My latest book is in the final stage of publishing before it goes live. It's available for pre-order now on Amazon. Here's a preview of the opening of the story, a brand new series for me!
Red Rock Island
By Alec Peche
Thirty Years Ago
The summer of 1988 in Morgan Hill, California was shaping up to be dry and hot. Tempers were flying as people had the radio on too loud listening to Faith by George Michael, or Need You Tonight by INXS. Yellowstone National Park had been on fire since June and it was already August. Debbie Altman was tired of the heat, the music and the endless ads for the United States presidential candidates. Really, the election was several months away and yet the news had been incessant about the political race.
She grabbed her keys off her kitchen counter and decided to head north to her friend’s house in San Jose. At least she had air-conditioning included in her apartment rent. Holly had invited her to stay at her house earlier in the day, after Debbie complained about how hard it was to sleep in the heat. She’d take Monterey Highway past the cherry orchards up to San Jose. The road could be scary at times as it earned the name Blood Alley for the bad accidents that occurred as a result of head-on collisions at high speeds. On this Friday afternoon though, hopefully the traffic would be light with the majority of cars heading south for the weekend. Debbie left the traffic lights of Morgan Hill and crossed the signpost indicating it was San Jose. Then she heard her car’s engine make a few weird noises. She drove nearly a ten year old Datsun 240Z. It got decent gas mileage and was fun to drive. The car coughed and started slowing down. Darn she’d have to pull over and walk to find a telephone to call for help. The day just kept getting worse and worse.
She locked up the car, grabbed her purse, and set out on foot to the nearest business; fortunately she knew there was a concrete pipe company about one mile ahead and since it was only three in the afternoon, it might still be open. After walking just a few steps, she felt like she was going to explode from the heat bearing down on her. She heard the noise of a truck behind her and looked over her shoulder to see a pick-up truck slowing down. A woman in the passenger side seat rolled the window down and asked if she wanted a ride somewhere. Debbie smiled, said yes, and hopped in the truck’s cab and that was the last time anyone saw her alive other than her killer.
Damian Green stood on the red rock looking west. On his right was the Golden Gate Bridge, and in the distance Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco skyline. Directly in front of him, floating on the water, were three floral wreaths. It was the seventh anniversary of the murder of his wife and two daughters. He’d had them cremated and spread their remains on their favorite ski run at Lake Tahoe during a heavy snowstorm and so he honored their existence with the wreaths and an imaginary conversation with the three of them on the anniversary of their deaths.
Behind him on the hill of this little island in San Francisco Bay, stood retired detective Natalie Severino. She’d solved the case, shot the bastard dead that killed his family, and had remained in his life the seven years since. She brought the wreaths on the first anniversary and it had become a ritual each year. His oldest would have graduated from high school this year, but that and all of his children’s other milestones would never come to pass.
He had survivor’s guilt and his life since that time had drastically changed. He’d bought the island, built a house and designed a computer alert system to prevent any further errors like the one that had taken his family from him. Using his computer skills he went to work erasing his existence after his family tragedy; reporters had been relentless at the time of the manhunt and subsequent killing of the convict. Part of his core after that was making sure he was impossible to locate or for people to figure out whether he was dead or alive at any given moment.
As he lost sight of the wreaths on the waves, Natalie said, “I have a job for you,” and then she winced. She’d left Damian to his own silent thoughts for the past twenty minutes and she was itching to tell him about her latest case. Talk about throwing cold water on the grieving man, damn it Natalie you’re so uncouth.
She’d met him in his office at a research lab of a major technology company in San Jose to notify him that his wife and children were dead and later, after a short manhunt, she notified him their murderer was dead. She’d come to know him better over the years since and when she opened her own detective and security agency, he’d help her in a variety of ways, usually related to technology, computers, or some amazing engineering feat. She was a decade his senior in her late fifties and she found him to be a renaissance man – traditional, polite, and very, very smart. He’d invented so many things and either sold the patent for a large sum or the invention became part of his ongoing large royalty checks. She became familiar with his background when she’d researched him at the beginning of the investigation into his family’s murder.
Damian stood a moment longer searching for sight of the wreaths, and then he sighed and turned. Another year without his family; it seemed like an eternity and yet it seemed like yesterday. Each year as the anniversary of their deaths moved upon him, he was depressed and morose, and yet the wreaths sailing away on the waves somehow eased his grief and he could go on again for another year, each slightly less painful than the previous one.
The man was six foot, and rugged looking from both the permanent lines of grief and from the climate of living on this rock of an island. His blond hair was in transition between blond and white depending on how the sun hit it. He was muscled from swimming in the bay in a wetsuit, clambering over his rocky cliff to his house and the twice weekly treadmill runs. His island wasn’t big enough for him to run around it. Besides parts of it were a bird sanctuary and he wouldn’t want to disturb the natives. His eyes were blue and if he passed you on the street, you would wonder if he was a tourist from the Nordic area of the world - perhaps Sweden or Finland, but you would be wrong. His ancestors came from the North Sea region of the United Kingdom and his heritage was Norse. All in all, Damian was a very pleasant man to look at.
“What’s the job?”
“I need a computer analysis,” replied Natalie.
To Damian, a brilliant computer analysis creator, it was like saying you needed a white shirt. There were so many options that he couldn’t even respond to Natalie’s request.
With a sigh he asked, “What specifically do you need analyzed?”
“So you know that my former department, the SJPD is short on officers. It’s hard to live in Silicon Valley on a cop’s salary. They’re down nearly twenty percent of the force. So they contracted with me to work their cold cases since they have no personnel to devote to them at the moment. It’s sort of a dream job for me, and I was really excited to go to work on them until I discovered how bad the backlog is. There are over 200 cases and no one has worked these files in the last three years. That’s just wrong, those families deserve justice!”
“Have they all been electronically catalogued?”
“So what do want me to do with them? You’re the retired detective,” Damian said.
“I want to use that brilliant brain of yours to find a process to approach these cases. They aren’t calling out to me, saying ‘solve me first!’ I’m afraid to waste time on cases that I’ll never be able to solve in my lifetime even if you, genius Damian, gave your every waking breath to solving a case. I don’t want to waste time on lost causes.”
“Aren’t they all lost causes? That’s why they weren’t solved the first time around.”
“Aren’t you the pessimist? I said this would be hard, not impossible. With you helping me, I would think your brilliant mind would come up with some angles that weren’t thought of the first time around. If your brain fails me then I have to think your computer will come through.”
“There is that. Can you send me a few cases so I can see what the data possibilities are?”
Natalie did a happy dance in her head at his interest. She was sure that with his help she would go so much further and faster. She watched him for a while longer knowing this was always the saddest day of the year for him. She felt bad for his suffering but since she’d never met his family, she felt no personal loss; rather it was his suffering that weighed on her. She wondered if he would ever ask her not to bring the wreaths on the anniversary, but she wouldn’t ask, wouldn’t intrude on his intensely private thoughts.