The Chase is Still ON — Elude Part Two Audiobook ON Sale Now!! – 2020

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Stepping blindly into a horrific murder scene, a young ex-con, Vicente Vargas, must flee from the police while eluding the real killer who continues to pin more bodies on him in this intricate cat-and-mouse game. Cut off from all friends and family, tried and convicted by the press, Vic must survive on his wits and cunning on the gritty streets of Phoenix, Arizona long enough to clear his name.

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LAST Sneak Preview – Chapter Three from EVADE (Rough Draft) — Derek Barton – 2020

Scary Horror Wallpapers 9


The air in the police car became stuffy and a faint moldy odor permeated the interior. I wondered how old the vehicle was and how many times the inside had to be scrubbed clean due to drunks. “Can you maybe turn on the AC?” I asked. ”Or maybe open a window? It’s a little warm in here.”

“Yeah, not a problem,” Josh replied, rolling his window down. His demeanor had softened since I acknowledged who I really was and who I was picking up at the airport. 


Guess my dirty laundry had been talked about a lot around the station.

Five months ago, after the eighth nurse turned up dead in Denver, Colorado, I took the plunge and went rogue. I took an extended leave of absence, claiming I needed to take care of a cancer-riddled aunt then requested a long bereavement when she died. Of course, there wasn’t any aunt. 

It was eventually exposed. I’m guessing Jessie made a call to rat me out during our divorce. Anyway, my work history file was permanently stained by it.  Yet, in all, I didn’t have any choice and it was worth every bit of what I paid. 

I went undercover and took up the chase for the Nurse Catcher on my own. Every day for four straight months with no bureaucracy to bulldoze through or finagle. 

Flew out to Denver on my own dime, used every bit of information I had on this brutal serial killer, and hunted the wintry streets without backup.  I think I got close at some point. He must’ve sensed me somehow and fled the city.  


When all the leads had dried up and while I waited for an expected ninth victim, I found a computer hacker and blackmailed him to gain access to an international investigation records database.

We learned a name, Lawson Daniel Torv, from the illegal research.  A man under investigation for the deaths of three nurses is what stood out to me. It fit the profile and his history in Australia where he was born worked within the timeline our own investigation had developed. 

They lost this Lawson Torv during their own manhunt, but the case remained open. The detective-in-charge, a Douglas Carber’s notes gave me some important factors which guided me on a hunch to Las Vegas. 

Within weeks, bodies of two more nurses showed up there. 

My instincts again told me he already moved on, but I pursued his trail to San Diego. When his newest victim, Kelli Thompson, in San Diego was found, it sealed his fate.


I truly hated that I couldn’t discern his actual location before Kelli was mutilated and murdered. The only positive was when her remains were discovered, it sent out a beacon to me, an exact spot to hunt for him.  I understood his pattern by then and what rules he had adapted. 

Torv, The Nurse Catcher, would drift along from city to city looking for ideal households on the outskirts of cities. He would rob and murder the resident owner or owners, keeping their remains hidden in the basement or garages. From there, he’d stalk the local college campuses. 

Once he chose his victim, he waited for the prime opportunity to kidnap her to his new home. There, he’d take his time, rape and torture for four to five days, then he’d butcher them with an axe. Afterward, he’d take their remains to an area picked out for its difficulty to traverse. 

Being a big man, ex-military, athletic and incredibly strong, he carried the remains in burlap sacks and dumped them in thorn patches or heavy shrub cover. Sometimes, he buried them in shallow graves under fallen trees. He knew he would have a long head start before anyone found them.  Some of the women continued to be missing. 

I suspected Tawnie had to have been one of the first in America.  He displayed her like a calling card or some freakish grand announcement to the United States and Australian authorities. It was like he was flipping the bird to all authority. The Australian investigators hadn’t picked up on it and the investigators here chucked it up as just another sexual pervert serial killer born and raised in the Heartland.

Without the effort I made, I wonder how long he’d have gone on. How many more deaths and innocent victims would have met their fate at his hands?

I am no hero, but I did step up. They can’t take that from me.

It cost me a bad marriage, a possible executive position in the police force, and nearly my pension. The only reason it hadn’t been harsher was the fact I practically took the San Diego police force by the hand and walked them to Torv’s front doorstep. Along with the fact he was caught with the homeowner’s body and the sisters saved me from facing charges or severe disciplinary actions.

The shock and frustration on the massive man’s face when they arrested him was worth every bit of the fallout from my stint of illegal vigilantism.       

As the police car entered a four-lane freeway tunnel, further ahead came a shrill shriek of tires and brakes followed by the echo of metal meeting metal. The impact was loud and peppered with shouts and other aftershocks of minor crashes.  

Goddamn it!  I’m going to be stuck in a traffic jam on the most important day of my career — seeing the smug bastard step down the steps of the plane in handcuffs and a police escort, walking right into my charge!  I have to be there!

It was literally life-fulfilling to me. He was going to know who had taken him down. Sure, I had been there at the arrest along with a dozen others, but I wasn’t allowed time to interrogate him or even ask for the locations of the missing girls’ remains.

When he was with me downtown at Headquarters, I would get my almighty moment. Like the families of all his victims, I wanted — no, needed closure. The days of not having to think of The Nurse Catcher, obsessing over where Lawson would be that night, questioning what else I may do or what I hadn’t thought of to bring him down were almost over and life for everyone involved could move forward.

My eyes met Officer O’Dell’s in the rearview mirror.  “Goddamn it, O’Dell! If I have to get out on foot and run along the cars, I’m going to do it!” 

He shook his head. “No. We’re not at that point yet. We’ve got time and this.” He bent down and flipped on the sirens and lights. Slowly traffic worked to get out of their way, letting them get by.

I heaved some pent-up breath and rolled my tight shoulders trying to release the stress. The little arm wrapped in mine hadn’t left. I looked down and met the prying gaze of the boy.  

“I have a very important appointment at the airport, but don’t let it worry you, angel. It won’t be long before you’re back with your family.”

“Nope,” he whispered. The tiny voice and simple word of denial struck me like a slap. A hopeless taint to the core of his statement. A finality.

“No. It’s going to be okay.” I tried to reassure him again, but his eyes were covered by the thick sunglasses so I couldn’t read their impact upon him.

From the front seat, Officer Brandon turned around. He showed a big “gotcha”-smile. “So…You can speak, tiger.  What’s your name?”

The boy didn’t say anything to him and stared out the driver’s side window. He did, at least, keep his arm where it was and held my hand.

I leaned over and whispered, “If you tell us your name, I’m sure we could stop along the way and get you a soda…or maybe a scoop or two of ice cream.  It’s really important we get you back with your family.”

He only continued to study the passing cars.  Brandon turned back around, letting me work with him.

Shawn managed to squeeze the car past the three-car-and-delivery-van-pile-up we heard before, but there was at least a half-mile of tunnel still left to go.

I sat quietly, waiting for a reply, but the little man had a thick wall he didn’t seem to be ready to let me through.

“You know I’ve always wanted a little boy like you. In fact, my dream as a young girl was to have two children, a boy and a girl, to spoil and take everywhere with me. I set up tea parties with boy and girl dolls all the time. Once I even had a picnic in the park with them but forgot to tell my mom where I was going. The look of relief when she found me was…”

I let the words fade off when he whispered a word, “Chocolate?”

“Yes. We could get chocolate. Right, Officers?”

They agreed loudly.

He raised up, cupping his lips with his free hand as he whispered, “Phelps. My name is Rory Dillon Phelps.”

I let go of his hand and squeezed him with a warm hug. Then I spoke out loud for the officers. “There. That wasn’t so hard. Thank you, Rory Dillon Phelps.”

A loud, music-thumping and smoke-filled Honda Civic stayed in front of the patrol car, ignoring the sirens and flickering lights. In actuality, there wasn’t a place to go as the cars in front and alongside their lane were sitting idle with no room or shoulder to maneuver.  O’Dell turned off the useless noise and lights.

“It’s only 9:48 AM. We’re going to have to wait a bit here though.”

“Okay,” I acknowledged. “Hey, in the meantime, have Dispatch look into finding his address. Maybe they can contact his family?”

Brandon swept up the radio receiver again. “X1718 to Dispatch. Over.”

Seconds later. “This is Dispatch, X1718. Were you able to pick the boy up?”

“Yes, ma’am. He appears to be seven-years-old with some minor cuts and abrasions, but otherwise, he’s fine. His name is Rory Phelps. Can you locate an address and maybe contact the family — tell them we should arrive in a couple of hours with him.”

“Couple hours?”

“We have serious traffic right now due to a pileup in the Bennington Tunnel. Depending on where he lives, we could be earlier or later.”

“Noted. We’ll get the information back to you shortly. Over.”

Ten minutes passed. The early heat of the morning was building and the car’s AC had little effect as I checked my cell phone over and over.

