Information overload was a real bitch. Kilbraide, with eyes red and glazed, looked from one data tech to another. He was enclosed in what felt like was a cement hole below the Earth’s crust, surrounded with the latest technology. He wanted to be out, scouting around the country. Flying him from one place to another couldn’t cost any more than the surveillance geeks tapping on keyboards and living with eye strain.
Data from each region were prioritized: the Bay Area and Los Angeles were designated Region One since Stevens had been a suspected killer in that area. From there, it spread out. Region Two was the mountain states. Region three was the Midwest and Plains states. Region Four was the East Coast, with New York City still hogging the attention.
All these regions farmed data collected from the internet, social media sites, and every email and text messages that users sent. The effort helped track wanted criminals like Stevens but they also infringed on personal liberties that Kilbraide had fought to protect when he enlisted in the army. And who knows who ordered the Command Center built and who was Catalonia’s real boss. Who the hell did she work for? Vanguard. Who the hell are they?
Who am I really working for?
How about Stevens? He’s working for Black Eagle, but who are they really? Who do they answer to?
So many unknowns weighed on Kilbraide.
He longed for a direct line to Stevens who had called him on a phone that was issued to him. Catalonia and her cronies wasted no time confiscating that phone and issuing Kilbraide another. It would have been helpful to call him back, maybe he’d have answers.
If only it was that easy.
After all, if Stevens was teasing him in Saratoga, then he could tease right back. Kilbraide needed some fresh air. He got up from his surveillance station and took the elevator up a few floors. He emerged on ground level, or Planet Earth as he silently joked.
Stepping outside for real, unfiltered air felt wonderful and when the sun soaked him, Kilbraide realized something. Stevens was an adventurer. Each of the murders that he had committed in Los Angeles a few years ago took place outdoors in some sort of recreational setting: by a swimming pool; on an equestrian trail; a bike path along the beach. It’s believed Stevens was offshore bobbing on a jet ski when he took down a wealthy businesswoman who was on a morning jog on the boardwalk.
Yeah, he once had an office in North Hollywood but that was a façade. Stevens thrived on the outdoors and was waging guerilla warfare with his kill-and-run tactics. He wasn’t a Mafioso-type pulling up to gun people down in their neatly pressed suits. Taking out such high-profile figures was going for maximum exposure and sending a message: if you step outside the law, harm others, you’ll pay the price, and die when you least expect it.
Kilbraide figured it was the ultimate Fuck Around and Find Out, maybe a motto in Stevens’ mind. Fuck around with the freedoms and liberties allowed in America and you’ll find out what happens.
Kilbraide picked up his cell phone and called Catalonia who answered with her typical why-the-hell-are-you-calling voice.
Kill Shot is our 6th novel and this features Detective Brian Kilbraide, yanked from the LAPD by a government Black Ops agency to track a sniper threatening to send America spinning into civil war.
This fast-paced thriller moves from the Bay Area to Saratoga Springs, New York and … across the U.S. as Detective Brian Kilbraide tracks a sniper pushing the U.S. to the brink of civil war.
A leading tech guru is the first — shot dead in public.
A popular senator is brutally ambushed during lunchtime.
A sniper’s surgical assassinations threaten to rip the country apart.
Bob Stevens, a world-class sniper trained to kill by the military, is using his skills to eliminate the powerful elite who he believes are destroying the America he loves. After each kill, he leaves his calling card — a patch with the name of Detective Brian Kilbraide scrawled across it.
A government Black Ops reinstates Kilbraide’s military commission and orders him to track down Stevens and take him out before he can strike again.
Kilbraide objects, but is forced into a deadly game of HOG, hunter of gunman, and discovers along the way the disturbing depths of the Shadow Government running the country.
Stevens focuses on his mission, assassinating one public figure after another, but he doesn’t count on falling in love with a woman who works for his next target.
Kilbraide closes in, but time is running out as a thrilling cat-and-mouse chase ensues across the country.
Advanced Reader Copy Reviews:
“Pacing is fast, characters are human, with real and believable emotions and thoughts.”
“I just finished reading the book and it was great!!!! Seriously. I couldn’t stop till I finished it. Kill Shot is a must read. I highly recommend.”
“Simkovich and Bixby give Detective Kilbraide his own series with this spin-off of the Tom Stone Detective Stories. It’s a great read with well-developed characters. I felt like I knew them personally. And I cannot wait until the next Kilbraide thriller comes out.”
Get inspired by the story of Edgar … and how he stood up to the mob … we wrote this story initially on Stone Cold Crime Stories, Medium.
Summer’s thick dust turns to mud when winter rains fall over Pacoima, an enclave in the northeast San Fernando Valley, a place that’s blue-collar to the max and totally alien to the Los Angeles lifestyle of glitz and glamour.
Past the convenience stores and used car lots, signs in yellow lettering offered car parts and easy cash advances.
Edgar felt like a knife was cutting his insides as he turned off a main street and drove onto a narrow lane between two lots that sold parts off of junked cars. The easy-to-miss street led to a back lot that was surrounded by chain link fencing with razor wire lining the top. A poorly made sign simply read, “Vending Services.”
Living a lie was exhausting. Edgar pulled into the lot and stopped. Decisions. He left his gun in the glove compartment and made his way into the office.
