It's been one long day for Lisa and her headache is living proof of it. Most of it she blamed on the full moon outside. Things always got crazy this time of the month, but this month was exceptional. She needed sleep bad and only hoped the nightmares that haunted her would leave her alone for at least one night. They don't. She wakes up as usual screaming only to find out that her nightmare has just begun, because she's not alone in her room.
One man has been gruesomely tortured to death in a ritualistic killing. An entire police precinct has been reconstructed down to the smallest detail in an abandoned warehouse and a mysterious stranger known only as Flint seems to be the cause of it all. It's a case that is fast turning into one big headache for Lisa Tauranto a detective for the NYPD, but it gets much worse when her past, that she's tried so hard to bury, rises up to engulf her in its golden grip once again. Lisa is ripped from the existence that she so painstakingly built for herself into a mixed up world of intrigue, where nothing is as it seems. It's a fight to survive and to protect what she is sworn to, but will love conquer all? Will she betray her oath to be happy? Does she even have a choice anymore or does a several thousand year old mystery hold enough weight in treasure to drag her down with it? Everyone wants her dead, everyone that is but for one man who is the cause of all her upheaval in the first place. He's an agent working for someone, but she doesn't know who. She only hopes he's as good as his kisses make her believe him to be.
It was going to be another one of those nights. Every time there was a full moon you could expect something out of the ordinary was going to take place, but this was just plain weird, I thought to myself, as I stepped into the abandoned warehouse located near the east pier.
Crazies invading the precinct, cult worshipers enacting bizarre ritual sacrifices of their neighbors’ cats, psycho killers starting their manifest destinies and so on, were all to be expected at this time of the lunar cycle, but this was different than the usual fare. In fact, it was downright eerie, I thought, as I stepped through the doorway into the space beyond. It was as if I had never left the Fifth Precinct.
Everything had been copied, down to the smallest detail. They even had the captain’s coffee mug sitting on the corner of his desk. As I walked by, I glanced into it. It actually had coffee in it.
The déjà vu feeling just wouldn’t leave me. Who would go to such lengths, not to mention expense, to build such a life size replica of the Fifth Precinct? I saw detective Rafferty ahead of me. His head lifted and he smiled as he saw me.
“I know, creepy, isn’t it Lisa?”
I nodded. “Have you found any reason why someone would go to such great lengths as this?”
“No, and even less as to finding out what any of this has to do with our victim’s murder. There’s evidence that the framework for the walls was done by a staging company located not far from here. Some of their trucks showed up about an hour ago. The drivers’ said they’d received word to come break everything down and pack it away. They said they were tasked to build this place over two weeks ago. The outfit that hired them did so by long distance. They never met a representative of the company. Said everything was paid for up front and that a completion bonus was wired into their accounts yesterday morning with a request to dismantle and destroy what they had been asked to build.”
“Did they give us a name?” I asked.
“East Coast Mid-Atlantic Erectors, Inc.” Detective Salieazar said, stepping up beside his partner Rafferty. “I checked into them. Turns out they’ve been out of business for over three years and there’s been no recent activity by a company of that name either. Whoever did this knew not only how to cover their tracks, but to eliminate them entirely!”
“Didn’t the staging company express any concern when they saw the nature of what they were asked to build?” I asked.
Sal shrugged. “They said they were told it was a film set for a cop show and they were paid enough not to be too interested, if you know what I mean.”
“Dig a little deeper and see if you can find anything.” I said. Glancing back to Rafferty I asked, “Any witnesses?”
Both detectives glanced at each other with a look that said they knew I wouldn’t like what I heard. Sal spoke, “Just one so far, a homeless man. He shacks up sometimes in the warehouse across the street. He said he saw five unmarked black vans pull up outside yesterday morning. From his description about forty people piled out of the vans dressed mostly as cops. Later, he said, a black sedan pulled up and a man got out. He watched the man go to the trunk and pull a body out, sling it over his shoulder and disappear into the warehouse with it.”
“Was he able to give you descriptions of anyone?” I asked.
Rafferty grimaced slightly. “Not really. He said they looked like cops. I’ve got him with a sketch artist right now, should he be able to remember anything, but there’s something you should know about him. We found a lot of drug paraphernalia on him and he’s still slightly high.”
Darkly, I realized this was what they hadn’t wanted to tell me. A high profile case and the only eye witness that we had was a homeless man that was most likely high on drugs at the time. That wouldn’t go over well with the DA.
I sighed and then noticed them both share that look again. “What else?” I asked expectantly.