“Dispatch to X1718.”

“X1718 responding.”

“This is Officer Carter again. I wanted to confirm with you the name of the boy. You reported Rory Phelps, correct?”

“Yes. R-O-R-Y  P-H-E-L-P-S. Over.”

“X1718 please switch to Priority Line 2A.” She was guiding them to a classified radio frequency. Nothing good was said on those lines.

“X1718 reporting on 2A. Over.”

“Dispatch reporting. Hey, fellas, what’s going on?”

“What’s wrong, Sheila?”

“If you have the same Rory Phelps I’m finding in the database, then you’ve got a child reported missing since 2016.”

Shawn snatched the receiver from Josh’s hand. “Sheila, this is Officer Shawn O’Dell. Hey, uh, can you give us what exact information you’re finding?” 

“A Rory Dillion Phelps was abducted while on a historic tour of the Foxworth Mines in 2016.  The bodies of his murdered parents were found, but his surviving sister, Bethany–”

Rory cried out, “BETHANY!” He hugged me, weeping into my shoulder.

The three of us stared at one another in shock and dismay at his reaction.

“…was not able to describe what happened. Some sort of traumatic amnesia blocked the details.  She currently lives with Kenneth Gerard, her guardian in Drexel Hills,” Sheila continued.

“Have you contacted them?”

“Not yet, I didn’t want to give them any false hope if I didn’t have the right information.”

“He had a pretty obvious reaction to the name of his sister. Contact her guardian as soon as possible.” Shawn handed the receiver to Josh.

“Dispatch, we will see what other information we can get from the boy.”

“Understood. Dispatch over.”

As Josh replaced the receiver, Shawn tromped hard on the brake pedal.  I hit the back of the seat as Josh smashed his head and shoulder into the dashboard.

“What the hell, man?” he snapped.

The Civic from earlier stopped moving forward and Shawn nearly rear-ended them.


Smoke leaked out around the windows of the Civic and filled the interior with a blinding fog. It remained motionless even though the traffic moved ahead on both sides.

As Shawn prepared to swing around them, the car’s passenger door popped open and a young black youth stepped out. Dressed in red basketball shorts, a red cap, and a white Chicago Bulls tank top, he raised both hands in mock surrender. He held a glistening silver vape pipe in one hand which he pointed at them like a pistol. 

“What the hell?” Brandon repeated. He went to roll down his window, but O’Dell grabbed his arm.

“Not this time. Chill,” he ordered.

Shawn shook his head at the cocky youth and twisted the steering wheel to the right, pulling the car over, blocking both lanes.

The driver of the beat-up lime-green Civic did likewise and went diagonal to block both lanes, too. 

“You ain’t leaving this party so soon, little piggies?” The black youth shouted as he sauntered over to O’Dell’s window.


“Aw, shit!” I didn’t like the way this was going.

The driver’s door opened and two more boys climbed out, one white and one East Indian. They were dressed alike in red caps, t-shirts, and red shorts, obviously fronting gang affiliation. With no regard for the police officers, they marched up and stood in front of the cruiser.

His eyes on the youths, Shawn swung the car’s computer console toward him. On the screen, he typed in the license plate HMN 2027.  Honda Civic.

The screen blinked and refreshed with a picture and name of the Indian teenager: Khota Katri, Age 17, Street Name — KK. No current warrants. Suspected gang affiliation to The 27th Street Crew Gang.

Josh rolled down his window. “Back the fuck up! Now!” His voice crackled with pent-up fury. He then leaped out the door before Shawn could throw the vehicle in park.

“You were asked a question. It’s rude not to answer,” Khota quipped, standing his ground when Josh got in his face.  KK was a couple of inches taller.

“Get back in your car now or you’ll go downtown.” Shawn roared at the first youth through the window.  

“Stay and protect the boy,” he snapped at me. He started to open his door but stopped when the youth walked back along the cruiser, smiling at Rory and me. 

“Well…My, my, my. Now I see–” the words dropped off as his jaw went slack. His eyes took on a confused, dazed stare, losing the mirth she’d just seen in them.

At that exact moment, something changed in the air. It was similar to the charge of static in the air gathering before a lightning storm, then a snap or like something breaking. It was something very palpable. Unseen but present.

The youth continued looking at us, but his mouth had closed, and the smile vanished. He raised his hand, the one without the vape, and pointed a slender finger at Rory.  He mouthed, I seek you. 

I spotted thin wisps of black smoke rising from the skin of his forehead and the skin along his cheeks.  

Holy shit! What is going on? My instincts flared to life inside. My heart raced in a sudden surge. The unnatural smoke coming out of the youth’s pores scared me to the core.


The tricky scenario triggered a reaction in both police officers as well. Josh retreated, one hand gripping the Glock on his belt, the other one raised, ready to stiff-arm any charges. The two boys cackled like human hyenas at each other but didn’t move nor had they taken on the scary effect like the first boy.

What the fuck was that smoke?

Josh leaped into the passenger seat as the black teen yanked hard on the back door’s handle, but all four doors were locked.  


His eyes were distant and reacting as if in a trance. Could it be from the pot they might’ve been smoking in the car? Something told me there was more to it. As a detective, the eyes are always the first thing I study. 

Shawn swung the vehicle over and used the cruiser’s bumper bars to nudge the Civic aside. 

I kept my focus on the first teenager. He clung to the door handle and was dragged a few feet before letting go as the police car left them. The other two were laughing and acting like they were celebrating a Super Bowl touchdown at a block party.  This was a highlight moment in their lives. 

A whisper from Rory caught my attention.


I looked down at him. 

“JESUS!” I yelped and clasped a hand over my mouth in sudden terror.

Rory’s face was peppered by beads of sweat and his cheeks were reddening as if sunburned. He was curled into a ball, floating a few inches in the air above the black leather seats. A narrow line of fiery amber light encircled him. As it slowly revolved around him, I could barely discern odd symbols and letters in the glow of the line. Panic filled the child’s eyes. 

2020 Bi-Monthly Goal Breakdown – Derek Barton – 2020

Goal 2020


With the New Year almost upon us, I have been working out my upcoming goals and what I’d like to see as far as successful production for 2020.

With a lot of excitement, I am hoping to publish my new suspense/supernatural horror series, Evade! And with a lot of joy and sadness, I will be wrapping up my epic fantasy collection, the Wyvernsield Series. While this may be a “goodbye” to current beloved characters, I am already toying with a story idea with new characters beginning this time in Aberrisc!

As you know if you have been reading any of my goal planning posts, I like the bi-monthly process breakdown. This method has proven to generate the most goal success for me. I’ll be continuing the process, but this time with a larger “arching” picture in mind. I’ll be planning the entire year, broken down in two-month objectives by Work In Progress.

Overall Goal Summary: This year’s production goal is to publish four books — Evade Parts #1,2 & 3  and the last book in the Wyvernshield Fantasy Series.

Works In Progress Goals:


January – February

  • Complete writing for Book #3 (anticipated 25,000 word count) 
  • Edit Book #1, Book #2
  • Craft Book Blurb
  • Purchase/design book covers for all three books
  • Publish Book #1

March – April

  • Edit Book #3
  • Publish Book #2

May – June

  • Publish Book #3


March – August

  • Complete writing (March through August — anticipated word count 100,000)
  • Edit book (September through November)
  • Publish in December

April – May

  • Purchase cover
  • Write up a book blurb
  • Look into a future Set Collection of all three books

Writing goal

  • 125,000/12 mos
  • Evade Book #3 25,000 — 12,500 per month, 3,125 per week, 625 per 5 days
  • Wyvernshield #3 100,000 — 17,000 per month, 4,250 per week, 850 per 5 days

Marketing goals

  • Once per quarter do an ad (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Amazon)
  • Buy new table & cart
  • Buy banner stands
  • Find/design a book stand
  • Buy Metal Bookmarkers for new books
  • Once per quarter do a local book signing
  • Participate in one national comic convention if possible
  • Expand email list
  • Once per quarter do a giveaway
  • Donate older book versions to libraries

So this is the 2020 Plan but as they are “goals”, these are subject to change, subject to incompletion, and subject to postponement! LOL

While 2019 was a tough and emotional year for me and my family, it turned out overall a very important and rewarding year. In the end, I learned you just have to have faith all will work out and have faith in yourself that you have the strength to see it through!

I wish all of you a successful and happy new year as well!

Sneak Preview from EVADE (Rough Draft) — Derek Barton – 2019

Scary Horror Wallpapers 9

I know…I know… I released these chapters out of order, but I have my reasons madness. Either way, I hope you enjoy this and I’d love to hear what you think of it so far!!




I sat in disbelief, dumbfounded by the vapid car sounds…Click, click, click.

I just cannot win. “Of all days, do NOT do this!”

