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Judith Campbell
ISBN 978-0-9887816-5-8 trade paperback
ISBN 978-0-9887816-6-5 e-book ($2.99)

When the female minister and a young mother, both members of same church, disappear without warning, Olympia Brown is called to help. She soon suspects a connection between the missing women and the charismatic pastor from another church. With investigative assistance from her best friend, Father Jim, and support from her beloved Frederick, Olympia discovers the man has a long and well-concealed history of sexual misconduct. When he turns his attentions toward Olympia, she knows the only way to stop this insidious predator will be to catch him in the act, which could have deadly consequences for her.

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Search for Doctor’s wife and children continue as concerns for their safety grow. The whereabouts of Yolanda Emerson Nikitas and her two children remains a mystery since they vanished on Thursday of last week. Concern for her whereabouts began when Mrs. Nikitas, the estranged wife of Doctor Nicholas Nikitas, a family practitioner in the community, failed to show up at the home of her mother. Mrs. Nikitas was planning to leave the children with her mother for the afternoon on the day of her disappearance, but the three never arrived. Her abandoned car was discovered the next day in a commuter rail parking lot. Police are exploring all possibilities as the investigation continues, but for now they are treating it as a missing persons situation and not a kidnapping. Anyone having information regarding this incident is asked to call Millbridge Police Department or the anonymous information hotline listed in the town directory.

Detective Inspector Steve Vages handed the folded newspaper across the desk to Officer Ginny Simon.

“It’s not even been a week, and they’ve already demoted the story to page three.”

“It’s a disappearance, Steve. Unless there’s a dead body or a suicide note or a paper trail to some romantic hideaway on a tropical island, it’s hard to know exactly where to start looking or to know what we’re looking for. We’ve followed protocol to the letter, and we’ve come up with a big fat nothing.

Vages opened a manila folder marked Nikitas.

“This is the narrative of the interview I did with the husband. I want to go over it one more time and see if anything jumps out that we might have missed.” He cleared his throat and began to read.

“Dr. Nikitas states he first learned that his estranged wife and their two preschool-aged children were missing when his mother-in-law called on Thursday to ask if he knew where they were. They were expected two hours earlier, and she was getting concerned because Yolanda wasn’t answering her phone. Nikitas cancelled the rest of his appointments and drove to the family home, where she lived with the children. Upon arrival he noted that her car was not parked in its usual spot in the driveway, nor was it in the garage. Using his own key he entered the house to find no one there. He said that this was totally out of character, that his wife is highly organized and very punctual. Later, when questioned, he would say there was no sign of any kind of struggle in the home, and nothing seemed to be missing other than maybe some articles of clothing, but he couldn’t be sure.

“Dr. Nikitas said his wife had been despondent of late, but he didn’t think she was suicidal. He also noted that despite their marital difficulties, she was a devoted mother, and taking off with the children without some sort of explanation was something she simply wouldn’t do.”

Vages closed the folder and set it on his desk. “That’s it as far as the actual interview goes. The rest of the stuff in here is pictures and personal information.”

Ginny shook her head. “I went to school with Yoli. We were in the glee club together. She sings in the local church choir, or at least she did up until she started going to that church across the street. This whole thing is unreal. I know we’re in the crime business, but when it involves someone you grew up with, it really does change your perspective on things.”

Steve sucked in his lower lip. “No kidding, and the first place we always look is the next of kin.”

Ginny nodded. “Don’t think I didn’t start there, but the good doctor is a total Mr. Clean. He doesn’t even have speeding tickets. Medical stuff is all in order, highly respected in the community and a regular church go-er. No skeletons in that closet unless they’re left over from an anatomy class.” She made a face and shook her head again before saying, “They were living apart, so we know there were problems, but lots of people have problems. Sometimes all you need is a little time off to clear the air.”

“Yeah, but what isn’t being made public is that there was absolutely no sign of foul play in either the car or the house. Her cell phone was switched off and locked in the glove compartment.”

Steve tapped the folded newspaper with the tips of his fingers. “Somebody somewhere knows something, and that somebody isn’t talking.”

“Or there’s something big and nasty that we totally missed.”

“It’s strange that after a whole week we’ve come up with absolutely nothing. On the other hand, the fact that there was no explanatory note, no sign of a struggle and nothing of value missing from the house doesn’t give us much to go on, but it’s not as worrisome as a trail of blood.

“Are you sure about that? If she’s still alive, and she’s got the kids with her, which appears to be the case, she might be holed up somewhere cooling off and thinking things over. I’ve seen that happen before. But if it’s one of those cases of hideous domestic abuse that no one ever suspected, she may have taken off for good. It’s not easy these days with so much of our private lives on display for all to see, but with planning it can still be done.”

“You just said it, Steve: if she’s still alive. The picture gets worse every day that goes by. I have to tell you, I don’t have a very good feeling about this.”

“You’re not telling me anything I don’t know.”

Vages closed the file and slipped it back into the top drawer of his desk. “I’m calling the husband back in. If he does know something, he’s eventually going to crack and let it slip.”

“If not, then it’s back to square one. I was there for the first go-round, remember? I think he’s telling the truth. I don’t think he has any idea what happened or where she is.”
The police inspector stood up, laced his fingers together, stretched them back over his head and grunted. “I’m not so sure about that, Ginny. There are some really sick puppies out there, and they can look just like you and me.”