Apex Predator:
Provocative Premise,
Shocking Crime,
Effective Story-Telling
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 ‘Apex Predator’  Book 1 of the Beyond a Psychopath Series by J.A Faura is clever, cunning, insightful, intelligently constructed and plays out at an energetic pace. It’s gripping and unpredictable up-close and personal, with characters that are beyond believable.

Author J. L. Faura gives readers the "inside view" of sociopathic predators, those who stand at the top of the food chain because they lack conscience as does a shark or jellyfish.

It won't be a book for all audiences, but for those who enjoy Clancy, Grisham or Kyle Mills, it will be a satisfying read.

If you like mystery thriller books that won’t insult your intelligence, but makes you think of things you may not have considered before, then this one certainly makes a case for the number one spot on your ‘must read’ list.

Read The Full Summary, Prologue And A Provocative Free Chapter.

Summary

What is the legal definition of human? Is there something beyond a psychopath? Are humans still at the top of the food chain? These questions and their answers play a central role in Apex Predator. The novel is inspired by true events and utilizes real evolutionary, forensic psychiatry and cognitive science, making it truly frightening and thought-provoking. 

The story, however, begins with Steven Loomis, a man, a father looking for answers after his daughter's kidnapping and brutal murder. He wants to understand what drives monsters like the one that kidnapped and killed his daughter. What he discovers is that his daughter’s killer was just the tip of the iceberg; that there are far more sinister and powerful forces at play, forces that Steven was not expecting nor prepared for. He realizes that what he has found is the most significant and real threat that humanity has ever faced. 

And while he wants to simply grieve like a father that lost his little girl, he realizes that he must play a role he is neither sure he is ready for nor willing to play. He ultimately understands that only he can warn the world about the threat, only he can do something about it. Steven Loomis finds himself in the fight of his life as he tries to warn the world of the threat, to protect his family and to keep himself out of prison. 


Prologue

Los Angeles, California


Les Martin sat in the lavish waiting room and looked out the window at the San Fernando Valley through the haze of rush-hour smog. This was his fifth appointment and Les knew better than anyone else that he was a new man.

He had been referred by the CEO of his company who had in turn been referred by the chairman of the board of a major movie studio in L.A. Like his CEO, Les had been wildly successful in his professional life, rising to his current position of executive vice president of global operations for a major technology company, but he had been a disaster in his personal life.

He had been an awkward child, in spite of having parents that were supportive and loving, and he had continued to be awkward through high school, college and into his career.

He had absolutely no sense of fashion or style and his posture and countenance reflected his almost constant anxiety. He had always been an introvert and unable to maintain any relationship socially.

Before seeking counseling, he had always believed that his inability to form relationships was a result of his intellect; he had tested well above the genius level in every standardized test he had ever taken.

All that had changed six weeks ago when he first came to this office and met the man who had given him his new life.

Now, as he sat in the waiting room, he stood and walked over to the big mirror that hung on one of the waiting room walls. With a smile, he straightened his tie and plucked at his hair, making sure it was just the way he wanted.

It was remarkable, really, he had gone from being someone with dated and ill-fitting clothes and a horrible bowl haircut, a nerd if he was to be honest, to a man sporting a two-thousand-dollar Hugo Boss suit and a Piaget watch worth more than most people’s cars.

He had handsome Nordic features and was just under six feet tall, which combined with his new look attracted a fair share of female attention. Les had been a virgin until four weeks ago when he had met a woman at a bar and ended up spending the night with her.

He smiled at the memory. Everything had indeed changed for him the day he came for his first appointment. His therapist had listened to him share his most intimate thoughts and fears, allowing him to go on until he felt like he was drained.

He had told Les to share everything with him, no matter how awful or horrible he thought it might be, and he had let him know he would not pass judgment or think any less of him. He did as he was told and shared everything with his therapist, even the dreams and ideas that had seemed to haunt him since childhood.

Before seeking help, Les had thought there was something wrong with him, that his intimate thoughts and impulses were the product of a sick human mind.

Over their time together, his therapist had let him know just how wrong he had been. He explained why it was that Les felt the way he did and had let him know that there was nothing wrong with him.

Spending as long as he needed to, he had slowly revealed to Les the real reason that he’d had so much trouble fitting in. It had truly been a liberating experience for Les.

He finally understood who and what he was. Les had always believed there was something fundamentally different about himself, but he had thought those differences were an indication that he was simply inadequate. Now he knew different.

As he thought back over the last six weeks, the door behind the receptionist opened and his therapist, a neuropsychologist, appeared with a smile on his face, “Are we ready, Mr. Martin?”

Les stood, “Ready, doc.” The therapist turned and Les followed him into his office. He lay down on the small sofa in the office and the therapist sat in a chair facing him. “So, how have things been since we saw each other last?”

