Shadow Stalker, Book 1 Finders Keepers Mystery Series
Book 1, Finders Keepers Mystery Series
An ominous shadow hangs over her, as Christine Finder, alias Melissa Rompart, visits the brutal slaying of her parents most nights in a dream. The threat of discovery propels her to search for the whereabouts of the killer to see the man brought to justice. In the meantime, the killer stalks her mind while she operates Finder’s Keepers, an agency that searches for the people her clients hire her to find. Nathan Brent is only four years old and missing. Will she find him in time or will the killer find her first?
Her vision seeped through the louvers on the utility room door. The images seemed broken as in a jigsaw puzzle until she leaned forward and placed her forehead against the wood. Her insides tightened. Everyone was shouting. She willed her body to stop trembling but it seemed to have a will of its own. The gun that the stranger held, just like on TV but different, was pointed at her father. This was real. Daddy had hid her … told me to stay where I am until … She couldn’t remember.
Daddy’s voice sounded like it did when he talked on the phone sometimes. “What do you want with us? You have no business being here. We said no contact.”
She watched his face get redder than she’d ever seen it, even when he’d been out in the sun too long. Mommy was shaking her fist. She never did that. The stranger smiled, totally silent, not intimidated, it seemed to the five year old. A shiver walked its way up her spine. She’d seen guns like that in the cartoons she watched. This one was a little longer though. Only business, the man said. What business, she wondered.
The man straightened his arm, the one holding the gun. Her vision blurred for a second, horror filling the empty spaces in her brain. The explosion echoed in the foyer. The bullet seemed to travel in slow motion. Just like the cartoons, she thought. Her daddy’s body slammed into the banister of the staircase heading up to the bedroom area and the maid’s quarters. The railing shook. Her father’s body flopped forward. His head smacked the floor. He lay still then.
Blood covered the wall behind where her father had stood. Her mother screamed and then was silent. Before her father’s body hit the tiled foyer, she watched the side of her mother’s head explode. Specks of blood and other gooey stuff splattered all over the walls, mixing with the blood from her father. Her stomach lurched. She wrapped a hand tightly across her mouth. A silent scream rattled around in her head seeking an escape. Get up, it said. Daddy. Mommy. Get up. Please. The scream evaporated, as if it had never been. They weren’t moving. In the cartoons, they always got back up. Why don’t they get up?
Tears filled her eyes, blurring her vision again. Daddy just lay there. Mommy lay beside him, covered in the blood that flowed from her body. Her sightless eye stared toward the girl, hidden. The girl felt as if she was going to throw up but she swallowed instead. She swiped at the tears that silently trickled down her pudgy cheeks. Her mother told her she had cute dimples, whatever that was. Her mother liked to touch her cheeks. Now…
She watched as the man, the monster, moved toward the entrance. Then he stopped. He looked up the stairs, then down the hall. He looked toward her hiding place, his eyes cold, calculating, wondering. Her stomach lurched, the fright almost real enough to touch. Could he see her? Her daddy had told her to hide here. He knew they were in danger. Why? Who was this man? How did daddy know him? Maybe it was mommy the man hated. Why? Footsteps interrupted her questions. The man was moving down the hall straight toward her.
She crept backwards, crawling on all fours as if she were a spider. Her gymnastics teacher had taught her that. I need to get out of here. He will kill me, too. She remembered her discovery when she’d hidden in here last week. Her cousins had come for a visit. They loved to play hide and seek in the large, multistoried mansion that was her home. She’d found a door leading to the garage where her daddy’s cars were kept under the chauffeur’s apartment. She’d sneak out that way.
Several hanging tools brushed her shoulders as she crept under them toward safety. They swung to and fro. It was as if they whispered, “She’s in here.” She twisted her head behind. She couldn’t see through the slats in the door anymore but the heavy tread of footsteps grew louder, closer. She reached the hidden door. It creaked as she slipped through.
“Wait.” His voice echoed through the tiny room, resonating off the walls of the small space, the sound carried over the creak of the door as he pulled it open. The menace in his voice was gone, replaced by enticement.
