Vanishing Act

A Miranda and Parker Mystery #13

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Five thousand miles away from Atlanta.

A young man is killed.

A young man with secrets.

When Parker’s father asks him to travel to Ukraine to find someone who’s been missing over a decade, Parker flatly refuses. But Miranda can’t say no to Mr. P.

And so they board the plane.

After a long flight and a futile search, they are about to give up. Until they rouse the ire of a very dangerous group. People with secrets. People who will kill to keep them. People who now want Parker and Miranda dead.

You’ll want to read this next adventure, because secrets are about to be revealed.

Get it now!

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Chapter One

It was two o’clock in the morning.
The motor of his cycle growled beneath him as fear pounded in his temples.
Faster. Faster. Faster.
The cold November wind whipped his hair over his face, into his eyes and his mouth. Above the highway, streetlights twinkled against the blue velvet of the sky and the river below.
Kiev lay to the left of him, the lights of its majestic old buildings and ancient cupola-topped churches shimmering with the mystique of a beautiful woman attempting to seduce him.
He had always fallen for her charms, though he wished he hadn’t. Tonight he wished he had stayed in his little village and been content.
Too late for those wishes.
He could not think about home now. He could not stop. He had to keep going.
He had to get away.
He had left the club perhaps only fifteen minutes ago. He had taken what he had in his satchel and snuck out the back.
He had thought he had not been seen.
But now, as he raced along the wide highway that bordered the Dnieper River, he knew someone from the club was behind him.
If he could just make it across the river. Back to Troieshchyna and his bleak little apartment, he would be all right. That dingy living space fourteen stories up in the cheap Soviet era building. Olga deserved better than that. He had wanted to give it to her.
He had failed.
Just as he made it to the straightaway, a shot rang out from behind him.
Sergei. He had followed him.
He swerved, and the bullet missed him.
But he could taste the fear in his mouth.
Where was the politsiya? The police did not patrol this part of town so well as the wealthier sections.
Sergei was the enforcer. A huge man five years his senior. He could beat him to death with his bare hands if he caught him. He could easily shoot him. But it was difficult to aim well on a motorcycle.
Another shot spat over his shoulder. Sergei’s aim was better that time.
The vehicles around him began to slow, the drivers no doubt wondering what was going on. Why was there a gunfight on Naberezhno-Rybalsak in the middle of the night?
He sped up, swerved around a car on his left, another on his right. He took the curve to the bridge as fast as he dared.
He could not fall now.
Focusing on the tall buildings far away in the distance across the river, he ignored his pounding heart.
He could get there. He had to.
His motor roaring, he reached the bridge and swung out onto traffic without yielding. A little Lada blared its horn at him as they nearly collided.
Ignoring the driver’s protests, he zoomed ahead.
He was over the river now. In a month, the water would be frozen and children would come to skate along the banks.
But tonight the Pivnichny Bridge seemed to stretch across the world.
No, it was only a few more kilometers to home.
Would Sergei follow him there? The little flat would not provide much protection. He had not thought of that. Perhaps he should head south and into the forest, toward his old village instead.
He was almost to the left bank now.
He swerved past a Renault on the side closest to the railing. Between the iron barrier and the road lay a path bicycle riders used to travel back and forth across the river to their jobs on the right bank.
He had such a job once. And he had Olga. What would she think of him now?
He would never know.
Another bullet came from Sergei. This time it hit his rear tire. He spun, veered in a circle. He lost his balance and the cycle went down and slid out from under him. The pavement dug into his jeans, tearing his flesh.
No time to think of that now. He put a palm onto the asphalt to lift himself up.
Before he could rise, Sergei was on top of him, the short red curls atop his head glistening in the street lights.
His massive body hovered over him like the prize oak in the Buda village.
“Where is it?” His face was like a snarling leopard.
He would pretend not to know. “Where is what? Why did you shoot at me, Sergei?”
“Where is it?” Sergei shouted, ignoring the ploy.
He tried again. “I do not know what you mean.”
It was not a good answer. He saw the reply come in the form of Sergei’s boot.
He rolled, but not in time. The kick caught him hard in the kidney and he cried out in pain.
Yet somehow, he managed to get to his feet. If it was a fight Sergei wanted, he would give it to him.
He swung and grazed his chest as Sergei stepped back. Then the large man returned a jab.
He ducked, an American move, and Sergei missed.
He swung again, but once more missed the treelike target.
Sraka!” Sergei growled. “How dare you steal from us? From those who care for you?”
He wanted to deny it, but he could not lie to this man. Looking down at the pavement, he tried to find the words to say.
The hesitation was a mistake. He looked up just as Sergei’s fist flew toward him like a flash of lightning.
It connected with his jaw, shooting incredible pain through his skull. He stumbled back, tasting his own blood in his mouth.
He should not be tangling with Sergei. This man was one of the top fighters in the MMA club where he worked. Sergei’s footwork and balance were impeccable. His blows were like iron.
But he had little choice now.
He swung again and somehow landed a punch to the stomach. The leather of his jacket softened the blow, yet he heard Sergei groan.
And then Sergei’s face became a wall of stone.
“That was your last chance.” Sergei’s arm flew back. The blow sped toward him, too fast for him to duck this time.
He felt the cartilage crunch as Sergei’s knuckles landed against his nose. He crumbled to his knees, blood dripping onto the pavement.
And then he saw it.
His satchel lay along the railing, its strap just beyond reach. Biting back the pain, he crawled forward. Grabbing onto the leather band, with all his effort he pulled himself to his feet.
“What are you doing?” He heard Sergei yell behind him.
Too late. He took the satchel and hurled it over the railing as far as he could.
Into the air it went, then down into the river below. Never to be found again.
Bracing himself against the railing, he turned around. “And now we are even, no?”
Sergei did not reply. Instead he drew his pistol and aimed it at his chest. “You have betrayed us. You know what happens to traitors.”
He did.
There was no reasoning with the man now, if there ever had been.
And so he was not surprised when Sergei pulled the trigger and the final bullet hit him dead center in the chest.
His body recoiled with incredible pain. He felt himself fall backward. Felt his feet leave the pavement. His arms flapped the air like a young bird trying to take flight.
But he was no bird. He could not fly.
Instead he plunged head down into the river. All the way into the depths of the Dnieper.
And disappeared.

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Bestselling author of chilling mystery-thrillers that will keep you up at night