“The First Fire” — Excerpt from UP IN FLAMES

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A serial arsonist’s path of destruction has turned into an eerie serial murder, and jurisdiction falls to the FBI’s resident expert on the bizarre, and the only forensic lab in the country equipped to handle tracking down a renegade psychopath. Are Doctor Faith MacKenzie and her team ready for what they’re about to uncover?

A mysterious serial arsonist has been setting fires over the Witch Hollow area for months, and when a charred body turns up at the most recent arson scene, Faith and Jonathan are called to the scene. While Faith begins the process of identifying the victim and determining cause of death, Jonathan suspects the danger runs deeper than either of them could have predicted. As the number of fires, and the body count, grows, the partners will have to ask themselves what’s most important — bringing down a killer, or finding the truth.

“The First Fire” — Excerpt from Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 2: Up In Flames

The blare of sirens jerked Doctor Faith MacKenzie from sleep. Through sleep-blurred eyes, she watched the whirl of colored lights dance across her bedroom wall and disappear, then closed her eyes again. She needed her sleep. Since the Bunker joined forces with the FBI a month ago, on a case so strange it left her questioning her own reality, her sleep was sporadic at best. More often than not, memories of events she still couldn’t reconcile tore any chance of sleep from her, leaving her in her studio at all hours, trying to forget the images of an obsidian knife biting through flesh, and blood covering her hands, clothes, and the floor of her lab.

She touched her fingers to her throat, aware the soreness lingering there was little more than memory, even if the yellowing bruises were not. Faith shuddered. She often woke unable to breathe, with the phantom sensation of hard fingers digging into her throat, or the impossible pressure of a hand as cold as the grave wrapped around her heart.

If only those were the worst of her recent memories, she might be able to ignore them. After all, Rene Haley was dead, the case closed. However, for the past week, the memory of a brutal dismemberment case they just wrapped up four days ago plagued her sleep. She still couldn’t say for sure what caused some of the marks on that body, regardless of her new partner’s assurance they had enough evidence for a conviction.

She started to drift back to sleep, only to be jolted awake again by the shrill tone of her cell phone, on the nightstand beside her bed. Fumbling for the device, she punched accept without looking and put the unit to her ear as she fell back against the pillows with a muttered, “This had better be good.”

Special Agent Jonathan Caulder’s wry chuckle filled her ear. “Good morning to you, too. I don’t suppose you heard the sirens screaming through town.”

She refused to open her eyes. He would go away, if she just pretended he wasn’t there. Then, with a sigh, she realized he was waiting for an answer. “Mmm. And if I was a firefighter, I might be concerned.”

“C’mon, Mac. Batter up — we have a dead body.”

She swung her legs out of bed, and groaned as she sat up. “No way can they know that yet. I doubt the flames are even out. Besides, what can’t wait until a decent hour? And what’s this ‘we’? Since when are fire-related deaths considered an FBI matter?”

“Since a scorched body ran out of a burning building, screaming about demons.”

Ice plunged through Faith, and she groaned again, in disbelief. Not again. “Demons.”

“Yup. Up and at ’em, Mac. Wetherly already signed over jurisdiction. Meet you at the crime scene — I’ll text you the address.”

Before she could protest that bodies neither ran nor screamed, he hung up, and her phone beeped, indicating an incoming text. Glancing down at her phone, she pressed open and her eyes widened at the address showing on her phone’s screen.

Look for this second book in Guardian, Inc: Witch Hollow

Available Now! 

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SIGHT UNSEEN available for sale!

I am super excited and pleased to announce that Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow’s debut book, SIGHT UNSEEN, is now available for sale!

If you’ve been waiting for this book, it’s finally here! You can pick up your copy of the e-book today at any of the following locations:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Desert Breeze Publishing

All Romance Ebooks

Hopefully, it’ll be available in print very soon. I will keep you posted on that front.