Les put his hands behind his head and looked up at the ceiling, “Well, doc, I have to tell you, it’s getting easier and easier for me. I can’t believe how easy things are now. To be honest with you, I find myself looking for ways, nothing big you understand, but just little ways, to make things more challenging.”

The therapist nodded thoughtfully and took a few notes, “I see. You need to be careful with that. We don’t want to go too far too fast with this. It’s the type of thing that can derail everything we’ve been able to accomplish.”

Les looked at the doctor and then back at the ceiling and shook his head slowly, “I know, I know, it’s just that it feels like I wasted the first 35 years of my life. I can’t tell you how many things come to mind that make so much sense to me now, things that would give me the shakes before.

“It’s hard, doc, it’s like a kid not being able to ride a bike and then suddenly finding out he can not only ride the bike, he can do backflips on it. That’s what you’ve done for me, doc, and it’s hard not to do flips all day long, you know what I’m saying?”

The doctor chuckled, it was not the first time he’d heard such thoughts, “I’m sure it is, but you are right in the sense that for a great part of your life you lived an existence of confinement, which kept you from evolving naturally. Now that you understand how things are, it’s understandable that you want to spread your wings and you want to test yourself, it’s only natural.

“This is precisely when you have to be most careful, because this is the time when a lot of individuals like yourself make mistakes and end up in an even more confined existence. As you grow and continue to understand your own capabilities, you will learn that there will be plenty of opportunities to be challenged and to test yourself.

“Understand, Mr. Martin, that the world is full of opportunities for those like you, and if you are patient and continue to hone your skills, you will find many ways to grow further, but you must be patient.”

Hands still behind his head, Les responded, “I know, doc, it’s just hard. It’s just incredible to me that the world is so unprepared, it really is. They walk around, completely oblivious to their surroundings, to the millions of tiny shifts going on around them. I just can’t believe I didn’t see it before, that it was all around me and I didn’t notice.

“Honestly, now that I know better, now that I know the truth, dealing with those around me is like a game. It doesn’t matter who it is or what it’s about, I get what I want when I want. It’s too easy, almost unfair if I’m being honest.”

The therapist nodded, “I know exactly how you feel. It is a very common experience among those like you, but like I said, it’s also this type of situation that can lead you to make a mistake that could prove to be disastrous. Now, tell me about your last experience.”

Les smiled and took on a faraway, wistful look, “She was beautiful, doc, and I don’t just mean her looks. She was smart and quite funny. We met at a bar on Sunset. There’s dozens of girls like her in those bars, all looking to make it in Hollywood. She was different, though, educated and very well traveled. That’s why I picked her, I thought she’d provide a bit of a challenge.

“But it was like you said in our second, or was it our third, meeting…anyway, it was like you said, once I knew her soft spots, her vulnerabilities, she was putty in my hands, and after that it was, like I said before, just too easy. That’s what I mean, doc, they are just clueless.”

The doctor took some notes and then looked at his patient, “I understand. Today, why don’t we talk about different ways you can continue to grow without taking unnecessary risks? Don’t try to rush this. You have a lifetime ahead of you, a lifetime to test yourself in a variety of ways.”

Les sat up, “I guess you’re right, doc. I’ll work on being more patient.”

He lay back down and the doctor proceeded with the session, “I assure you we will find a way to make sure you remain engaged.” The doctor was pleased with his latest patient. He never grew tired of witnessing as one of nature’s wonders blossomed before him.

Besides personal satisfaction, his unique practice had made him a wealthy and resourceful man, and it was that wealth and those resources that had allowed him to establish and grow his practice in the United States and around the world.

The neuropsychologist also knew that it wasn’t just wealth and resources that had allowed him to accomplish what he had. Power and influence had always been a key part of his objectives early on, and he was absolutely certain that he had attained both.

He was pleased with his last project and wanted to ensure Martin was on track before leaving for New York. The therapist smiled at the thought of a potential new project waiting for him there. Another soul waiting for his guidance, waiting to be led into the light.

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Apex Predator Chapter Read

Manhattan, New York

 

Chapter 1

 

It was a cool night, not quite cold, but just at the point where people were beginning to think about wearing their scarves. Christmas season was just around the corner and the streets of New York were packed with early Christmas shoppers.

Not that anyone would be able to tell the difference, New York streets were always packed. People here never needed a reason. Trinity was just beginning his stroll.

He always liked to start at Central Park. He loved picking up the scents that so many people just took for granted. The dewy grass, the perfume of any one of thousands of women walking by, the mustard on the hot dog vendor’s cart, so many delights that it could be overwhelming.

Never overwhelming enough for the scent he truly craved, the one he actually allowed his nose to hunt for. Children. Like everything else, children gave off a distinct smell and Trinity could pick up that scent for miles.