“You’re late.” A long-haired man with a beard who was called Cowboy opened a drawer in a metal desk that rocked side to side when touched.
But no one cared if the desk fit or not. It was a prop, just like the rows of vending machines filling both sides of the narrow building and the stacks of cardboard boxes stamped with names of potato chip brands and candy manufacturers.
Cowboy pulled out a handgun.
“Yeah, well — ” Edgar nervously wiped his lips.
Cowboy raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, well, what? Angelino’s pulling some shit on us. And we need to take care of him.”
Edgar stood between the desk and the door. He wasn’t up for another gunfight.
Cocaine was easy money at first. Big money and fast. A few deals poured cash into his life like cloudbursts brought torrents of rain over the city streets.
But just like the sun evaporated puddles, Edgar wasn’t left with anything that had meaning. What did he know except trafficking drugs, hiding from the law, and lying to his mother?
Cowboy’s phone vibrated and he glanced at it. “Shit. That Angel friend of yours is double-crossing us big time.”
Edgar wasn’t like Angelino who thrived on the pressure, and he didn’t have skills like his other friend Arturo who mostly worked his father in construction. Arturo had confided in Edgar and said construction would be his way out from distributing coke, fentanyl, and anything else that bodies craved.
“I ain’t going.” Edgar was as tall as Cowboy and had wider shoulders.
“What?” Cowboy’s eyes widened.
“I’m done.” Edgar could beat the shit out of the hired thug and knock him unconscious or kill him if needed. He could take off but then the rest of the company would hunt him down. Edgar didn’t move.
Cowboy’s phone vibrated again. He looked in a panic, glancing from the phone to Edgar and back. “Get in the car.”
Edgar inhaled like he was finally sucking in the prayers that his mother said she used in pleading for him. “No.”
Morning after morning and night after night, he knew that she fell to her knees, clasping her hands and crying out to God.
“You’re a fucking idiot,” yelled Cowboy.
Maybe. But Edgar knew what would happen. Cowboy would speed to Angelino’s house and make Edgar get out, shouting, and demanding payment. If Angelino didn’t comply, then there’d be shooting like there was the other day before Christmas.
There was other money, out there. Somewhere. Honest money, Edgar thought.
“Get in the car.” Cowboy gritted his teeth and waved the gun toward the door.
Edgar stayed silent.
Cowboy’s phone vibrated again. They had to go now.
Fear dissolved in Edgar’s mind, and he found a complete sense of peace — even though Cowboy quickly pointed the gun, pulled the trigger, and fired.
Edgar reacted, falling to one side when the shot blasted at close range. He crumpled to the floor and felt a warm, soothing glow as Cowboy rushed out the door, shouting. “Son of a bitch.”
Edgar closed his eyes and settled. No fear, no worry, no panic. Peace. A peace that stayed with him when he later woke in the hospital and heard that a delivery driver had shown up to leave a package at the front door and found him soaked in blood. He had called the paramedics.
There had to be money out there. Honest money.
That’s what he was thinking about as he lay in the bed of the county hospital and the doctors told him he was lucky to be alive.
And Edgar knew something else. His mother’s prayers worked.
This is a short story related to chapter 5 of our crime thriller novelette Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas, Book 1 in the Detective Tom Stone series on Amazon for Kindle, paperback, and Kindle Unlimited.
Extremely engaging from the first page. A multitude of interesting characters with unique backstories. The realistic dialogue makes them come alive. Lots of action/tension in this tale about the power struggle in the underworld of drugs and crime. Fascinating. A thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish.
Just like in Home Alone, an 11-year-old boy watched aghast as a 44-year-old man broke into his home in 2011. Fearing the worst, the kid wondered what would happen until … the burglar became an interior decorator.
According to a story from LawaandCrime.com, “44-year-old Terry Trent put up Christmas decorations and lounged around. He lit candles, hung a wreath on a garage door, then kicked back and watched some TV with the volume turned up loud.”
He was described as “high on bath salts.”
The boy called his mother who was visiting neighbors next door while the intruder apologized for his actions and left.
Kinda like Santa, but not really, hmm?
Like Taking a Baby from the Manger
A stolen baby Jesus from a nativity scene: it’s an all-too-common Christmas crime. One case, which happened in Florida in 2007, was particularly unusual.
When an 18-year-old woman from Florida stole the ceramic figure, she assumed her crime would go unpunished. Little did she know that the figure was actually rigged with a GPS system, and the cops quickly found out about her shenanigans.
It’s hard to tell what’s more disturbing — the crime of stealing the baby or the assumption that the figure would need a GPS monitor in the first place.
In December 2010, police involved in a drugs bust in Germany, stumbled across something rather unexpected in one man’s home, uncovering a two meter Christmas tree made entirely from cannabis. Fully decorated with tinsel and lights too, by the way.
More … Away from the Manger, Who Stole the Crib?
Come on, people! Stealing Baby Jesus figures from nativity scenes has been a happenin’ for some time, including two incidents this week in Georgia and Louisiana.
But first, let’s look back to 2015 in Seattle. This from the Channel 7, KIRO, website:
It is the ultimate Christmas crime: Baby Jesus figurines are the number one stolen item at some area Christmas stores.