My shrill voice carried and echoed in the empty police garage parking lot. The tone of desperation in it pissed me off even more. I was in my apple-red Chevy Impala, in its assigned lot 2B-18, sitting several moments now in an apparently stalled vehicle.

Suddenly inside my head, a woman’s happy laughter followed up by her voice floated up from the depths of my buried memories. It’s fine, Lindsey. I’m just going down to Harvey’s for a burger then off to bed. Take the night and I will see you tomorrow. We’ll catch up then.

I could still hear the audible click as she hung up the phone.

It was Tawnie’s cheery voice.

I was the one to find her the next morning behind the dorm. The image of her bloody corpse flashing before my eyes. She was on a grassy hill, splayed out on display atop of her soiled nurse’s uniform, hacked apart by an ax. Other witnesses had found me later passed out at the base of the hill.

Stop! I have no time for this. I shook my head, frantically banishing the thoughts back to their subterranean vault. Stop, just stop…

Taking a deep breath, I held it and mentally recited a prayer before turning the ignition once again. Click, click, click cliiii….

I exhaled then punched the steering wheel hard with my fist. “You son-of-a-bitch! I’ve gotta go!”

“Detective Korrey…I think it’s dead,” a gravelly voice spoke out, right behind my left shoulder.

I jumped and let out a surprised yelp, twisting violently to see who it was. A patrolman with a thick head of red hair and a bushy goatee had been leaning down into the driver’s side window. He straightened immediately backpedaling with his hands raised to calm me. “Sorry, ma’am. Didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s…it’s okay,” I stammered. “You just caught me off guard.”

Carefully, I removed my hand from the grip of the pistol at my belt. Behind him and to left was another patrol officer waiting, slightly shorter and thinner, with short-cropped brown hair and a patchy brown beard. He caught my eye and gave a quick nod.

My cheeks grew hot. I was embarrassed by my startled reaction.

“We are just coming on duty. Did you need us to jump your car for you?” The first officer offered. His badge plate said O’DELL.

Sighing loudly again in frustration, I paused to collect myself, pulled my hair back behind one ear, then said, “Normally, I’d take you up on your offer, but I’m already running late. I’m supervising a prisoner extradition pick up this afternoon. It’s not something that can wait. I hate to ask this—”

He cut me off. “But you’re gonna need us to drive you there. The Phil?”

“Yeah, I’m due at the airport by 11:30.”

The other, younger officer looked at his watch, his face tight with obvious irritation. “It’s going to be close with downtown traffic at this hour.”

“We’ll make it happen, detective.” O’Dell extended his hand to me through the open window. “Officer Shawn O’Dell. That’s Officer Josh Brandon.”

I shook his hand and smiled up at him. “Detective Lindsey Korrey of Homicide Division.” I didn’t know these officers, but I was relieved they respected my position enough and were willing to help me. Pulling any type of rank was always emotionally hard for me to go through with. Often as a woman in charge, I’m usually challenged or hard-pressed in situations when I had to give orders or take lead.

I opened the door, grabbed my purse and locked the car. “Where are you guys parked?”

Officer Brandon pointed to a patrol cruiser in the opposite corner of my vehicle. X1718 painted on the door and hood. “You’ll have to ride in the back, unfortunately.”




“Dispatch to X1718. Do you read?”

Officer Brandon leaned down and swept up the receiver. “X1718, copy.”

Officer O’Dell, the older officer, the obvious veteran, was driving as protocol. During the first couple of years, rookie patrol officers rode with seasoned, trained patrol officers until they proved themselves. He spoke out loud to me. “I’m going to take the 611. If we’re lucky we can take it then head down to the I-75 to 291 which will loop back to the east side of the airport.”

He was making an effort. I liked that. I didn’t get the same sense of commitment from Officer Brandon.

The radio crackled with life and a Dispatch Officer, Sheila Carter, cut in, “X1718, head over to Brandywine St & North 21st Street. A male child has been found abandoned.”

“X1718, copy.”

“Speak with a Fen and Chun Zhao. They’re the owners of The Golden Hour Dragon Restaurant and found the boy in their parking lot.”

Josh glanced at his partner, who nodded his approval back at him. “Copy.  Show X1718 en route, Dispatch,” Josh responded.

“Uh, guys…” I spoke up. “Remember, I cannot be late.”

“Detective Korrey, I understand your concern. I do. However…” O’Dell shrugged. “It’s an abandoned kid. We don’t have a good reason to give if we don’t get him first and something happens to him while we are at the airport with you.”

The weight of his argument settled on me. My shoulders sagged. I had no answer to it.

“Look, it’s a simple stop and pickup. Then we’ll take you to the airport before heading back to Headquarters with the kid.”

In the rearview mirror, I caught a glimpse of myself. My lips were squeezed into a line and worry lines creased my forehead. I couldn’t find any sound excuse to override the officer’s points.

His voice dropped down low and conspiratorially, “This isn’t a normal prisoner transport, is it? This is about the ‘Nurse Catcher’, am I right?”

Josh’s jaw dropped and he snapped his head back to openly stared at me.

Shit! Here it comes.

I reluctantly nodded. “Yes. A week ago, Lawson Torv was captured in San Diego, and we’re flying him in to face charges for the three murders here. It’s been hush-hush to keep the press away. He’s used chaos and crowds to escape before so we’re not taking any chances this time.” I tried to ignore Officer Brandon’s scrutiny, but I was embarrassed again.

“You’re that detective?” he muttered.

“Josh!” O’Dell admonished him.

The young officer abruptly turned to face ahead.

“I know how important this is for you. And I told you I’m going to get you there, okay?” Shawn continued, trying to reassure me. “We get in, get out, nothing much to it.”

I took a quick glance at my cell phone. It read 8:37 AM.

Twenty-three minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot of The Golden Hour Dragon. Immediately, we spotted an older Chinese man sitting next to a white, brown-haired boy with a bowl-haircut, skinny build, and scabby knees. He had on a pair of sunglasses, a fur-lined yellow winter jacket, and dark blue jean shorts. The boy didn’t appear to be in any distress or worries.

The two patrolmen got out first then Officer O’Dell opened the back door to release me. I stayed behind and leaned up against the cruiser, crossing my arms and watching.

Officer Brandon strode over and squatted down in front of the boy. “Hi there, champ,” I detected an obvious change in his demeanor. He was good with kids.

“He hasn’t said a word,” the older Chinese man stated. “My name is Chun Zhao.” He nodded to Officer Brandon then to Officer O’Dell and me.

“Do you know where he came from or which direction?” Shawn asked.

Anxiety was building up inside me. My instincts told me there was something wrong with the whole scene. I couldn’t put a finger on the why of it, but the feel of the situation set my teeth on edge.

“No. Actually, it was my wife, Fen, who found him standing on the corner.” He pointed at the intersection of Brandywine and North 21st. “He was standing there, dressed like this, staring up at the streetlight. I was afraid he was going to cross it alone.”

Shawn inquired, “You’ve never seen him before then, Mr. Zhao?” 

He shook his head no.

Josh followed up with, “And there was no one else with him or walking around? Do you think someone left him here?” 

“I didn’t see anyone and, no, I don’t think Fen did either.”

Leaning in closer, he examined the kid with his eyes but didn’t see any apparent bruises or cuts. Smiling at the boy, he straightened then unpinned his silver badge. As he held it out before the boy’s face, he said, “Do you know what this is?”

He waited for a response. The child studied his hand then looked up into Josh’s face. He made no attempt to smile or respond, only continued to stare.

“It means I’m a police officer. Do you know what a police officer does?”

Shawn said when the boy didn’t answer. “It means, as an officer I protect you. You can trust us. We won’t hurt you.”

The boy slowly turned his head away and faced the cruiser.

Shawn mistook the boy’s message. “She’s also an officer. We’re here to help you. You’re not in any trouble. We just want to make sure you get home okay. Your mommy and daddy have to be very worried about you.”

The boy didn’t shift his eyes and kept watching me stand next to the patrol car. An awkward smile of my own formed on my lips.

Shawn and Josh glanced at each other and an unspoken agreement was made. 

Officer O’Dell said, “Okay, Mr. Zhao, are you and your wife able to come down to the station later this afternoon and give a statement?”

“Certainly. Is he going to be alright?”

The two officers nodded together. “We’ll take him downtown until we get things straightened and reunite him with his family. Thank you for calling us,” Shawn remarked.

I continued my attempt at a smile, certain my anxiety, and frustration with my lack of time were showing on my face. Josh led the boy by the hand to the cruiser. 

I loved children but had limited experience with them. I opened the car door for him to join me in the backseat bench. “Hi there. I’m Lindsey and this is Shawn and Josh. Are you hungry?”

The boy crawled into the back without acknowledging my words. I shrugged at Officer O’Dell and got in.