Here at Central Park, however, he never needed to wait too long to pick up the scent. The smell of children’s shampoo, candy, ice cream smeared on a sweater, he could smell each and every one almost immediately. During his evenings of indulgence he did not like to stay around the park for long, lest someone get a clear look at his face.

That was another of New York’s gifts to his purpose, no one looked at anyone else past a cursory glance, and if they did it was more out of annoyance than curiosity.

Still, he wouldn’t take the risk when it was so unnecessary. On nights like tonight, it would not take him long to find what he was looking for. In fact, in the time it took for him to form that thought, he found exactly what he was looking for.

A mom, walking along with two children and a stroller, was just rounding a corner. And as if luck was truly smiling down on him tonight, they were headed for the ice rink.

 

Marybeth Loomis had a long day by any standard. After doing what early Christmas shopping she could do, she ran errands that had been on her to-do list for over a week.

It was just bad luck that the sitter had cancelled on her tonight, because she had planned on being home by noon, making dinner and waiting for her husband to come home. Christopher was also starting to get cranky.

She really couldn’t blame him after three hours of sitting in a stroller. Tracy, all of six now, wanted to stop at every window and tell her mother what she would be asking Santa Claus for, but Bethany had shown remarkable restraint in the things she had asked for the entire day.

So when the two girls asked to go skating, even just for a little while, Marybeth could not bring herself to say no. As usual, Bethany, unable to control her excitement, ran far ahead to the rink in order to ‘pick the best skates.’

Marybeth did her best to keep up, but pushing Chris along slowed her down. Trinity watched from across the street and saw all the things he needed to see. He made note of exactly what the mother was wearing, the names of the children, listening for the names of the girls as she called after one of them when she was running ahead. His van was not ideally parked, but it was hidden by a dumpster and near an intersection, which would allow him to do what he needed to and to get out of the area quickly.

As he watched, the expected scenario unfolded in front of him almost exactly as he had predicted. Mom, pushing Christopher and running and calling after Bethany, would glance back every few minutes to make sure that Tracy was following along, which she was, but at a farther and farther distance from her mother. She was stopping at every other store window to look at dolls or toys.

The group crossed the street to Trinity’s side and began making their way back toward the rink, still in their disorganized procession. As mom rounded the corner, Bethany tripped and cried out.

Her mother rushed to catch up to her, leaving Tracy around the corner. Distracted by Bethany’s skimmed knee and Chris’s crying, she did not realize Tracy was not with them.

Trinity made his move, “Did you see how pretty that doll’s dress is when it lights up?”

Having been taught not to talk to strangers, the six-year-old hesitated for all of half a second, “No, which one?”

Trinity now covered her with his own form as he answered, “The one in the blue, like the one I have in my van.”

Tracy looked suspicious, “You really have one like that in your van?”

He smiled a disarming smile, “Yes, and many others with other dresses. Would you like to look at them? The van’s just right there.”

Tracy had been warned at school and by her parents about bad men, men who would hurt little children. Like almost every child who heard the stories, Tracy thought of monster-like creatures that would come and steal them in the night.

The man in front of her was wearing a suit like her father wore, his hair was combed and he wore glasses like her mother. She looked her mom’s way, but Trinity knew how to seal the deal, “Don’t worry about your mom, she’s wearing that bright blue coat, so we’ll be able to find her and we’ll be right along. Besides, she’s probably just catching up to Bethany right now and you know how hard that is, pushing your little brother along.”

Tracy smiled at that, “Yeah, she gets really upset. Okay, but only for a minute.”

And in just a blink of an eye they were lost in the New York bustle, walking to his van hand in hand. He knew not to look hurried or nervous and instead looked down at Tracy as a father might look at his daughter, with care and concern.

To anyone who might have seen the two, it was simply a father and daughter out for a stroll. When they got to the van, Trinity made sure no witnesses were around and opened the back where there were indeed many different dolls with pretty dresses.

Tracy’s eyes lit up as she saw the dolls, but Trinity stopped her, “Oh, honey, you have a runny nose. Here, let me wipe it.” Completely unfamiliar with chemical odors, Tracy never recognized the chloroform he used to put her to sleep. The whole process had taken just under three minutes. 

He looked around and, seeing no one, put her in the van.  He taped her ankles and wrists and bound her mouth, although she shouldn’t be waking up for another few minutes. Now that she was accommodated in the van, Trinity could take pleasure in the fact that he could begin 

working on his true mandate, his calling, just like he had done time and time again.

 

Marybeth did not notice Tracy was not behind her until she had caught up with Bethany. Expecting to turn and see the bright red overcoat as always, enthralled, looking at windows. Failing to find her sent off the first of many red flags in Marybeth’s head. She hoped she had walked close to a window that had flagstone around it, which was why she couldn’t see her.