Theft of outdoor manger scenes is not new. Five were stolen in one year in Port Angeles. It has been an ongoing problem at a private manger scene outside the state capitol in Olympia where three have been stolen. Seattle’s Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church had a five-dollar plastic baby Jesus stolen from its nativity scene last December. “It was as tacky, as cheap, as garage sale baby Jesus, mom and dad as you could get,” said Pastor James Carney.
It is not just outdoor nativity scenes. Some Seattle-area retailers say baby Jesus is the most shoplifted items during the Christmas season.
“Everybody likes a baby,” said Gregory Musick at Kaufer’s Religious Supplies. “They never steal the wise men or camels or anything like that. It’s always baby Jesus.
Now to Tybee Island, Georgia, December 2022
Police are wondering why someone would nab a baby Jesus from the local Catholic church, as reported on Yahoo! News, among other outlets.
Crime hit a “new low” after someone stole expensive Nativity scene statues from outside St. Michael Catholic Church.
“We know that many in our community are shocked and disgusted over the theft of nativity scene pieces from St. Michael Catholic Church,” the Tybee Island Police Department posted to its Facebook page on Monday. “We’re equally disappointed that someone would steal from one of our local houses of worship, especially during the holidays.”
“Stealing the baby Jesus right before Christmas is a new low,” the department added in another Facebook post.
Police responded to St. Michael Catholic Church on Saturday after someone reportedly broke a lock on a box containing a manger scene in front of the church. The suspect stole “all but the shepherds and wise men,” police said in a statement of the crime.
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA/Gray News) — A thief was caught on camera stealing a large nativity scene from outside a church in Louisiana.
The theft happened around 7 a.m. Saturday at Baptist Tabernacle in Shreveport.
The church’s video tech posted the surveillance video to Facebook on Tuesday, asking for the public’s help in identifying the thief.
The video shows a dark-colored SUV pulling into the church’s empty parking lot and parking in front of the nativity scene. The driver gets out of the vehicle, opens the trunk, and proceeds to remove pieces from the nativity scene and load them into the back of the SUV.
Talk about greedy … the driver took about 10 items from the nativity scene and covered the license plate. Seriously?
In summary, listen … you’ve heard about accepting Jesus … it means in your heart … not in your car’s trunk, you dirty rat!
In Los Angeles, a wanna-be drug dealer poisons chocolate candy with cocaine. Detective Tom Stone and his partner Jake Sharpe jump into action.
In this excerpt, Stone and Jake try to interview Anthony Angelino’s girlfriend Sara in her apartment in Highland Park, north of downtown Los Angeles. But she runs away … to no avail:
Stone turned on the wipers. Late afternoon clouds had rolled in from the north and were dropping rain on the entire LA basin.
The temperature was dipping into the low 50s with nighttime temperatures expected to drop another ten degrees. The forecast showed skiers would be able to enjoy a white Christmas in the mountains. Winter rolled in for at least the next few days.
“32nd Avenue, huh?” asked Jake, riding shotgun.
“Yep. At least that’s what her bank statement said. I took a picture of it with my cell phone.” Stone turned up the heat just enough to scare away the chill.
32nd Avenue was the Highland Park section of LA, a different world than Van Nuys with homes built in the ’20s and ’30s on and around rolling hills and steep slopes.
Jake smiled. “Hey, you’re getting proficient. Next thing you know, you’ll be taking selfies.” “I’ll never do that.”
“Based on what happened, I’m sure the house was kept neat and tidy inside.” Jake’s tone was heavy with sarcasm.
“That’s right. Probably because it was practically empty. CSI is going over it and it’ll still be awhile before they finish.”
“So what’d they think of you taking your own photos?”
“What they don’t know won’t hurt them. And besides, there were just a few files laying around. I found Sara’s bank statement crumpled up near a hash pipe on the kitchen counter.”
“So how much was in the account?”
“Negative twenty three dollars.”
“Sounds like what my account’s going to be after I pay off our Christmas shopping next month.”
“You said you were buying light this year.”
“Yeah, well, I needed to make sure Big Poppa here got what he needed, too.”
“Like what?” asked Stone.
“Finally snagged the circular saw set I’d been eyeing for some time. But enough about me. So the guys were willing to kill for candy?”
“I swear that’s what I heard the gunman say he wanted.”
“Any information from the guy you nabbed after the shooting?”
“He’s still being processed. Apparently, he was yelling on the way in to the station that he was innocent and was just along for the ride.”
Stone sped north to York Boulevard and headed east into Highland Park. An occasional bar was lit with small gatherings of men and women visible through the windows.
“Hmm, I’d love to be snuggled up with Tasha right now,” said Jake.
“You should be a loner like me.”
Jake laughed. “You won’t be for long. I saw a few women eyeing you at church last night.” “Don’t even think about it.”
Stone reached 32nd Avenue and turned right, the street sloped upward past a row of single houses and scraggly California oaks that had branches so thin and crooked that they made Stone think of Halloween and goblins.
“An apartment building, huh?”
“Yeah. Unit 237. Sara Alvarez.”
The rays from the headlights bounced when the car hit a pothole and the street dipped. Stone slowed on the downward grade. Jake peered out the window.
“There you go.” Jake pointed to a two-story structure with a street number that matched what they were looking for. The building’s entrance was accessible by a flight of stairs up an ivycovered slope. On the rare occasions that Stone had an out-of-town relative visiting, they were always surprised to see how many hills were around Los Angeles.