Sal hesitated and then blurted out, “Our eye witness said he was too afraid to leave, so he stayed. He said that at about 2:00 in the afternoon two more vans pulled up. A bunch of women got out. He said they were strippers.”
“Strippers? What would they need with that many strippers in a replica of the precinct?”
Sal turned to Rafferty, “You didn’t show her everything yet, did you?”
“Show me what?” I asked impatiently.
Rafferty turned around and gestured for me to follow. He gestured to the left and right as we walked. “They pretty much copied home base down to a T. The space comes complete with holding cell and interrogation rooms. There is some evidence of one cell having been used and we’re having a full run up done on it.”
He stopped in front of the elevator doors, “This part here, well it’s different than the office.”
“That would be putting it mildly.” Sal added, as Rafferty punched the button for the elevator.
Instead of the small cramped space of the elevator bay that one would expect, there was a larger darkened space beyond the doors. I stepped into the space.
Rafferty hit a switch on the wall and the space beyond the elevator doors lit up, as garish strobe lights re-enacted the atmosphere of a stripper joint, complete with blaring techno music. This night was only getting stranger.
I looked around, noticing something familiar about the setting. Had I been somewhere like this before?
Sal interrupted my thoughts. “Yeah, you’ve been here before, or there I should say. It was that stripper joint where that under-aged girl got knocked off last year. I believe they called the joint, The Gentlemen’s Groan. It appears to be an exact replica of it.”
I gave him a piercing look and he fumbled adding, “From what I remember, that is, of the investigation.”
Yeah right, I thought to myself, as I turned away to inspect the room. Sal’s weaknesses were well known throughout the office.
What could all this mean, I thought to myself? I had a dead Iraqi civilian and a complete model of my very own precinct, along with a night club lounge.
Yesterday, at 4:30pm, an Iraqi born citizen had stumbled into the office and made a wild report about being held hostage in an abandoned warehouse, in an elaborately set up hoax, as he had put it. It had seemed a little too much to be believed, but a report was filed anyway to be checked by a patrol cop later.
Earlier tonight, at a little past ten, Ahmed Sazzar was found dead in his hotel suite. He had been cruelly tortured for what had appeared to be hours, and then his neck had been broken. His murder had prompted us to look into the report filed earlier in the day, and this was where it had led.
Instead of providing answers, all it had done was raise more questions.
I had looked into Ahmed’s past, but had come up with little to go on. He had emigrated from Iraq a few years back, and he had no ties with any terrorist activity that anyone was aware of, or was telling me anyway. Ahmed didn’t strike me as a bomb maker though. By all appearances, he had come to America for the long haul. He had married an American woman last year and had no history of wrong doing or violence. He had been an antiquities dealer in Iraq, and had also dabbled in the archeological field as an ethno linguist.
Upon moving to the United States five years previously, he had dropped the antiquities business in favor of a job at one of the cities’ prominent museums where he had helped manage the Middle Eastern collection.
It had been a good job and his finances had all been in order and accounted for, with no debts to speak of. He seemed to be both the model citizen and husband.
The people at the museum had nothing but good to say about him. In their words, he was one of the best hires they had ever made.
Why then had he been so brutally tortured and then killed?
He likely would have died just from the injuries sustained during the torture. Snapping his neck almost seemed symbolic somehow.
Something else that bothered me about the whole torture scene was that it appeared that he had been gagged the entire time. The torture had been sadistically carried out in his hotel suite and yet no one had heard his screams of pain, which confirmed that he had been gagged the entire time. It seemed more like a ritualistic killing than it did a quest to find out information.
Reviews on Amazon:
"The main cast in this story go together very well, because of this the story also flowed.
I didn't see the twist at the end coming at all."
"Stanton's notariety for delving into a genre seldom visited in Christian fiction has offered us a new series, Water Wars. The first book in the series, Journey into the Deep, offers suspense, intrigue, romance, mystery, supernatural occurences, parallel worlds, and a candid look at the depravity of mankind. We are introduced to Eli and his crew as they embark on a dangerous journey unlike any they have taken before. Eli is a treaure hunter and is good at what he does. He is doing so just to survive as he lives in bitterness and self-loathing after the deaths of his wife and two young daughters. He stumbles onto something much larger than ever imagined, an artifact with ties to Atlantis or civil-war era ships laden with wealth, plantation families and slaves. Soon he finds a calling to more than treasure hunting."
"Good read. Guy always has a new concept and fun to continue to imagine where he is going with this. I really like the Christian life style his people have. It's good to not have the Hollywood spin on life but instead good downhome Christian values. I always look forward to his new books."