If you want to know what the book is about, keep reading:

What happens when you bring together the best independent forensic lab in the country, one of the leading pathologists and criminal profilers in the world, and a Federal agent with a very unique skill set, and a gun loaded with Slayer bullets?

Welcome to Witch Hollow!

When a wealthy philanthropist is found dead in a locked room, in the midst of a series of bizarre murders, with no apparent cause of death beyond the faint scent of incense, Dr. Faith MacKenzie and her team have their work cut out for them.

As the case starts to go cold, she’ll be forced to turn to a man with abilities in which she can’t bring herself to believe, and credentials that leave her no choice but to accept the possibility he might just be on the level.

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“Partnership in Peril” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

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What happens when you bring together the best independent forensic lab in the country, one of the leading pathologists and criminal profilers in the world, and a Federal agent with a very unique skill set, and a gun loaded with Slayer bullets?

Welcome to Witch Hollow!

When a wealthy philanthropist is found dead in a locked room, with no apparent cause of death beyond the faint scent of incense, Dr. Faith MacKenzie and her team have their work cut out for them. As the case starts to go cold, she’ll be forced to turn to a man with abilities in which she can’t bring herself to believe, and credentials that leave her no choice but to accept the possibility he might just be on the level.

 

“Partnership in Peril” — Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 1) 

Where was Jonathan? He left to take a phone call, yesterday, and promptly disappeared. She hadn’t heard from him in nearly twenty-four hours, and with the recent arrival of bodies from Allegheny, Monongahela and Wayne National Forests and cryptic messages their arrival was “per Agent Caulder’s approval,” she was steadily going from concerned to pissed off. No one said what bodies came into her lab except her. Even worse, Jonathan sent Linda photographs of the dump sites, but couldn’t be bothered to extend Faith the courtesy of alerting her the bodies were coming, let alone get her approval for the transfer. Damn it, there were procedures to follow!

She frowned as she leaned closer and carefully sniffed the discolored patch of cloth stuck to the most recent body. “Where did Agent Caulder say they found these bodies?”

“That one was buried along the river bank near where you dredged up Carol-Ann, according to the Forest Service on-scene notes.” Linda glanced up from her sketch, and made a face. “Do you have to smell them, like that?”

“That’s not right.” Faith lifted one decomposing hand, turning it over to study the palm.

“I agree.” Linda blinked when Faith looked up at her in confusion. “Oh, you meant where the body was found, right? My mistake.”

“I’m no geologist, but this soil doesn’t look consistent with the samples I took from where Carol-Ann was found.” She peeled off one glove to retrieve her cell phone and hit speed dial, tapping one foot impatiently until Sandy picked up the other end. “I need you in autopsy, to take some samples. We need a soil analysis on the new arrivals.”

“I’ll be right there.”

As she hung up, she turned to find Linda studying her with a concerned expression.

“What do you think is going on, Faith?”

Faith’s gaze fixed on the body, and she sealed her lips grimly over her suspicions. She only knew two things for certain, right now. This victim was never buried near the Monongahela, and Jonathan Caulder was up to something. What she didn’t know was what. But she intended to find out.

“Laurel’s on her way in. When she gets here, tell her I need drawers four through nine sanitized, and pre-autopsy films taken on all the new arrivals before she puts them in the cooler. But she’s not to clean them or do anything else until Sandy collects soil and Mark goes over them for trace.”

Linda frowned. “Where are you going?”

“To find out just what the hell the FBI’s up to, and why they think they can commandeer my lab.”

Look out for the release of SIGHT UNSEEN, and the beginning of a brand new series from critically acclaimed Suspense author Esther Mitchell, coming October 11, 2016 from Desert Breeze Publishing!

“Manhunt for a Monster” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

sightunseencoverartIn 2003, I pitched a novel I’d written eight years before to my then-publisher, about a member of law enforcement who wasn’t quite what he appeared, and a skeptical pathologist with a disdain for the paranormal.