Stone pulled to a stop and scanned the building. An exterior wall faced the street. Christmas lights decorated some of the windows. “Let’s go see what we can see.”
“I’m right with you,” said Jake.
The security gate hung limp. He pushed it and held it open for Jake, then walked in behind his partner. A garbage can was overflowing with pizza boxes, wrapping paper, and liquor bottles. The courtyard was rectangular like a basketball court with a staircase in each corner and two in the middle as though they were at mid-court. The light drizzle had weakened to more of a mist and the raindrops seemed to accentuate the sparkling of the few Christmas lights brightening the gray walls and doors. Manager was written on the first floor apartment nearest Jake. He knocked on the door and waited but no one answered.
Jake pointed right. “Ready?” He headed up the stairs.
“Okay,” said Stone. One apartment on the opposite side blared mariachi music while another from the east corner played jazz. Kids squealed and the air was heavy with the competing smells of burnt eggs, steak, chicken, and the ever-present smell of marijuana.
They reached the second floor and moved along the walkway toward 237. Stone ran his palm along the handrail by apartment 231 and he hit something that was sticky like syrup. Disgusted, he wiped his hands on his jeans.
A door opened and a woman stepped out. It was Sara wearing a sweatshirt that hung below her waist and covered the top of her jeans. She held a blue plastic bag and when she turned, her eyes connected with Stone’s, and she dropped the bag. Sounds of broken glass echoed and she took off.
“Sara, wait,” shouted Stone. “We just want to talk.”
Jake broke into a run as Sara scrambled down the far staircase. Stone peeked into the apartment, did a quick once-over to make sure no one else was there, and then joined Jake in the pursuit. “LAPD, ma’am. Please stop,” yelled Jake.
Sara jumped the final few steps and ran, bumping into a child pedaling a tricycle. Jake hurried down the steps and along the courtyard. Stone saw him disappear by the front gate.
He made his way to the street just in time to see Jake trailing Sara down the sidewalk. She dashed off the curb just as a car was turning from an opposite corner. The headlights caught her in motion like a flashbulb on a camera. The tires screeched and the car stopped but not until the bumper hit her. The four door compact lurched, knocked her forward and she stumbled to the pavement. Jake was no more than several steps behind and reached her moments after she fell and sprawled face down.
The driver, a stocky man with a mustache, got out of the car. “Oh my God. Are you okay?” Stone caught his breath and yelled. “Stay in the car. Police.”
The driver jumped back in and slammed the door. Sara seemed to be crying as much out of frustration as pain. She pushed down on the pavement to try and stand but couldn’t. Jake radioed for paramedics and then stopped traffic in both directions as Stone knelt by her.
“Easy, easy,” said Stone.
Sara lay down and wiped a hand under her eyes and then her crying intensified. “Leave me alone.” There was no mistaking the smell of alcohol on her breath.
Mist turned back to drizzle and Stone took off his jacket and laid it over her. Jake held his hands to stop cars in both directions.
Stone wanted to get a look in the apartment and glanced toward the building. The cars idled, one honked its horn, and then the familiar sirens wailed and grew closer. The paramedics arrived along with the requisite fire engine and a squad car. They attended to her and a patrolman got out, relieved Jake, and took over directing the traffic.
“Why were you running?” asked Stone.
“Why the hell were you chasing me?” Her question sounded like a desperate plea to be left alone.
“Because I’m trying to find out what’s going on.”
Cars crawled slowly around the accident and another patrolman was speaking to the driver of the car that struck her. Vital signs were checked and she was stabilized on a stretcher.
“Sara?” asked Jake. “Has there been anyone else in the apartment?”
“You mean like my boyfriend?” She scowled and then laughed like it was the most ridiculous and idiotic question she had heard in her life. “No, if you really want to know. No one at all.”
Sara was carefully lifted into the ambulance and secured inside before it drove away. Stone and Jake headed back across the street and into the glare of the apartment lights.
“Let’s go up and close the door,” said Stone. He and Jake made their way back up the stairs and along the walkway. No residents came out of their units or asked questions about the commotion. Just part of life.
Stone reached the apartment first and stepped over the trash bag. He stood to the side and peered in and then knocked on the open door as a precaution. After a second knock there was only silence. He stepped inside.
“Isn’t this breaking and entering?” asked Jake.
“Nah. Just entering.”
A lamp in the corner was left on and Stone flicked the switch by the front door, turning on the overhead light and making it brighter. “Police. Anyone in here?”
All quiet. A kitchenette with a small stove and sink were to the left. He grabbed a paper towel from the counter and wrapped it around his hand to retrieve the garbage bag and bring it back inside. A whiskey bottle that was nearly empty was on the counter along with a plate that had ketchup stains and a cigarette butt.
A sofa sat against a wall directly in front and a round side table was next to the sofa. Clothes were strewn about but the table was clean and it had a photo of a little girl who was smiling and riding the shoulders of a man who appeared just as jovial.
Maybe that was Sara as a child. Maybe a relative or friend. The smile accentuated the chaos and mess.
“Guess we need to go through official channels if we want to check it any further,” said Jake.
