetooth and made my way west. I thought about a bath. Then I’d take stock. Depending on the extent of the damage, I could call my friend and ER nurse Sadie to patch me up. Of course, this wasn’t my first broken rib, and I had long ago become an expert on patching my own wounds.
As I approached College Avenue, I spied blue and red flashing lights in the rearview mirror. I hit my blinker and pulled right, as did most of the other traffic. An idiot in an Audi seemed to think we’d all gotten out of his way, so he cruised past like he’d just won the lottery. The cop rode his bumper and finally had to use his spotlight to get the guy’s attention. The Audi pulled off.
Almost immediately a second cruiser came zipping along behind the first. Then a third. And a fourth. And a fifth. We all paused, watching our mirrors waiting for another. When none came, we finally pulled back onto the road and continued on our way.
Fort Collins Police only ever had about eight cops on patrol at any given time. Those numbers fluctuated depending on the day of the week and the time of day, of course, some shifts needing more resources than others. Well past shift change, I knew this was not surplus from an overlap. Whatever call they ran to now, it demanded the immediate attention of a significant percentage of available resources.
My curiosity ticked up, and I wondered what kind of call it was. My boyfriend, Alex Ellmann, was a detective with FCPD, so I could find out later. If he didn’t know, my buddy Derek Frye was a patrol sergeant. Actually, he would be the better bet; he always knew what the patrol guys were up to. Unless the crime required a detective, sometimes Ellmann was out of the loop.
I listened to the radio and debated picking up something to eat before heading home. I quickly decided against it, thinking of all the bread I’d splurged on a couple days ago. I would make myself another sandwich after my soak in the tub.
I made my way through the neighborhood north of mine. There was a chill in the air tonight. That coupled with the early nightfall meant most of the streets were quiet and the park was deserted.
I turned and spotted a police cruiser sitting in the street, lights flashing. My gut twisted painfully as a wave of panic swelled. As I neared, I could see the cruiser was parked in such a way as to keep traffic out of the cul-de-sac I lived on.
Not good, I thought to myself, pulling over at an awkward angle and climbing out, Dasch following. I knew the officer standing next to the cruiser.
“Zoe, hey. We knocked on your door—”
I closed the distance and could see all five police vehicles parked throughout the cul-de-sac and all activity centered on the house next door to mine.
“Brooks,” I said sharply, surveying the cops I could see. “Who’s in charge?”
“Well, Sergeant Frye, until SWAT—Zoe?”
That was a no small blessing.
I cut around Brooks and his cruiser, jogging toward the marked Ford pickup parked in the middle of the street and currently serving as a staging area. My gait was awkward and every jarring step painful. My chest felt like it was on fire, not only from the fractured rib itself, but also from my inability to suck in a full breath of air.
As I approached, a cop I didn’t recognize spotted me and watched both Dasch and me carefully, suspiciously. He held a hand up to me like a crossing guard and barked, “Stop!”
I’d spotted Sergeant Derek Frye’s familiar frame toward the far end of the truck, where he stood talking on the phone.
Frye spun around, took in the scene, and immediately waved off his colleague. A moment later, he ended his call and slipped the phone back into the front pocket of his uniform.
“Zoe.” He looked at me. “Are you okay?”
I knew my black eye was obvious by now, and I must have been pale and sweaty from the pain of my jog. I tried to catch my breath. 
“Nothing serious,” I assured him. “What’s going on?”
He took a breath. “We don’t have a lot of information yet—”
“Derek, I’m not some idiot civilian.”
“I know. But the truth is, we really don’t know very much yet. We received a 911 call. Caller was female. She claimed to be in imminent danger from a male party who had trapped her in her house.”
“Fuck,” I hissed. “He came back.”
What the hell had happened in the last ten hours?
Frye said, “I know there was a report filed last night on a prowler. You and Ellmann gave chase. There was no suspect description.”