Normally children seemed to take to me. I always thought I’d be a good mother. Someday. Maybe now that Torv is caught…

You’d be a lousy mom, Lindsey! Jessie had screamed at me one night, one of our last arguments in fact before the divorce. You’re never ever home! And by the way, you can’t have kids if you don’t have sex!


He was right in some regards, but it didn’t take the sting out of his words either. Jessie wanted children and, of course, so did I, but the Nurse Catcher case was too involved, too engrossing for me to consider any other endeavors at the time.

I owed it to Tawnie.

“Alright, champ. We’ve got to take a brief ride to the airport then we’ll see to getting you home to your family. Okay?” Josh said.

Several beads of sweat popped up along the boy’s brow. It was then I realized he was dressed in a winter jacket and had a striped sweater underneath it.

“You must be pretty warm in that. Can I take off your jacket for you?” I asked, but he didn’t offer any reaction. He kept face forward and silent. 

Who the hell dressed their kid like this in July? I reached over and tugged down one side and the right sleeve. He didn’t try to stop me.

I found a pair of vertical scratches on the inside of his wrist and a pair of scabbed-over gouges at the base of his neck near his sweater’s collar. Dirt and black, chalky smudges were around his ear as well.

“Did you get hurt, sweetie? How did you get these…wounds?” I didn’t want to say it and upset the boy, but I immediately recognized the wounds as animal bite marks.

From upfront, Shawn uttered a couple of choice curses. “Get out of the way!”

I looked up from the boy and noticed a man, filthy and wearing a ratty t-shirt and a gray hooded jacket. It said ironically SECURITY across the front. Most of the man’s hair on top had fallen out or turned a splotchy white and gray. He stood transfixed and staring intently on the boy. Shawn honked the car’s horn and gestured for the man to move. The homeless man ignored the directions and remained transfixed.

Brandon rolled down his passenger window. “Look! If you don’t move, I’m going to get out and move you myself!”

The rookie’s face reddened as the transient disregarded his threat. “FINE!” he roared then swept up his soda can and hurled it at the bum. It caught him perfectly in the face and splashed leftover soda as it bounced up his forehead and flew behind him.

“OFFICER BRANDON! That was not necessary.” Shawn scolded.

A splash of soda dripped down the man’s leathery cheeks, but his eyes were no longer fixed on the boy. Josh had gotten his attention after all. His gaze was filled with an angry intelligence and malice, but there was something else. It struck me as the look from a man in the throes of insanity — a frantic uneasy restlessness running in tight circles in the dark. I shuddered as the back of my neck grew cold and clammy.

“Move along,” Shawn insisted to the homeless man with force in his statement.

The man shrugged and wiped the brown liquid off his thick chin. He turned and walked back to the sidewalk. As the cruiser went past him, the man pointed with a gnarled, ash-covered index finger at the boy in the seat and mouthed, “I seek you.” There was no longer an expression or emotion on his scrub-covered face.

“Freak!” I called out from the backseat as we pulled away.

An arm curled around mine and a tiny hand gripped my own. I looked over and found the boy had pressed up to my side in obvious fright. 

2020 Superhero Saturday Book Signing — Derek Barton – 2019

Superhero 2019


GREAT NEWS!  I found a replacement for the postponed Bookmans Exchange Book Signing.


Please visit me in January at:Superhero Saturday 2019

At the event, there will be Cosplay, Classic Cars, VIP Community Heroes, Merchants/Vendors, and Recognized Police and Firefighters First Responders.

For more information and details:

This promises to be a great family fun day as it was last year!!

Sneak Preview Chapter from EVADE (Rough Draft) — Derek Barton – 2019

Evade #1

I am hard at work, writing Evade daily and I thought I’d give you a taste sample of the story to get some feedback.  Please let me know what you think and what you like or don’t like about it in the comments below.





The day had come early and had started rough for Lawson. He was in that drifting, fuzzy state of consciousness between sleep and fully awake when the hard steel-toed boot struck him in the ass cheek.

“Rise and shine, ya big shit!” the detention guard chuckled at his lame joke. “It’s time. We’ve got your one-way ticket back to Philly.”

The 5’9”, 245-pound-guard had retreated, standing next to other guards in the doorway of Lawson’s cell and waited with his metal baton in hand. Lawson hated cowards.

He sighed and rolled his own 6’3”, 279-pound frame out of bed, already dressed with his boots on.  “Well, that’s a shame. We were jus’ getting to know each other. Right, Private Lard Ass?” Lawson’s thick Australian accent seemed to make the statement sound even more of a snide dig.

Private Joe Phillips jumped, a little startled by the remark. He knew the other guards called him that when he wasn’t around. He was obviously overweight, but having an inmate repeat that to his face was unexpected and intolerable. His face burned. “Watch your mouth! I am not no little nurse girl, ya bastard. I’ll cut you down whe–”

Lawson had leaned in and spit a loogie into his open mouth. As the guard cursed and gagged, another much larger guard ran around Phillips and slashed his baton into Lawson’s stomach followed up with a boot to the groin. He writhed on the concrete floor and clutched himself, but through the tears he laughed and called out, “Souuuiiiieeee! Sooouuuuuiiiieeee!”

Another guard joined the first two, and Lawson stopped after two or three more fierce kicks, laying still, panting heavily.

“Alright. Alright, fellas. I’m done. I’m done. Just having a little fun witcha, mates.”

They didn’t take his apology and shoved him face first against the dirty cell tiles, grabbing his hands, cuffing and chaining them. But he was too tired for any more entertainment. He’d had his fun and kept his word by going peacefully to the prison transport vans parked in the facility garage.

He learned later, his flight had been set for 9:30 AM.

As he waited on the prison van’s pleather bench with a small trickle of blood oozing out of one nostril, he recalled Arnie Whitehead’s words.

“Yeah, I’m being straight with you. Not trying to poke the bear, man, but that’s the word going around.”

Arnie was a lifer due to a violent bank robbery years ago. He was a black man with long, graying dreadlocks and pockmarked cheeks. They had been in the prison yard, watching a pickup basketball game going. No one had been willing to approach Lawson Torv, aka The Nurse Catcher, as he had a tangible, negative presence. A black, draining aura about him that warned you to approach at your own free will.

As Lawson was his new cell mate, Arnie must’ve figured in the courtyard was as good as any place to learn about the newest “infamous” inmate to Desert Max Prison.

The “word” that Arnie had relayed to him was that it was one detective who had found and bagged him. And it was a woman.

“She’s some detective out of Philadelphia, but they’re saying she went all rogue and tracked ya down by herself.”

“What’s her name?”

“I didn’t get that much detail. It was a chat I overheard between the guards.” He laughed, his wide grin spread out under his bushy mustache and thick eyebrows. “Yeah, them guards are like schoolgirls, all gossiping and shit. I’m invisible to them. Especially when I’m mopping the hall all slow and quiet.”

The lone fact, the brashness of this woman coming alone after him, hunting his steps and hounding his heels like a wolf, appealed and insulted him at the same time. He wanted to know her, learn about her, then get into her head and ultimately, he wanted to be there to break her.

Sure, it was a classic movie plot, but it didn’t mean the desire wasn’t there all the same. The fire she sparked by coming after him, a craving which grew and grew. It was insatiable and burned away every other distracting thought. She reignited him in a whole new way.

Somewhere inside his damaged mind, he knew he had somehow done that for her too.  Who else but the obsessed would go to the lengths she took? 

A new question raised in his mind. Was she the one in Denver? Had she been that close?

He knew someone was asking questions and the circle of inquiries had gotten back to him. Not wanting to stop or get caught, he didn’t risk the time to confirm how close the police investigation was getting. He grabbed his duffel bag and he was out the door.

He put a dark twist to the old southern rock song by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gimme Three Steps. “Gimme three steps, Mister; Gimme three steps towards the door; ….Gimme three steps, Mister; And you’ll never see me no more, for sure!”

It was more than a hard-luck song. To him, it was instructions to his carefree and unresticted life. He made good use of the words. A gospel to live and to kill by.

“I will owe you one, if you find any more out for me, Arnie,” he said. “A favor of any kind.”

Lawson was looking at life sentences if not the death penalty so adding more murders wouldn’t do anything to him one way or the other. It was about the only currency he had in prison now.

“You say she was from Pennsylvania? Philladelphia?”


He paused trying to understand the added facts to the already brewing ingredients. Why would a detective in Philly be so involved? He was anxious to get in the air now and get some answers. This promised to be even more entertaining.

The loud prison transport bus pulled away into the early dark hours of the morning, driving past the barbed wire fences and onto the lonely desert highway. Torv sat back and thought about his last night of what he called his Bloody Holiday.

The evening had gone swimmingly good. In a parking lot in south San Diego, he had jumped an elderly Hispanic man coming back to his car from an ATM. With the fresh withdrawal, he bought steaks for his “date night” and acquired some fine red wine and even a bag of mellowing weed.