A doorway led to the bedrooms. “Yep,” replied Stone, as he continued looking.
“By the way, they’re taking her to County USC,” said Jake.
Stone surveyed the area and didn’t see anything suspicious. “We’ll let her get settled tonight and ask her questions tomorrow.” It wasn’t just the apartment that was a mess. The whole situation was murky and gray. Like so many cases, the details didn’t add up and his concern was that they never would.
“That was quite an interruption to the day,” said Jake, stepping out. “Damn, I finally get all pumped up and now it’s time to take a breather.”
“Go home and enjoy the evening with the family,” said Stone as he closed and locked the door.
“Yeah, thanks.” Jake started along the walkway and Stone followed behind. “Hey, I know you were busy and you probably didn’t have time to get me a gift. Don’t worry, man. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.”
Stone wiped his brow. Now that the excitement passed, the chill began to move through his sweat-stained shirt. “You’re so damn sentimental. Merry Christmas, Jake.”
In this short story thriller, a retired military confronts a danger on his way to his grandson’s soccer match. This was originally published on our Stone Cold Crime Stories’ Medium page.
Traffic snaking in and out of the shopping plaza was a nuisance and Wade Jenkins needed to get the last word in. “He can go with me just once.”
“I don’t want to talk about it now, Dad.”
His daughter Lilly, was sitting in the passenger seat, and she had told him clearly that she didn’t want to hear about the gun range. Not yet. And possibly not ever.
“There’s a spot,” she said.
“I see it.” Wade tried to sound positive but probably came across as grumpy. He wanted to tell Lilly that it’s just a shooting range, but figured now wasn’t the time.
Lilly turned to her son Kase in the back seat who was dressed in his soccer uniform. “You’re wearing your shin guards, right?”
“Yeah, Mom.” He sighed. He was in second grade and a soccer veteran of two years.
“I’ll be right out,” she said, eyeing the grocery store’s entrance.
Wade parked. “I could’ve picked things up.” He glanced at his cell phone. “He’s got to be there a half hour ahead, right?”
“It’s fine, Dad. It’s just the snacks.” She unbuckled her seat belt. “We’ve got time.”
“Sort of.” He was proud of Lilly. A bouncing busy young mother, married. Seemed like a rarity anymore.
But she never let him help around her house or help with the little things she needed. And taking Kase, his one and only grandson, with him to target practice was out of the question.
Wade wondered if he had raised Lilly to be too strong-headed. He smiled. An inherited trait.
Kase spoke up. “I’ll go with you, Mom.” He furiously unlocked the clasp.
No, you stay. I’ll be right out.
“Mom, I wanna’ go too.”
“Alright, but let’s hurry,” said Lilly, giving in.
They exited the car.
“Don’t slam — ” Wade tried to say, but it was too late. Kase slammed the door shut and caught up to his mom.
Wade watched them maneuver through a phalanx of cars and disappear through the sliding glass doors. He hit the button to roll the windows down and turned off the car.
Lilly was always on the move and she made every second count.
Watching Kase play soccer was fun. The kid seemed like a natural athlete but time and age would tell.
Dang. Sports and school made it tough for Wade to take Kase on hikes or build the soapbox racer they had planned together. He was a grandfather, a young grandfather — but without Marcia, he felt incomplete. He really missed his wife.
She was the one who had cooked dinners and baked desserts that Kase gobbled down. She was the one who always invited family and friends over for impromptu dinners. And she was the one who, somehow, had regaled Kase with stories of how she learned to … you name it: cook, code computers, fly a plane even.
Wade smiled at that one. He had bought her flying lessons and joked that maybe she could learn to pilot a cargo transport like he had in the Air Force.
What a woman she was. Amazing how she had bonded so well with Kase. It just came natural for her.
But no matter how hard he tried, he just… couldn’t find a way to connect with Kase. It’s not like being a cargo pilot was the most exciting part of a career either in the military or outside of it.
And that’s when he heard a series of blastsand saw glass shards shatter in the grocery store window. Screams rang out and people scurried behind cars. Grocery bags fell and carts flew to the side. A woman froze, wide-eyed near his car.
Wade spotted some guy with scraggly pink and green hair, wearing camo, a backpack, glasses, and gripping a rifle.
“Get down,” he shouted to the woman. “Call 9–1–1.” He leaned and opened his glove compartment. “Call. Now.”
The woman knelt behind his car, started crying, and dialed on her mobile.
Wade grabbed his handgun and flew out his door and onto the pavement just in time to see the gunman level his weapon at another shopper running for cover.
“Hey, I’m over here!” Wade shouted.
The strength in his voice seemed to turn the gunman toward Wade who saw the rifle’s barrel and a detached, cold gaze staring at him.
“Drop it.” Yelled Wade.
The man smirked and raised his weapon.
In a split-second Wade fired his handgun grazing the crazed stranger’s face. The man pulled the trigger as he stumbled back. Wade heard a high-pitched ping from a bullet bouncing off the pavement and dinging metal.
The gunman grasped his face as Wade fired again, hitting him in the neck, and stopping him cold. The man crumbled to the ground, dead.
Within seconds, a siren screamed and the following moments became a blur as Wade stood motionless. Shrieks and terror subsided as police and paramedics arrived on the scene.