“Correct.” I summarized the events of last night, as well as my walk through the backyards this morning. Then I looked up at him. “We sent her with victim services last night. What the hell is she even doing back here today?”
“I’m working on that. I just spoke with the landlord. He said her name is Cheryl Rojas. Paid six months cash in advance. He didn’t check ID or credit or anything else.”
“Obviously, her name isn’t Cheryl,” I said.
“Obviously. Any idea what it is?”
“Last night, she named Devil as the prowler. Any more info on him?”
“Not that I’ve heard. Ellmann had someone run the nickname, but there were too many hits to be helpful. The girl didn’t give up anything else. She was badly traumatized. Whoever’s been chasing her, it’s bad. Have you already paged Ellmann?”
“Yes. He’s en route. He’s our negotiator tonight.”
“Right.” I rubbed a hand over my forehead. “How the fuck did this happen? We sent her with victim services so she’d be safe, damn it! Not so they’d just send her right back into her attacker’s arms!”
“Ma’am.” The officer I didn’t know raised a hand and stepped toward me. I stood close enough now to see his nameplate read r. daniels.
“Zoe, get your head in the game,” Frye shot back at me, completely unaffected by my outburst. “Whatever happened with victim services, it won’t change where we stand right now.”
I bit back my immediately reply. He was right.
“Where do we stand, Frye?” Sergeant Michael Waller, newly appointed SWAT commander, strode over and stopped beside us.
Frye succinctly reported on the known facets of the situation. A male suspect had barricaded himself inside the house, holding a woman and her baby hostage. Number and type of weapons were unknown. Agenda was unknown. Four patrol officers and three SWAT guys so far had arrived and were deployed around the house. No one had line of sight on the suspect or the female. The baby was last reported to be in a highchair in the dining room, visible through the unobstructed patio door. The SWAT negotiator was en route.
“Any word on a K9 unit?” Waller asked.
It went without saying that Waller had just assumed command of the scene, and would be in charge until Ellmann arrived, at which point he would have some say.
“Doesn’t look good,” Frye said. “Yogi’s out on medical, Jason and his family are on vacation, Woody is down in Denver with Pam doing some training, Stitch is out on a call way up north with the SO, and I haven’t been able to get a line on Sam. It’s his night off.”
“They’re always on call; they know that.”
“That’s true, but so far, I haven’t gotten a call back.”
Waller nodded to me. “Zoe. What are you doing here?”
I pointed. “I live there.”
“Really? I thought maybe you’d come to volunteer that dog of yours.”
“No, I came home and found all this.”
“I’ve seen what that dog can do. Maybe it’s a good thing you’re here.”
“As much as I’d love to help, we both know you can’t send us in there.”
He nodded once. “Okay if we go in your house? Gonna need multiple lines of sight.”
“Yes.” I tossed him the keys. “The upstairs bathroom window lets out onto the roof.”
He nodded and turned away. Two more SWAT guys had arrived, and Waller moved off to chat with them.
“Zoe, can you sketch us the floor plan?” Frye asked.
“Yeah. Of course.”
An enormous engine growled, and I turned to see the Bearcat armored SWAT vehicle crawling into the cul-de-sac around the various cars gathered there. Daniels climbed into the pickup and began backing it out of the way. Frye and I moved back with it, staying in its cover. The Bearcat parked in roughly the spot the truck had occupied and the back doors flew open.
Dan Tolliver, one of Ellmann’s closest friends and fellow SWAT officers, jumped out and adjusted the heavy belt on his hips. “Hear you guys are having a party over here.”
“Zoe and Ellmann know the victim,” Frye said quickly. “This one’s personal.”
Tolliver immediately sobered and looked at me. “Shit. I’m sorry, Zoe. I didn’t know.”
I nodded. “I know. Help me get her out of there safe.”
“Everything in my power. You know that. Ellmann here yet?”
“Not yet,” Frye said. “Any minute now.”
“We’ll be set up and ready to go by then.”
Tolliver nodded to me again then climbed back into the armored vehicle, which would now serve as command post for this operation. He began working with another SWAT guy, Tim Rollins, to turn on equipment and make other preparations.

I stepped to the right and peered up at not-Cheryl’s house through the gathering dark. And I prayed.

Read Chapter 2

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