He had walked home.  But after padding down all his pockets as he stood inside the front porch,  he realized he couldn’t find the house key ring..

Must’ve lost it during the tussle. Oh well.


He looked up and down the stretch of dusty road to be sure he had no nosy neighbors or passersby. Only the hot sunset and pink clouds in the skyline greeted him.

Lawson made his way to the backyard and jumped the rusty, vine-covered fence. This time when he entered the backyard, he wasn’t greeted by the two neglected and temperamental rottweilers.

The cut on his palm took several days to heal, but the long slashes on left arm were still inflamed and possibly infected. He had found some antibiotics in the upstairs bathroom which he started taking.

Twin rotting mounds, covered in buzzing flies, now took up their post by the back corner of the yard.

By the look of the poor boys, he did them a favor. And he was happy to spend some extra time giving the house owner, a George Jerome, some special treatment and justice for the dogs.

By all accounts, he was a psychopath per the doctors, psychologists and even the shows on television, but animals did still find a way to reach the tiny part of him that was human.  Animals in his thinking were worthy of saving. Even ones like the dogs that got in his way. These two had a job to do and wouldn’t be persuaded from it. Made them noble, honorable like soldiers dying for their duty and country.

He also had a job to do, yet his was of higher importance. Thus, the dogs paid up.

Taking a rock and a muddy rag, he popped the window in the back door.

“Sweeties, I’m home. Did you miss me?” he called out. “I’ve got a nice surprise for you.”


He shut the door and started unpacking the bag of groceries. “Don’t fret — don’t get up — you relax downstairs and I’ll do all the work tonight. Date Night is special!”

Thirty some minutes later, he carried down the steps to the cellar, a pair of silver-painted trays. One loaded with a steak and the other with a bowl of water and sponges. In the center of the large open room was a wood table recently uncovered and cleaned. He placed the steak tray on it next to the table’s lone chair.  Turning around, he faced his evening dates, Christine and Annita Cabellero.

Christine was unconscious, her head resting on her sweat-soaked chest, her hands cuffed to a pipe over her head. She was Hispanic with long curly black locks and a thin figure. Her feet barely reached the floor, her toes were scraped and covered with brown dust. Both of the women had stockings tied as gags around their mouths.

Annita, her younger sister, was watching him intently. Her arms were also cuffed above her head and she balanced herself on her toes. Both women were bloodied, scratched and bruised all over their bodies. Lawson kept Annita topless as he liked to look at her curvaceous form, especially her perky breasts, although one he had marred with a deep bite during their first dance.

When he caught sight of the mark, he recalled a memory from grade school.

“Ya know, my first-grade teacher once sent me home with a report card. I don’t know if they do this here in the States, but it noted some of my behaviors in class and not just my book grades.”

He paused, rubbed away sweat at the back of his neck and frowned with a troubled expression.

“The remarks about ‘not sharing with the other students’ and the one ‘damages the toys’ had gotten me nearly beaten to death for embarrassing my da’.  Not saying that it didn’t teach me what was expected, but clearly, I still don’t share well,” he said looking at the single plate. Then he crossed the room and his hand slipped down Annita’s face to roughly manhandle her bloodied breast. He squeezed it hard to make her whimper. “And I do tend to break my toys.”

She shuddered under his touch and kept her eyes down. Tears dripped silently to the ground by her feet with a stifled sob.

“But hey, let’s not spoil Date Night, right? Let bygones be bygones.”

A cloying, vinegar-rot smell floated in the air. He looked behind the women to a sheet with splashes of blackish scarlet stains. The cloth covered old George as he sat propped in the corner. An arm lay severed down by the man’s stiff legs.

“Even George wants us to have a good time, I’m sure of it. After all, this will be our last night here.”

He glanced at Christine and studied her labored breathing. Must’ve broken a rib or two, he mused.

She was dressed only in her torn, white nurse’s scrub shirt and panties. Blood droplets spotted the shirt and caked her chin and left ear.

Torv went back up into the kitchen and returned with three wine glasses and a bottle of red wine. He set about opening and pouring out generous portions of the bottle.

He pushed the two glasses away from his dinner plate, gulped a large swallow of the liquid from his glass and sat in his wooden chair. Facing the ladies, he ate his T-bone steak heartily.


Just as he mopped up the last of the juice on his plate with the final cut from the T-bone, he heard a muted groan which came from Christine.

“Oh good, you’re awake, sweetheart. I was hoping you’d come around soon. We’ll share a toast here in a sec.”

Scooting back from the table, he went to an alcove right of their position and out of view. He went about shaking out the blankets and smoothing out the sheets on the mattress which he had hauled from upstairs four days ago.  In the cement wall above the makeshift bedroom, he had hammered in a twin set of thick eye bolt hooks from the hardware store. It worked well for securing the handcuffs.

Taking his own glass, then their wine glasses, he stood again with his dates. “Enjoy each moment you have breath. Remember, you get in life what you have the courage to take…or something like that,” he laughed. “That’s Oprah Winfrey. Read it somewhere.”

They stared incredulous at him as he clinked the three glasses together. “Cheers!” Then he sipped once from each of the glasses.

Lawson smacked his forehead, catching their attention.  “Oh, silly me!  Can’t forget that.”

He relished his own humor and had a flair of melodrama which he often used to its fullest potential.  He marched up the rickety stairs. Loudly, the big man rummaged around, making as much racket as possible.

Both women squealed in unrestrained terror when he came back down. A large double-sided axe rested on his shoulder.  He went by, swept up one of two of the wine glasses then leaned the axe on the alcove wall next to the mattress.

Lawson whistled a whimsical tune to himself as he came back, eyeing the women. He shook his head and moved in front of Christine. Her right eye was swollen shut.

The first night she had resisted him, and tried to double her efforts when he went for Annita. In fact, the first several dances of the night with Christine had been eventful and ended with her unconscious.

Now her good left eye bulged in panic and she begged for mercy behind her gag.

“Shhhh. Shhhh. Don’t worry. I’ll take good care of your sister. I promise. I’m thinking I could use her company for a while on my road trip.”

He dug into his jeans pocket, pulling out the cuffs key. “You want to dance, right? No fists, teeth? Dance nicely with me on our Date Night, okay. Enjoy each moment you have breath…”

Before Christine could answer, he felt a sharp jab to his right calf, swinging his attention to Annita who was screaming into her gag, rage in her eyes. She had kicked him with her remaining strength.

These two were sure feisty – he appreciated it and admired their gestures.

“Sweetie. Don’t be jealous. It’s not my fault. I had eyes on her my first day here, but when I picked her up, how was I to know you’d be there to stay over and visit? So, you can’t be mad that I let your sister have the first dances. Only fair.”

Lawson put the key into Christine’s cuff the exact moment the doorbell upstairs rang out. All three jumped from the sudden intrusion. He held a finger to her mouth, motioning for silence.

The doorbell buzzed again.

Torv snapped a glance at his watch which read 8:39 PM.

Who the f… A chill ran down his spine as his answers came to him. He shuddered when it rang out for a third time in the still of the house. It was like a deathknell. In his charcoal heart, he knew the only reason for a visit would be from the police. They somehow had found him!

His eyes met the women’s terrified gazes and they shared the same thought: would he have time to kill them? 

Again the doorbell sang out. That sealed it for him.  No one would be that insistent at this hour of the evening.

He bolted to the alcove, sweeping up the large axe. Once more the women were horrified by the sight of it, but Torv ran past them and stormed up the steps without a glance their way. At the back door, he snatched up his always-packed duffle bag and yanked it open.

A series of blinding lights exploded in his eyes and flooded his face. Several shouts and commands rang out, mainly demands to put the axe down immediately. The doorbell was a decoy to startle him. They herded him like a farm animal and he stepped right into their snare without a single thought.

He lifted the handle off his shoulder as he sunk to his knees and let it hit the ground. Red laser light dots peppered his shirt and on his forehead.

And just like that, it was over. 

Lawson Torv, aka The Nurse Catcher had been taken off the chess board all too easy.

He gasped as he sat in the shadowy bus. Several faces looked back at him, especially the scowling detention guards in the front of the bus.

Wait! There had been a woman! The image swirled to life in his mind. He saw her. She had been in plain clothes and a bullet-proof vest, leaning against the back wall. Her arms had been crossed and sunglasses tucked up in her red-brown hair. The other SDPD cops were running in chaotic circles and shoving him around like a ragdoll in a dryer, but she hadn’t moved. Only stared at him.

He had been so angry at their untimely interruption, so upset at losing his last two, and above all scared he’d never taste the blood of a kill again. So consumed by the frantic scene that he forgot about her.

Was that the one?