Wade was pumped with questions from the police and investigators and eventually let go. News reports gave details about the young man, a loner with mental health issues, who had just graduated high school and reporters wanted Wade’s accounting of what happened.
He hated the interviews and had little to say.
And in the weeks that followed, he thought through how protecting and serving others had led him into the military. It was important to him. And how he vowed to never let an innocent person ever be struck down.
Not like it had happened to Marcia who was alone in a quiet parking lot at night where she had wanted one more item for Thanksgiving dinner. Two thugs confronted her, pulled her from her car, and shot her dead. Her life was exchanged for the $7.00 she had in her purse.
Wade would never let it happen again if he could help it.
“So, hey, grandpa. One more time.” Kase glanced up from his math worksheet. “Tell me about it.”
“Finish your homework first.”
Lilly set the table for dinner. “Your grandpa’s a hero.”
Wade figured there wasn’t much to say that he hadn’t already said. “Homework first.”
“Can I go to the range sometime?” Kase surprised him with the question.
Lilly spoke up. “Kase. We talked about that.”
Kase sighed with disappointment.
“I’ll talk it over with grandpa,” she said.
“Yeah,” said Wade. “We’ll talk about it in a few years when you’re a bit older.”
“Yeah?” Kase sounded hopeful.
“Yep. First things first.” Wade watched Kase solve an equation and was glad that he could be of use.
A chapter five excerpt from A Nitty Gritty Christmas, Book 1 of the Tom Stone Detective Series
One ring was all it took and she answered. “Hello?”
“Mrs. Bostovich? Detective Stone. What’s happening?” He started the car and pulled out of the driveway and into the nearly empty street.
“I went for a quick walk down the block to stretch my legs before driving up north. I heard a woman scream. It was muffled because it had come from inside the house. I’m sure if it had been outside the house, then, oh my God—”
“Sure, Mrs. Bostovich. You heard a woman scream. Anything else?”
“The two guys I called you about yesterday came out of the house. They walked out. They were laughing and then that man you met, the one who lives there—”
“Yeah, him. He came out on the porch and started talking to them and they all exchanged words and then one of the other two guys, I swear, punched him in the stomach. I kept walking because I didn’t want them to see me. And if they would have come after me, well, God help them because I carry pepper spray and I’m not afraid to use it, or kick, or bite the sons-of-bitches.”
Stone accelerated through the streets. “Good for you. What happened after that?”
“I kept walking away from my house. There were more words exchanged and a car drove off and then the front door of the house slammed shut. It got quiet so I turned around and hurried home. Of all days, on Christmas. We need that neighborhood watch.”
“Do you want me to wait for you and keep an eye on things?”
“That won’t be necessary. If you want to take off on your trip, then go ahead and do that.” He’d hate to see her linger too close and risk her safety or get in his way.
“Then I’ll leave. I’ve got a few presents packed for the kids. My grandkids are young adults now. They grow up so fast. I wasn’t sure what to get them—”
Stone swerved through traffic, annoyed by the extra commentary. Getting her off the phone might be harder than working the case. “Yep, they do grow up fast. Have a good trip. I need to go now.”
“Okay. Goodbye and thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Stone hung up with a sense of relief that he could get on with the task at hand and radioed for a unit.
Traffic got heavier near the malls with the theaters and restaurants. He wondered if Stacey was waiting for him to call. A movie with her would have to wait. Several minutes passed and by the time he pulled up a unit was already there. He parked, got out, and walked up to the car. The door opened.
“Merry Christmas,” said Stone.
“Hey there, Stone.” Marty Brannigan stepped out. He had forty years under his belt and had spent many holidays on duty. He had tried on two occasions to become a detective but never made it beyond the patrol unit. He reached for his waistband, adjusted his trousers, and scanned the surroundings. All was peaceful. “You afraid someone’s delivering a bad turkey or ham?” He chuckled.
Stone had no reason to doubt Mrs. Bostovich since she kept a close eye on the surroundings. “I’m not exactly sure what’s going on.” Stone surveyed from the roof to the foundation. “This is the house that had its window shot out. Jake and I came by yesterday. A neighbor called me about a fight so that’s why I’m here.” He looked for anything suspicious, but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
He and Brannigan were about as conspicuous as a Santa at the mall. The occupant could have a bird’s eye view of them. Stone’s phone vibrated, and he checked the incoming call. Ivy Acres. “Hello? Detective Stone here.”
“He wanted me to call and tell you he was sorry for his behavior today.”
“Yeah. I’m excited that he recognized there was a problem,” said Luke.
“That’s good. Hey, Luke, sorry to cut you short. But I’m kind of busy. Tell Andrew that I enjoyed the visit.”
“Will do. Have a good day.”
“Thanks. You too.”
Brannigan smiled. “Who’s Andrew?”
“Oh, a kid Jake and I met when we delivered Christmas presents.”
“So you’ve got a heart after all?” Brannigan winked and then he nodded toward the house. “Why don’t we check it out?”
“Let’s go.” Stone moved across the street and up the sidewalk with Brannigan at his side. Stone walked up the stairs and knocked on the front door. “Police. We got a call and came to make sure everyone is okay.”
Brannigan stood on the bottom step off to the side with his hand on his holster.
No one answered and Stone knocked again. “Police. We were called about a fight and are making sure no one is hurt.”