I was told it would never work the way I’d written it, because the characters were too different. My editor at the time tore the book apart and put it back together the way she thought it should be, removing large chunks of the most valuable character development and interaction, and essentially turning it into a completely different book (complete with different character names and professions) I was none-too-happy with.

Now, over a decade later, I’m a great deal wiser about the industry. I know the characters work as I originally wrote them (I always believed so). While working on other current projects, I worked on returning the book to its original context (I did update the timeline from the 1990’s to 2014, with all the technological updates to go with it). The book is now completed, and will be released by Desert Breeze Publishing on October 11.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a little bit of what was removed with you… 🙂

 

“Manhunt for a Monster” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 1):

 

His cell phone rang, jolting his attention from his recently departed visitor. Punching talk with his thumb, he lifted the device to his ear. “Caulder.”

“I thought you were on a manhunt.”

“I was. I am. But I’m not sure he’s a man, anymore.”

There was a pause. Then, “I think you got his attention.”

Jonathan frowned at the tone of his boss and friend’s voice. Damion George didn’t beat around the bush like this. He wouldn’t even call unless it was necessary. Necessary, with Damion, meant either Crucibani or demons. Given his choice of words, Damion obviously knew which, too.

“You know who it is, don’t you?”

The sound of papers being shuffled around carried through the line, then Damion sighed.

“We don’t have any reports of Para activity in that area, if that’s what you mean. At least…” There was a pregnant pause.

“At least what?”

Another pause, another sigh. “You’re not going to like it.”

“Try me.”

“Well, Witch Hollow’s notorious for various Para activity. There are several Paras located up there.”

“Why do I hear a ‘but’ in there?”

“The Paras in that area aren’t the problem. Not exactly.”

Jonathan’s heart sank. He knew it. From the moment Mac identified his description of Ramsey Parrish’s murderer, he knew he’d located the bastard. “Hailatus.”

” ‘Fraid so.  You don’t sound surprised.”

“Someone’s already been here about him. A Dr. Faith MacKenzie.”

What?”

“She didn’t ask about him by name. She came for help solving a murder. She says there was a faint smell of incense at the crime scene — I still haven’t determined what kind. The perp didn’t leave any other accidental clues, and no one saw him.”

“The latest alias I was able to uncover for him is Rene Haley. Some kind of businessman, from what I was able to find.”

“Damn.” Jonathan scrubbed a hand over his face, anxiety gnawing at him.

“What’s the matter, Jon? I’d think you’d be happy we finally tracked him down.”

Normally, that would be true. Any other time, under any other circumstances, he’d be relieved to finally have a bead on the monster of his father’s making. But if Hailatus was involved in Ramsey Parrish’s murder, things were about to get complicated, quickly.

“I’ll have to get back to you.”

Another silence, punctuated by the click of computer keys. “All right, I’ll keep an eye on things. Meanwhile, see if you can pick up anything you don’t have to report to the Bureau, if you get my drift. And keep me posted on what you find out.”

Jonathan signed off with an affirmative, and tossed the cell phone on the coffee table as he plopped down on the sofa. Great. This just kept getting better and better.

“Marked For Death” – Excerpt from NICK OF TIME (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

NoTWhat happens when you bring together the best independent forensic lab in the country, one of the leading pathologists and criminal profilers in the world, and a Federal agent with a very unique skill set, and a gun loaded with Slayer bullets?

Welcome to Witch Hollow!

When a young woman is abducted from a Pennsylvania state psychiatric facility, it looks like a straightforward kidnapping, until her real identity is revealed, and the agent responsible for locking her down is put back on the case. Now, FBI Agent Jonathan Caulder and his new partner, Faith MacKenzie, are in a race against time, before an ancient Order uses a terrible secret to commit genocide.

“Marked for Death” – Excerpt from NICK OF TIME (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book #3) —

Faith glanced at the girl curled up in the motel room chair across from her, and worry tugged at her. Shawna didn’t look well. The girl hadn’t looked well since they found her, but even less so since that seizure.