Elude Part One – Excerpt #3… — Derek Barton – 2017

Blog pic 21


Vic felt the stiff metal of the chair pressing against his back. The sweatshirt stuck to his skin and chafed around his neck. Inside the interrogation room, it was dead still with no AC blowing through the vents.

Just another old trick they play. Keep the suspect in the room, make him sit there worrying about what he’d been brought in for, what the police know… Literally to make him squirm and sweat. They were his thoughts, but the voice in his head mimicked Rory again.

Then they’ll enter all smooth and nonchalant, offer up a cold soda to get me to relax a bit. One of the cops, the Good Cop, will offer to take the can to throw it away. Secretly, they’re gathering evidence for fingerprinting and DNA for testing.

He frowned and adjusted his chair.

Stop that! They’re watching you right now. Remain cold, emotionless. Don’t give them anything to work with. When they come in, you have to be the investigator. You’ve gotta learn what they know.

His skin crawled, the feeling of their eyes on him, observing him through the two-way mirror. Judging him not only on his history, but on his race as well. He understood the reality of things. He hated it, but he wasn’t going to fool himself into thinking he wouldn’t be held accountable to a social stereotype either.

The last day and night were surreal. It was as if he drove to that wealthy neighborhood and parked his car in another parallel reality. Nothing had made sense since he stepped into Shari’s house.

If he was going to get through this and out of the elaborate steel trap he was in, he had to find answers

A soft knuckle rap at the door announced the entrance of the case detectives. The first was an older white cop with a scruffy, grey goatee, brown, unkempt hair above a set of sharp blue eyes. The detective following him stood a good five inches taller, a black, athletic man, close-cropped hair and a strong jawline. Although he seemed younger, more of a model-type, there was a sense of confidence surrounding him.

Each had a drink in one hand and several manila folders tucked under the other arm. They sat across Vic at the table and opened their file folders without a word.

I am this week’s guest star on Law & Order. Madre! Vic joked to himself.  His nerves were ragged, but on the outside, he remained stone and stoic.

“Vicente Vargas, age 23,” said the black detective in a monotone announcer voice.

“Before we start, Champ, you want a drink or something?” the “Good Cop” offered with a shark grin.

There it is… And so we begin.

He shook his head with a tiny movement.

“You sure? Kind of hot in here, no?”

Vic averted his gaze, staring at a corner of the room above the “Good Cop’s head.  He fixated on a gray-dusted cobweb that swung back and forth next to a ceiling vent.   It helped him to focus on it and not acknowledge their presence. The longer he could drag this out, the better his chances were of getting the information he needed.

Good Cop stepped up. “I’m Detective Ellis. This is my partner on this case, Detective Kemp.”

He still gave them nothing, but he eventually dropped his gaze to meet theirs.

Detective Ellis continued to lead the conversation. “I see you’re a gentleman of few words. Okay… Well, let’s not start that way. The more open you are with us, the more we’ll be able to help you, Vincent.”

“No.  It’s Vicente. Vee-sent-teh,” Detective Kemp corrected him.

“Uh, yeah, sorry.” Ellis coughed into his hand. “Why don’t we go over the facts, then you can fill in some details for us?”

His eyes remained locked on Vic’s, looking for any signs of cracks in the foundation. The stare was penetrating and precise. Those eyes were focused, experienced, yet somehow haunted.

Like Cory Tames, Vic mused. The kid had been a meth junkie since he was eleven years old and was serving his sixth drug sentence when Vic met him.

Cory’s mouth would say one thing, but his eyes told a different story.  They were haunted; you could almost see the ghosts running around in his head.

The heavy-set detective had a similar look in his eyes. Something still hovered over him. Ellis hadn’t let go of it and as a result, it stained his soul.

Vic made a mental note – Could I use that somehow?

“Yesterday evening between 4:30 and 5:30 PM, at the residence of 1718 Lioness Estates Drive, Shari Renee Thomas was stabbed to death. She’d been butchered inside her parent’s house. At 6:40 PM, Vicente Anthony Vargas parked his 2007 Nissan Altima outside 2828 S Margo Drive. Inside the trunk, Officer Dan Reccard discovered Ms. Thomas’ body,” Kemp read aloud to the room, then sat back in his own steel chair.  Both detectives waited, watching him intently.

Don’t give them anything. Shari Thomas, remember that name. Wait… They said she was killed between 4:30 and 5:30. I wasn’t there until after 6! I can use — No!  They may be baiting me. Giving me invisible rope to hang myself. Dammit!

“Vicente, listen. You’re in a world of hurt here. I want to understand what happened. Help yourself and take my advice. Now is the time to tell us your side of things. Tell us what she did.”

Their game of pleading, threatening, bribing and pretending went on for another half hour. They kept at him like a stubborn dog with a bone.

He didn’t give them anything.

A knock at the door interrupted their little performance. Kemp answered it then rushed out of the room holding another manila folder. Five minutes later, he returned and whispered into his partner’s ear.

“Yeah? No shit?” He seemed genuinely surprised.

They both turned to Vicente.

Bullshit. All bullshit games, my main man, whispered Rory again in the dark recesses of his head.

Kemp sat again across from the young Hispanic.

“You aren’t giving us much choice here, bud. I know we asked you earlier if you wanted your lawyer and you refused, but maybe this is your ploy. Are you a gamer, Vicente?”  Ellis asked.

Vic felt fresh sweat gather at the back of his neck. He averted his eyes, staring at the back of his hands in front of him. Something had changed and shifted in their favor.

Kemp jumped in with a mocking taunt.  “I know you’re smart. You know a lot of the system from your juvie stint. Did you learn some legal magic in jail? A few good tricks that’ll work this all out?”

“Thinking if there’s no lawyer, maybe you can say we didn’t allow you counsel or didn’t advise you to get one?” Ellis pointed at a camera in the corner, a tiny red light blinking at them.

“It’s all on tape. Just like the recording of you leaving the Thomas residence. “He paused again, letting his words sink in.

“You need to start working this out with us, Vicente.”

Stone cold silence. No show of emotions.

Kemp turned in his chair and looked at Ellis. “Do you think… Samantha Troy is connected at all to this?

Ellis scrunched his face and shook his head slowly. “I hadn’t thought of that, but why?” Then, as if the question hadn’t been proposed, he shifted his attention back to Vic. He leaned away from the table and clasped his hands in front of him. “We have the body. Are you ready to admit to this? Perps like you have avoided the death penalty by being cooperative and leading us to the other bodies.” His tone was flat and matter-of-fact.

Yet, when he said “Perps like you,” an expression flickered across his face. A crack in his practiced foundation, a glimpse behind the detective mask to the disgusted and angry hero wanting justice. That look scared Vicente. It was an honest and deep emotion — brief but revealing. He exposed a truth.  They have actual hard evidence.

Oh god, I’m in so deep!

Vic met the detective’s gaze for the first time. His top lip involuntarily trembled. “I didn’t hurt that girl. I didn’t know her.”

“Who is this then?” Kemp slid a headshot of a dead woman at him. A pretty, redhead with cloudy white eyes stared at the photographer, but Vic felt those dead eyes pierce into him.

I don’t know you!

“Whose hands are these?” Kemp slid another photo of the hands from the backpack.

The older detective slapped his hand down on the pair of pictures, startling Vicente. “Why do you have them if you had nothing to do with their murders?”

“WHAT?” Vic blurted. “MURDERS?”

“I’m going to run her DNA and find out her name soon enough. You’d save us all a lot of time, give her family closure and it’d go a long way to bettering your situation, IF YOU TELL ME WHO THIS WOMAN IS!” Ellis pointed at the cut hands.

Two dead girls. And they think there’s more.

“Is this Samantha? Did you kill Samantha Troy?” Kemp asked in a more even tone.

It was like a one-two punch followed up with an uppercut to his jaw. The detectives had him boxed in and on the ropes. He felt the room was spinning.

“I want a lawyer,” he rasped.

The detectives sighed in unison. A confession, a rant, a breakdown, something…had been close at hand. Whatever it was, it didn’t happen, and their window had passed.

Kemp spoke loud enough for Ellis and their prisoner to hear, “He’s scheduled to be brought downtown on the bus transfer at 9 AM. We can speak with him and his lawyer then after he’s been processed at Phoenix Jail. Give him time to rethink his story and be more willing to save himself from the needle!”

Vic lowered his face into his hands.


Bernice Baxter was a bitch.

She knew it.  She embraced it. It normally made her job and her life simpler. Or at least, easier to get her way. People didn’t like conflict, and many would give way rather than stand up to you.

Once more and for the umpteenth time that morning, she looked at her watch. It was 8:12 AM.

From behind her, she heard the familiar jingle of The Price Is Right playing on the television in the front room. With her hands on her hips, she glanced over her shoulder. Anna Witherspoon, Bernice’s shut-in patient, sat on the couch with three pillows propping her up. She giggled and smiled through her oxygen mask at the TV as the show began.