She scurried into the large garage. Ignoring the man, she skirted the three cars stored there. Her heart pumped so loudly in her ears, the sound blocked out the rustle of the man’s clothes as he squeezed through the same opening. She turned slightly and saw his shadow. Her short legs pumped toward the door leading to the stone walled courtyard and the gated entrance to the back yard. The wrought iron gate was open. Good.
Her feet flew over the paved driveway toward the gate. She turned once to see if the chauffeur was nearby. Benson played with her sometimes. He was nowhere to be seen. Then she remembered. Benson had asked for the day off to take Maria, the maid, to the beach. There’s no one to help. She streaked through the wrought iron gate.
The yard was tree filled, almost like a park. She ran like the wind, as if the devil himself was after her. He is. She reached the second gate in the high wrought iron fence that surrounded her parent’s property. It was slightly ajar. Her parent’s always kept this one locked but now… She almost forgot to breathe as she raced through it and into the street. The sidewalk led to town. Her legs pounded the pavement hard. “Wait.” The shout came from behind her. The man was following.
The sound of his footsteps bounced off cement walls and rock enclosures, the attempt of homeowners to protect what was theirs. Trees, thick for privacy, lined the street, hiding nearby houses from view. Traffic was non-existent along this street at this time of day. She ran. Her instincts told her that life, her life, depended on it. She rounded a corner but then peeked back. He was still coming, walking briskly in her direction. I need to hide.
She crawled under a nearby bush, its dense foliage the perfect cover, she thought. The picture of her mother’s head scattering debris all over the walls played like a ticker tape through her brain. Her stomach roiled again and she gagged. Mommy. Daddy. Please help me. Footsteps rounded the corner. The sound grew louder. He’ll find me. I have to leave.
She stood. He reached for her with one hand while the other, the one that had held the gun, was in his pocket. She ducked just out of his reach. She raced like the wind, staying off the sidewalk this time. She flew through the trees as if someone carried her, her feet barely touching the ground long enough to make an indent in the leaves. Her body slammed into low branches that scratched and tore at her clothing. She was shorter than the man so movement for her was easier here, she reasoned. The heavier footsteps had slowed, proving her right. She heard a twig snap. He was still coming. Maybe a policeman…
The girl ran. Her legs hurt. Muscles contracted painfully. Trickles of blood from scratches marred her perfect skin, skin that her mother would caress from time to time. Mommy. The thought hurt so much. Her daddy liked to swing her over his head. She almost smiled at the thought but then tears flowed again when she remembered. He’s back there. Lying on the floor. Blood oozed from his forehead. He never got back up.
The race continued. She rounded another corner. Her body slammed into legs encased in dark blue pants. Strong hands steadied her but she wriggled to be free. She looked over her shoulder, twisting this way and that. “Hey there. What’s the hurry?” The voice sounded kind, different than the one she ran from. She looked up.
“Melissa?” The man’s smile turned quickly to a frown, concern written all over his face. “What’s wrong?”
She pointed in the direction she’d come from. Her breaths were mere gasps, words impossible. Tears fell unhindered. She slipped behind the legs. Would the man shoot this person too? She pointed again as the man rounded the corner. She saw him stop before the policeman could look in the direction she pointed. The man ducked his head as his foot stepped backward. She watched him, silently and as quickly as he’d come, step behind the nearest tree, out of sight. Her heart felt as if it would leap out of her chest. Then she was sick. All over the shiny black shoes of the policeman she’d collided into.
“I don’t see what you’re trying to tell me, Melissa. Calm down. Just take a deep breath.” He saw her looking at the mess at his feet. “Don’t worry about that. I can clean them. But what’s got you in such a tizzy”
She swallowed, tears streaked down her cheeks as if they’d never stop. “He-he,” She hiccoughed. She pointed in the direction she’d come from. “He shot mommy and daddy.” She gasped for another breath. Her finger shook as she continued to point toward the corner where the monster had disappeared. “He shot them.”