“Are you okay?”

Ancient eyes that didn’t belong in such a young face stared back at her, sheened with tears.

“Doctor MacKenzie?” The girl’s soft voice emerged, hesitant, as she hugged her arms tighter around her shins and rested her cheek against her upraised knees, her gaze going back to the rain-slicked window. “What’s it like to fall in love?”

The question blindsided Faith, and she jerked back in surprise. How did she answer this question? She wasn’t prepared to provide motherly advice. Especially not about something she’d never figured out for herself. Finally, she settled on the truth, and sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever been in love.”

Shawna’s head nodded against her knees in an awkward shrug and shift motion. “I guess it doesn’t matter. I’ll never know.”

Faith’s worry edged deeper. Shawna’s spiral into depression, following her seizure, was a very bad sign. “Sure, you will. You’re young. You have a lot of time to figure it out.”

Those ancient eyes turned her way again. Only, now, the tears that were only a glimmer before traced the girl’s cheeks. “No, I don’t. I’m dying, Doctor MacKenzie. Didn’t Agent Caulder tell you?”

Faith’s chest constricted. Despite her job, death wasn’t an easy thing to deal with. Not the slow, wasting kind of death she watched her father go through. She wasn’t stupid or naïve – she knew kids died of terrible diseases every day. But the sad resignation in Shawna’s eyes got to her. Leaning forward, she stretched out a hand to cover Shawna’s clasped hands.

“No,” she answered softly, careful to keep her pity tucked deep inside. “He didn’t mention it. What’s your diagnosis?”

A sad, teary smile tugged the very edges of Shawna’s lips. “I’m Legacy, Doctor MacKenzie. After my first episode, they started medicating the Legacy, suppressing it, until Mr. George found me. He helped me, but it was already too late. The dreams had taken hold. Besides, Mara don’t have the greatest of lifespans, to start with. There’s no medical diagnosis. There’s just madness, and death.”

With that, she turned her attention back to the rainy day outside, and Faith had the feeling the girl wanted to be left alone. With a small sigh, she released Shawna’s hands, and rose to her feet, moving to the counter where Jonathan left Shawna’s case file. Determination flooded her. She wasn’t buying this nonsense about mythical legacies, evil dreams, and whatever the hell Mara were. Every disease had a root, and if she could find Shawna’s, maybe she could come up with a treatment. Maybe there was even a cure, out there. All it took was a clear mind, and the ability to see past all the superstition. Good thing she was here, after all.

Look for Book #1, SIGHT UNSEEN, coming from Desert Breeze Publishing in May 2016!

“Lights in the Night” – Excerpt from FROM THE SKY (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

WH14 From the SkyWhat happens when you bring together the best independent forensic lab in the country, one of the leading pathologists and criminal profilers in the world, and a Federal agent with a very unique skill set, and a gun loaded with Slayer bullets?

Welcome to Witch Hollow!

When two planes that shouldn’t have been anywhere near each other collide in the middle of the night sky, the FAA suspects terrorism. But when they turn their investigation over to the FBI, the evidence lands the case with the Bureau’s resident expert on the bizarre, and the highly-trained experts at the Bunker. Can they unravel the clues, without reaching beyond the boundaries of Earth?

 

“Lights in the Night” – Excerpt from FROM THE SKY (Guardians, Inc.: Witch Hollow, Book 14) –

 

“It’s irrational to think that a race of beings intelligent enough to figure out how to break not only their own planet’s gravitational pull, but also the boundaries of their star system, and travel light years to get to ours, would be the least bit interested in examining or communicating with a few culturally and politically insignificant individuals, out of the whole planet.”

Joyce propped her head on her hand, where she sat at Faith’s lab table, watching her friend pace. “Faith, we specialize in cases most of the scientific world dismisses as little more than fairy tales. What’s ‘rational,’ anymore?”