There was no response and Brannigan angled one shoulder toward the door while eyeing the street.
Stone knocked one more time, then after a moment walked down the steps toward Brannigan.
“Let’s check around the back.” Brannigan eyed the front door as he headed toward the east side of the house.
“Okay.” Stone walked on the west along the fence that Jake had tried to look over.
A hinge squeaked followed by the slapping sound of a light wooden door. Stone grabbed the top of the fence and grunted as he supported himself long enough to see a man who could have been Angelino wearing a sweatshirt and jeans hurry through the yard and out a back gate. Stone ran to the corner of the fence just in time to see Angelino climb into the van he and Jake had seen earlier.
“Police,” yelled Stone.
But the door had already shut, the engine started, and it zipped down the alley, turned right into the street, and then it was gone. A simple conversation would have been nice. Could have cleared some things up. Stone sighed. That would have been too easy, though.
Out of habit, Stone reached inside his jacket for his gun as a precaution. A Glock 22 that he liked for its power and had used since his early years on the force.
He made it to the backyard gate at the same time as Brannigan. Inside the back yard they were greeted by several upright vending machines. There was a collection of gumball dispensers of varying sizes, upright candy dispensers, and the taller, wider variety standing as tall as Stone. They looked like chess pieces lined up. A roof extended from the back of the house and covered the machines.
A woman was jiggling something on the side of an upright machine like she was trying to open it.
Stone called over to her. “Police. Hello. Please don’t move. We need to ask a few questions.”
The hem of her T-shirt swirled when a breeze kicked up and seemed to overwhelm her thin arms. She looked like she’d barely reach Stone’s shoulder.
Brannigan moved to one side and took a position to cover.
Stone moved closer. She hitched up the waistband of her jeans and her eyes had the puffy appearance of someone who had been crying.
“Is everything okay?” asked Stone.
She nodded. “Yeah.”
“We had a call about a fight. I was knocking on the door, but no one answered. Was there a problem earlier?”
She shrugged and brushed away the strands of black hair that fell across her face. “Not really. Everything’s fine.” She sniffled, lifted the hem of her shirt and wiped her nose.
“What do you mean by ‘not really?'” Stone moved in a semi-circle keeping one eye on her and glancing at the back porch door and the windows.
“Nothing. I mean, there was an argument. Over a football game.”
“I see.” Stone raised his eyebrows and nodded. He glanced at Brannigan and the patrolman shrugged like she could be telling the truth. “But everything’s okay now?”
She nodded and stayed close to the machine.
“Lots of machines,” said Brannigan.
“Why so many?” Brannigan positioned himself with his back to the fence so he could swivel between watching the house and the back gate.
“They’re my boyfriend’s. It’s his business.”
“You work with him?”
“Not really. Just helping out.”
“What’s your name?”
She rolled her eyes like she didn’t want to be bothered. “Sara.”
“And your last name?” asked Stone.
“Having some trouble?” asked Brannigan. He walked behind the machine.
“Trying to open it?” asked Brannigan.
“Need some help?”
“I’ll get it.” When she rubbed her arms it looked like someone rubbing two sticks together to start a fire.
Brannigan walked beneath the overhang.
“So can you tell us what happened?” asked Stone.
“Someone was concerned. That’s why we were called.”
“I don’t know. There were some other guys over and they got loud. You know, like I said, football.”
“Someone lose a bet or something?” asked Brannigan, from behind a machine.
“What are you doing with the machine here?” asked Stone.
“Huh?” The woman shrugged again. “I’m going to clean it.”
Stone raised an eyebrow and responded in a voice laced with sarcasm. “Hard to clean it if you can’t open it.”
Stone eyed the machine from top to bottom. Several candy bars were lined up in one ring dispenser. He stood between the woman and the machine. He glanced around the premises and all seemed quiet. Brannigan was behind him closest to the house and eyeing the stack of boxes.
The woman shifted her feet side to side and clutched her arms across her chest. A latch on the side of the machine fit over the ring where a lock would secure it but part of the silver metal was twisted.
“Let me help you,” said Stone.
“Thanks, but I’ll get it.”
“To protect and to serve,” quipped Brannigan.
Stone ignored her slight protest and fit his hand in an opening between the latch and the cold metal of the vending machine. It was lightweight but sturdy. He grunted and forced the twisted latch over the ring. “There you go. Now you can open it.”
The woman nodded. “Thanks.” Worry seemed to pool in her eyes.
Stone waited to see her next move.
A shout from the top of the back stairs split the air. “Hey, Sara. We went and got our coffee to give you some time. Where’s the little bastard? He owes me. Get my candy out of there because I’m sick of this shit.” A man with stringy hair flowing as he talked and wearing a brown leather jacket leaned over the railing. He smiled. “Or did he leave you as my Christmas present?” He sported a mustache and beard and fit the description of the cowboy that Mrs. Bostovich mentioned earlier. A second man appeared.
Stone glanced at him before locking eyes with the cowboy.
“Who’s this asshole?” growled the man.
“Detective Stone, LAPD.”
Brannigan stepped into the open.
“Oh shit.” Faster than Stone could blink the Cowboy reached inside his coat, brandished a handgun and fired a shot. Sara screamed and ducked. Brannigan yelled, grabbed his shoulder and fell against one of the machines.