The rotation of “Idiot TV” was starting — first The Price Is Right, then The Jerry Springer Show, then Judge Judy all before the lunch hour. In her opinion, not only were these shows dumbing down America, they were exactly what was wrong with this country.

Don Witherspoon, Anna’s oldest son, was overdue from his work shift.  He should have been there by 7:30 AM.

On days like this, she wondered again how she’d fallen into this line of work and how she managed to stay trapped in it. Her late husband had kept them afloat with his antique shop and she’d become complacent.  Any ambitions she had stalled early in her twenties. Now a widow and making do with her low wages, bitterness was her true obsession in life.

Bernice hated taking care of the elderly.  The deterioration of the body at the end of life disgusted her.  It required a lot of care and support which didn’t pair well with her lack of bedside manner.  But desperate people would hire anyone in desperate times and it helped pay the bills.

“Can I have some cereal at least?” a petite, brunette girl whined from the upstairs hallway.

“Shut it!”


“Shellie, I don’t get paid any extra for you to eat. I am not here to take care of you,” Bernice berated her in icy tones.

Don’s only child was a twelve-year-old oddball. Currently, she had the girl sequestered to her room.

Bernice hadn’t liked her from the start. If she were twelve years old, too she’d have gathered a group to jump the brat and beaten the snot out of her. In her day, it was what you did to the oddballs — the ones who didn’t fit in and didn’t get why.

The mousy girl’s face was always in a computer screen or her eyes glued to her smartphone. Bernice walked in on her that morning, watching YouTube videos on the basics of computer hacking. When she reached for the laptop, Shellie shouted at her and pulled away.

Bernice gave her a hard smack across the top of her thigh. The girl’s shorts would hide any resulting marks or bruises.

She smiled knowing the girl would be too modest to undress in front of her daddy so there was little chance of being discovered accidentally. Shellie was smart though. She wouldn’t say anything to Don and risk getting worse from Bernice. This wasn’t the first time one of her patients had a brat to deal with.

Bernice Baxter was a bitch.

“Next, we will have our winners Spin the Wheel after these messages from our sponsors!” Drew Carey bellowed in the background.

Don Witherspoon burst in out of breath through the kitchen door. The clock on the stove said 8:26 AM.

He was covered in sweat and his beige uniform had several patches of sweat.

“I am so so sorry, Ms. Baxter!” he apologized.

“No more.” She shook her head. “I am quitting. Not only are you late again, but your daughter kicked me this morning! And on top of that, I am going to be stuck on the 202 an extra hour due to the morning traffic! Too much. I am done!”

She’d practiced the speech in her head almost a dozen times while waiting. He had no one else to go to. Timing was critical and finally she had enough to threaten to quit… Unless he offered her more money. She had him by what her late husband, Eddie, would have called “the short hairs”.

Swiping her big green purse from the table, she brushed past him and out the door toward her rusting 2006 Chevy Impala parked on the street.

He raced after her, begging for another shot. She made him sweat until she reached for her car door handle. Finally turning to face him, she said, “The only way I can put up with Shellie and your mother will be if you pay me an extra $2 an hour. NO LESS!”

Don blanched then sagged in defeat, nodding his head in agreement. “I will have a talk with Shellie, I promise. Can you come by tomorrow? The register locked up today and I will have to go into the laundromat early tonight to balance out the drawer. Please?”

“Fine.” She didn’t care about the extra time tonight. Her victory elation overshadowed the inconvenience.

As she drove away she watched him in her rearview mirror. “Dumbass!” She laughed, heading for the freeway.

At 9:12 AM, Bernice pulled out from the onramp and merged into the rush hour crowd.

It was already hot.  The radio stated it was nearing 96 degrees. She frowned and punched the button, looking for a country music station.

At 9:16 AM, the Impala lurched forward and sputtered as if it had a gas hiccup.

“What the hell?” she shrieked. However, the car continued to race along at 58 mph. There were no red engine lights or any other dashboard signals to account for it.

“I just got this damn thing an oil ch—” The wheel yanked to the right on its own and the car brakes plunged to the floor by themselves.

Car horns blared, and deafening tire screeches surrounded her. The Impala skewed to a parked position in the fast lane. Cars whizzed by, narrowly avoiding her.

Bernice screamed and smashed her foot on the gas to try to get the car moving again.


“Oh, dear lord!” She mouthed the words as she tried the door handle. Intense terror stole her breath away.

The door wouldn’t open.  All the doors were locked.

The Impala growled and revved fiercely as if it had a mind of its own.

Bernice screamed again as the car ripped across the three lanes of oncoming traffic. It barreled through the cement barrier.  Flung forward, she broke her sternum on the steering wheel at the same time the air bag deployed.

At 9:17 AM Bernice Baxter’s car nosedived through the air, plunging over eighty feet onto the traffic below.

The airbag prevented her from seeing the impact of her car as it plowed through the front cab of a grey transport bus. A bus headed for the downtown Phoenix Jail.

Bernice Baxter blinked for the last time as her eyes filled with blood. She hung against the bus’s hood, partially out of her shattered driver’s side window. The back door of the bus burst open and men clad in orange jumpsuits fled down the freeway ramp.

Flames flickered and scalded her pulped legs as engine oil and fluids flooded the ground.  Her skin darkened, and her flesh sizzled like bacon.

She didn’t feel the heat or the pain.

Bernice Baxter would never see her extorted raise.

Bernice Baxter finally ceased being a bitch.


At 9:20 AM as Don Witherspoon scolded his daughter on how her abusive behavior had cost him, a miniature, green light on her laptop blinked three times in rapid succession.

A fire engine horn blast followed by the sounds of several wailing police cars could be heard somewhere north of their house. Neither of them noticed nor heard the emergency sirens. Nor did they notice the single bleep and soft hum of files downloading onto Shellie’s laptop.

Elude Part One — Excerpt #1… — Derek Barton – 2017

Bloody hand


Vicente Vargas leaned forward, studying the crystalline blue eyes staring back at him from the computer screen.  The picture was of a small girl with fine blond hair, holding a dandelion up in the last of the summer day’s rays.  Her face was scrunched, her brow furrowed as she spotted the tiny white spider perched on the flower.

The shot was a perfect story to Vic.  When he selected his “keepers”, there was a significant rule he lived by: each shot must tell a story.  He was not a wedding photographer or even a mall hack who took portraits.  However, he did consider himself a budding artist.

He tagged the pictured and saved it on his hard drive.  She would be featured in his collection.  One day he would get his chance with a gallery and have a showing.

The voice of his late mother floated through his mind. I know you will make Mama proud.  You and your sister will show the world.

She always said it to him when he was growing up.  It might have been one of the last things she ever said to him.  He couldn’t remember.

He and Cat had been shipped off stateside five years back.  He was old enough to watch his baby sister on his own by then.  Mama saved and sacrificed for years to get enough money to send them ahead to a house she managed to mortgage.  The plan was to rejoin them in a year.

Then Hurricane Sandy took her life away.  Flooded the city and drowned all their dreams.

“You can’t hear that?” Cat snapped from the kitchen doorway.


“Your phone is ringing! I could hear it through my headphones.  Vic, you have got to go!” She scolded.

His sister, Catarina, was only sixteen herself yet in many ways since his return, she had become the mother figure.

He hated the change.

“Fine,” he groaned, shut off the computer monitor and gave up resisting the call.

He had worked for six months now as a driver for an internet food service called Impulse Deliveries.  It barely paid him more than minimum wage, even the tips were insulting.

The clock on the wall flashed at him.  He called down the hallway. “The power went out again?”

“No. Some sort of ‘brown out’ hit the entire area.  Too many AC’s working overtime, bro.”

Bro.  Cat was in some mood.  Her mouth got as sharp as her wit when she was stressed, or something was bothering her.

He swept up his cell phone, walked through the kitchen doorway and poked his head past her dirty bedroom door.  “What’s going on?”


“Cat… What is it?”

She shook her head and pretended to be scanning the textbook in front of her.

“You know you can talk to me.  I’ve been aro—”

“—Yeah. I heard how jail gives you a well-rounded education these days.”

He sucked in a breath between his teeth as her words stung him.  He rotated on the heels of his sneakers and stormed through the kitchen back door.

As the screen slammed shut, he heard a muffled, “Hey Vic, I’m so—”

On days like this, he sincerely missed his mother.  She had a real gift for reading people and their emotions.  Ava Vargas always knew the right words to say.

Irritated and frazzled by his sister’s taunt, he rubbed his nose. It was a nervous habit of his.  Throwing his bag into the back seat of their beat-up Nissan Altima, he revved the engine for effect, plastered his foot on the gas and peeled out of the driveway into the street.

At the first red light on Washington, he hauled out the cell phone from his jeans’ front pocket.  On the screen was a flashing bike symbol with a capital “I” centered on it.  He tapped it.