“Okay,” Jonathan straightened from where he sat on the edge of Faith’s desk. “Let’s just assume, for the moment, Mac’s right. There are plenty of completely terrestrial explanations for the accident. Let’s focus on those, unless we discover otherwise. What’ve we got, Mac?”

Faith moved around the desk, and her fingers flew over the computer keyboard. “The information sent over by the FAA from the black box and CVR on the initiating craft rules out any mechanical, electrical, or pilot error issues. According to the FAA, the last radio call to the ground was garbled, but something about the pilot being blinded by some kind of sudden light source.”

Jonathan settled back, flipping open his notebook. “Eyewitnesses told crash investigators they saw ‘weird, flashing lights’ just prior to the crash, too. One person described it as ‘fireworks without the sound’ and others claimed it was more like strobe lights.”

“So,” Joyce looked between them, one brow raised in query, “if it’s not a UFO, just what the hell is it?”

 

“Dedication” — Excerpt from TRACE OF INNOCENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

ToIWhat happens when you bring together the best independent forensic lab in the country, one of the leading pathologists and criminal profilers in the world, and a Federal agent with a very unique skill set, and a gun loaded with Slayer bullets?

Welcome to Witch Hollow!

A decade-old cold case is about to get brand new life. Only problem is, the prime suspect has no criminal history, and swears she had nothing to do with the murder. When she convinces one of Faith’s team to help her, the future of the entire lab hangs in the balance. If the evidence proves them wrong, everything they’ve worked for could come crashing down.

“Dedication” — Excerpt from TRACE OF INNOCENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book #4) —

“How’s it going, Joyce?” He smiled at the redhead currently frowning at her computer screen. “Where’s Mac?”

Joyce rolled her eyes, then returned her attention to the screen. “Autopsy, where else? We got a possible suicide in, earlier this evening, and you know Faith. It’s going to be another long night. Lucky me, I got stuck with babysitting detail.”

Jonathan’s lips quirked up in a half-smile. It didn’t take him long after he started working with the Bunker crew to figure out Joyce covered concern with sarcasm and sass. He didn’t blame her for being concerned, though he wasn’t about to admit to anyone how concerned he was. Mac would have his head, if she found out. “She does take dedication to the extreme, doesn’t she?”

Joyce looked up at him, then, and her gaze assessed him, before a sad smile twitched at her lips. “Like a dog with a fresh bone. But,” she sighed, and shook her head. “I can’t really blame her. She moved back here to take care of her father, and stayed because her uncle made it clear he needed her here. He even built and funded this facility for her, to keep her close. But now that Ramsey’s gone, and with her only living family on another continent, the Bunker and her work are all she has left. Faith needs someone to need her, and whether she admits it or not, she sees each of these victims as needing her. This gives her purpose.”

Something he’d already figured out for himself, and hearing Joyce confirm his assessment wasn’t the relief he imagined. Mac spent all her time focusing on other people’s needs so she could avoid her own life. He was glad her team was so dedicated to her. Mac needed friends who understood her drive. He already knew most of the Law Enforcement community she dealt with thought she was overbearing and a step shy of terrifying. More than a few probably thought she was crazy, too. Having him in her corner probably didn’t help her reputation any, either. He was well aware most of his colleagues at the FBI thought he lost the plot a long time ago. They just didn’t say anything, because no matter how insane they thought him, they respected his case closure and conviction rate. Results spoke volumes. Still, it didn’t halt the whispers. And those whispers were what brought him out to the Bunker, tonight.

He sighed. “Thanks, Joyce. You can go on home. I’ve got this.”

Her eyes widened in momentary surprise, before understanding dawned, and she heaved a sigh. “I know what that means. And, for the record, I think you’re both nuts.”

He shrugged and headed down the short hallway toward the autopsy room. He couldn’t argue with Joyce’s assessment. There were times he questioned his own sanity.