“G, what the hell?” yelled the second man.
Stone grabbed his gun and fired. The man in the leather jacket fled and the second man ducked behind the railing and cried out.
“Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot.” He put his hands in the air. “I ain’t got a gun. I ain’t got a gun.”
Brannigan lay moaning.
Stone glanced at the open gate. No one. He turned back to the suspect. “Stand up.” The man slowly stood with his hands raised and palms forward. He was wearing a denim jacket. “Lift your jacket and untuck your shirt.”
The man complied.
“Slowly lift the bottom of your shirt. Slowly.”
The man held the hem and lifted it up.
“Unbutton it and turn around.”
“Unbutton your shirt.”
The man followed the order.
“Stretch your hands to the side and walk slowly down the steps.” Stone glanced at Brannigan and saw blood seeping from beneath the man’s hand.
Suddenly, like a scared cat, Sara bolted for the gate and fled. Stone caught a glimpse. Shit. There were other priorities.
“Damn it,” groaned Brannigan. He winced and reached for the radio strapped across his shoulder and called for help.
As Brannigan talked between sighs, Stone glanced back and forth between the gate, Brannigan, and the suspect. “One step at a time.”
The man made his way to the last step.
“Now kneel and lie face down.”
The man paused.
“Get on your knees,” ordered Stone.
The man followed through.
“Lie face down.” Any chill that settled on the grass was justice in Stone’s mind. The man complied and Stone holstered his gun long enough to grab the suspect’s hands and cuff them behind his back. As the man winced, the rotors of a police helicopter broke the air and a siren wailed in the distance. Help was on its way.
Stone looked at Brannigan. “You okay?”
The cop grinned. “It ain’t nothing a simple Band-Aid can’t cure.” He took a deep breath. “This just puts a hold on Christmas dinner. That’s all.”
The image of Angel running out the back door and to the van flashed in Stone’s mind. Why was he running? A simple conversation could have answered that. But that’s the problem. Talking clears things up. Running away keeps the puzzle from coming together.
Do you have a genre or sub-genre of each that you enjoy the most?
One of the easiest ways to highlight the differences between thriller novels, mystery novels and crime novels is to focus on the differences between a Jonathan Kellerman novel and a Jack Reacher novel.
The Mystery Novels
I recently read my third novel by Jonathan Kellerman, Evidence. A mansion that’s under construction in the Hollywood Hills burns down and a suspicious seeming night watchman discovers two dead bodies in what’s left of an upper floor.
Detective Milo Sturgis is on the hunt with psychiatrist Alex Delaware by his side. They’re piecing together clues and get involved in an international mystery before finding the killer. Each person interviewed has some oddities and appears like they definitely could be the killer.
Sturgis and Delaware were never completely in danger, although they worked in a world of tension. The writing style becomes heavy on well-written dialogue and less on place or a flowing narrative.
We see the crime right away and then we live through the investigation—the Who Done It?
It’s a contemporary look at an older Sherlock Holmes style or Agatha Christie approach.
The crime has occurred and the detective-psychiatrist duo must find out what happened.
The Thriller Novel
I’ve read a few or more Jack Reacher stories by Lee Child and I read Child’s first book, Killing Floor, several months ago. I like how Reacher stories open–the solitary Jack Reacher, confronting some strange event in a place where he shouldn’t be. And then the criminals and the problem to be solved is revealed.
Reacher is threatened and constantly overcomes threats and danger.
Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch stories are good examples of crime novels. A criminal must be apprehended. A crime has been committed and Bosch investigates similar to Milo Sturgis but there seems to be more at stake personally.
I’ll come back to fill in each genre-sub-genre more.
If you’re looking for indie author thriller novels and crime novels you might enjoy we’d ask you to consider the Detective Tom Stone series. Each is a stand-alone.
In books 1-3 Detectives Tom Stone and Jake Sharpe confront a wanna-be drug lord, Anthony Angelino who double crosses the mob. The storyline develops through book 5, Subterfuge, with an explosive look at drug smuggling on narco-subs.
The series combine elements of crime and thriller fiction with less emphasis on mystery.
Our book 6, Kill Shot: a Brian Kilbraide Thriller, is definitely a thriller. A government black ops agency yanks Kilbraide out of the LAPD and puts him on the trail of a sniper who’s trying to save America by assassinating leading personalities who he believes are destroying the country.
Stevens clutched the rifle, sunk into a blissful state of nothingness, and looked through the riflescope. Alanasian chatted with someone near him as he tossed the rubber handball up and down in an extra moment of his life that was given like a gift.
He took the Hornaday 338 bullet from his pouch, pulled back the bolt, inserted the round, and then worked the bolt forward, ready for action. Stevens accounted for the wind, took a breath, opened his mouth slightly, and as he was about to squeeze the trigger, Alanasian’s girlfriend who was half his age sashayed onto the court, exclaimed something, and danced around waving her hands. Her newest diamond necklace must not be fitting well, mused Stevens who checked his watch and hoped he had put enough in the parking meter.
Alanasian handed the woman a wad of cash, kissed her, patted her ass, and sent her on her way so he could get back to his game. This was it.
Stevens steadied his breath, acquired his target, and as Alanasian joked with a nearby guard, he squeezed the trigger.