An address appeared as Google Maps opened automatically for him.  It zoomed in and identified his target address and the time he’d take getting to it.

9982 W Broadmore Apt #7E, Tempe. 

More instructions appeared below the address.  Burger Express:  815 W Warner Rd.  Order:  2 Jumbo Boy Burgers with fries.  1 order of onion rings and 2 Medium Cokes.  Ask for Jackson.

He sighed and wiped at his forehead. Already beads of sweat had popped up.  The temperature in Tempe was a “hair dryer 110 degrees”.  Not quite the “stick your head in an oven 118 degrees” yet — those temperatures were guaranteed by the weatherman on Channel 17 for the weekend.

Over an hour later, parked in the shade of an old warehouse, he lay back in his seat.  The last three deliveries had gone smooth, but the “tip jar” feature on his work dashboard had shown only $7.50 total.  For the four total deliveries, he successfully sweet-talked three of them into adding something extra. The Jackson order stiffed him.

“Mighty white of you, Mr. Jackson,” Vic cursed to himself.

He shut off the car radio playing an obnoxious rap version of Mac the Knife — even at his age he knew some classics you just leave alone.  Glancing at the dashboard clock, he wondered if he should head home and call it a day.  Then he remembered the exchange with his sister and decided he wasn’t ready yet for the awkward apology session.

Since his release on parole and coming back to the house, they had been working on rebuilding their relationship.  In the three and a half years he was in juvie, then jail, she had grown up.

Friends of his parents took her in after the trial.  Vic was her only rock back then.  He had let her down, was forced to abandon her.  She needed him, but one dumb night of idiotic decisions had led to a stupid joyride.

Vrrt vrrrrt vrrrrrt.  His cell phone vibrated like a mad bee on the seat next to him.  Again, the bike symbol pulsed on the screen.

It’s the Vic signal, V-man!  Another daring adventure and another damsel needs saving!  The joke broke his sour mood and a smirk cracked his lips.  He knew his jokes were lame, but they amused him at least.

1718 Lioness Estates Dr, Scottsdale.

 Chipotle: 2819 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste. #9  Order:  3 burritos, 2 steak and 1 chicken with sour cream.  No green onions on any of the orders. Ask for Shari

Scottsdale?  That might just save this day.  Bound to have a few extra dollars for a tip, no?

 The phone blipped a tiny bell and a text came through:  Ring the doorbell three times to be sure I hear you.  Thanks.

Per Google, he was fifteen minutes away from the restaurant.

He started up the Nissan.

Ten minutes after picking up the meal order, he pulled into the gravel drive leading to the large ranch house in Scottsdale.

Balancing the drink carrier with the three bags while trying to close the driver door with his leg, he spotted a piece of pink paper flapping from the glass door of the house.

When he stepped up to the porch he read, “Come around the side, door is not working. Sorry!  Shari”

He sighed loudly, turned around and went to the right side of the house.  He wasn’t sure if she meant the right, but it had a cement walkway that ran parallel to the brick façade.

In the back, he found a sparkling greenhouse with a single door propped open with a red-orange brick.

Vic used his foot to push it back so he could squeeze inside.  The strong scent of citrus filled the entire greenhouse.  He didn’t see any other doors to the house.  Along the back were dozens of flowerpots. Down the middle of the room were rows of hanging plants and flowers.

“Hello?”  Vic called out.

No answer.

“I’m here with your Chipotle order?  Hello?”

He walked along the center aisle where it turned to the left. A metal screen door with another wooden door behind it came into view.  The window in the wood door had closed beige curtains.

Where are they?  C’mon!  It’s too hot in here to play this game.  Sweat trickled down his back and wetted the pits to his black tee shirt.

A dirty sink and shelf were built into the wall next to the screen door.  He set the items down in order to knock.

Still no answer.  He was getting irritated, this was taking too long. He placed his hands on his hips.

“HELLO?? ANYONE THERE??” he shouted, cupping his hands to magnify the words.

Perhaps she was upstairs or had headphones on?

He tried the door handle.  Both doors were unlocked, and he walked in.  He had no idea this was the worst decision of his life.

“Uh… Shari?  I have your food order.  Shari, are you home?”

He left the food and proceeded inside.  The foyer was dark and musty.  It led to a cramped sitting room with three love seats, a tiny unused fireplace and a desk covered in old mail and papers.

A light ahead coming through an archway drew him in further.

He walked into a much bigger living room with two couches facing each other across a glass coffee table.  There were twin book cabinets on opposite walls and a long stairwell in the east corner.  Thick brown curtains were drawn closed, burying the room in shadows.

It was nearly pitch black.  Vic slipped and fell face first into the back of the couch.  He crashed to his knees. Trying to catch himself, his hand splashed into something wet and sticky.  He yanked his hand back, gasping when he raised up a bloody palm to his eyes.

The blood trailing down his arm was still warm and syrupy.   The leg of his jeans was stuck to his calf where he landed in the spreading puddle.

“Oh… Oh, shit!”  He scrambled to his knees, backpedaling to the other room.

Panic gripped his chest.  His breath was raspy.

This is too much blood!  Too much to survive!  I have to get out of here!

He bolted back through the greenhouse and raced out to his car.  Slamming the car into drive, Vic didn’t notice the disappearance of the pink note from the front door.

Fifteen minutes later, he was parked in the lot of a rundown gas station.  Its yard was cluttered with car parts, abandoned vehicles and rusted barrels.  Spotting an outdoor sink set-up, he drove behind the station.

He got out, looking around for anyone watching.  It was all clear.  He washed the blood from his arm and took his pants down to wash the blood from his leg.

Later, as he waited at a stop light two minutes from his house, he shook his head as if it might help him make sense of what had happened.  His entire 6’2” frame, coated in sweat, still shook with tremors.

“I had to leave,” he whispered.

She’s gotta be dead… I cannot be near that!  I’m on parole and they won’t listen to me.  No part of it!  Won’t take the word of a Puerto Rican felon! Awww, shit!  What am I going to do? 

His rambling thoughts continued to run in circles inside his head.  A car horn blared at him.  He hadn’t seen the light change.

When he rolled around the corner, he spotted a single police car parked in his driveway.

What the…

They couldn’t know anything yet.  I just found it.  What is going on?

Since the squad car was taking up the only available parking area, he parked on the street in front of the house.

Through the front window, Vic saw Cat speaking to a patrol officer.  She looked upset and emotional.  He swallowed hard and took a quick spot check of his jeans.  They were drying, but he didn’t see any telltale signs of blood.

Steeling himself, he straightened his shoulders and stepped across the yard to the front door.

  “This is ridiculous!  Isn’t this profiling?”  Cat exclaimed at the male police officer who towered over her.  In his late forties, he was white with a shock of black and white hair, and an air of impatience about him.

“It’s not profiling.  I’m just doing my due-diligence and following protocol on any tips given to the police department.”

“What’s this about?” Vic spoke loud enough to make them both jump at his sudden appearance.

The officer whipped his head around and lowered his hand to his belt, close to his service revolver.

“What’s going on here, sir?” he rephrased his question in a calmer demeanor, trying to ease back the dial on the tension.

“Who are you?” the officer demanded.

“Vicente Vargas, sir.”  He used the same downward cast of his eyes, the non-threatening tone and the lowered shoulders posture he learned in jail.  When you talk with the boss, this was how you talk.  Anything different caused further scrutiny or triple the trouble coming your way.

The heavyset officer studied him then replied, “Well, Vicente, my name is Officer Reccard.  There was a break-in down the street at Mennen’s Stereo Warehouse, lots of equipment and items were stolen.  A tip came in that a young teenage girl by the name of Catarina Vargas might have been involved.  She and her boyfriend Jimmy Brower may have information on it.”

“That’s crap!” Vic blurted.

“Watch your tone, son.”

“My sister is not involved.  I’m telling you.”

“They already searched the house, Vic.  Didn’t find anything.” Cat stated.

Vic asked, “Do you have a warrant?”

The officer raised his eyebrows in surprise, ”Oh? Do I need one? Nothing to hide, right?”

“Uh… no.  You’re right we have nothing to hide.  We don’t have anything.”

He crossed over to Vic standing in the doorway and leaned into his face. “So… I’m not going to find anything in that car, either. Right?  Or would you like to wave that holier-than-thou rights stuff in my face again and make me get a warrant?”

Vic shook his head, focusing on a spot on the floor by his feet.

Reccard brushed past him and headed out to the car.  Vic and Cat followed him without a word.

As they crossed the poorly mowed lawn sprinkled with tall weeds, the cop froze in his tracks.  Vic looked past the bulk of the officer and spotted something dripping from the backend of the car, puddling under the trunk by the driver’s back tire.

It was more of the warm and syrupy blood…