Her next instinct was to yell out her name several times to make sure she didn’t just happen to be standing behind someone. In spite of having gone through these rituals like all mothers who could not spot their child right away, Marybeth knew something was seriously wrong. She had never lost sight of her little girl for this long, and looking at the sea of people strolling the streets of New York, she felt a sense of helplessness.

The first thing she did was to look for a policeman, luckily finding one at the far corner. “Excuse me, excuse me, officer, but I can’t find my little girl!”

It was most definitely not the first time Officer Allen heard this from a frantic mother, especially at this time of year. Most of the time it turned out the little girl went into a store or was with another relative, so Officer Allen remained calm and asked all the pertinent questions. Was there another relative with them? Had she lost her before? Was there a favorite place the little girl might want to go to nearby, an ice cream stand, a toyshop?

Having gotten a negative on all pertinent questions and seeing the true panic on the mother’s face, Allen put out a “be on the lookout,” or BOLO, call on his radio for the missing little girl, giving her physical description, her last known whereabouts and her possible locations.

After two hours of not locating the girl, an all-city bulletin went out over the police band turning this from a lost girl into an actual missing person report with a possible kidnapping involved.

Every officer out there looking for the little girl had the same thought, but none dared speculate about it. There had been six other little girls, same description, same M.O., that disappeared in the past three weeks, and although no one wanted to think it, most were already counting her as number seven.

Trinity pulled his van into his rented warehouse and workshop. He had been careful to rent it in an industrial area where waste was dumped and processed at all hours of the night, negating the need to soundproof his space or bother with the odor.

Walking into it, one might think they were walking into a movie set. Behind plastic curtains was what could almost be called an operating room, complete with IVs, surgical instruments, an operating table of course and a cabinet full of drug vials.

Next to this was a curtain that separated the “clinical” part of the space into what anyone seeing it would describe as a typical little girl’s bedroom, a small bed with four posts and a white frilly cover on the top, a dresser and two nightstands with small lamps. Then the observer would most likely notice that there were dolls, dozens of dolls, arranged all over the stands and the dresser in the middle.

Nothing strange about dolls in a little girl’s bedroom, except these dolls were in various stages of disassembly. Some had the eyes cut out, others had no arms, and yet others were nothing but a torso with a head. Each had been carefully arranged to fit in with other dolls in a similar state. The dolls with no eyes were all arranged together, the ones with no arms likewise, and so on.

Another vast difference between this and any other little girl’s room was the handcuffs attached to every one of the four posts, each pair having left bloodstains on the part of the bed it was on and on the post it was attached to.

The final part of this make-believe world was also divided, but by plastic curtains only. It could only be described as a chamber of horrors.

In the corner of the space near the entrance, there was an actual workshop with a table saw, various tools hanging on the wall, and a carry pack with various forms of cutting instruments as well as tools for machining fine parts.

Even the best crime profilers in the business could not have imagined a more disparate and sick space.

He headed over to the cabinet with all the drug vials, selected the appropriate vial and loaded a syringe, not too much though, she must be compliant but not fully unconscious; no sir, it would not do at all for her to pass out or worse, stop breathing, like the one before her.

He already knew what he would take, those eyes, those sparkling blue eyes now looking at him in sheer horror. After he applied the injection, Tracy’s eyes took on a faraway look and she stopped struggling.

Gently, he picked her up from the van and placed her on the bed where he cuffed her hands and feet. Tracy would indeed be the seventh, and although she didn’t know it yet, she would leave this world in a haze of horror and fear that a six-year-old mind would not be mature enough to comprehend.

Trinity walked over to the van, lifted her from the floor and placed her on the operating table, whispering, “It will all be over soon and you are being so good. I hope you know how much you are helping me, helping us, really,” and with that he started an IV line on her.

 

To anyone who knew him, Donald Riche had been as average a child as there could be. He never picked on other kids and he never did anything that might cause his mother to be angry with him.

Had anyone been paying close attention, they might have noticed that young Donald was too average. He never showed interest in toys or comic books like other boys his age. What Donald did have an intense interest in was small animals. He would catch them and then, as best he could, he would take them apart using tools he found or knives from the kitchen. He didn’t torture them, he simply wanted to see how they worked.

Donald knew he was not like the other kids, knew he didn’t think the same way. He knew of adults who took children and did things to them, but rather than fear, such thoughts engendered curiosity in the young boy.

His mother had been decent enough, but she’d met a man, had left Donald with relatives when he was nine and had never returned for him.

His relatives gave him as much love and support as they could, but never as much as they gave their own children. Still, they encouraged him and showed him they were proud of his small accomplishments. His childhood should have been filled with happy memories of holidays and school events where he was treated like the other children in the family, but it wasn’t.

Even in his early childhood, he’d understood that his interests were not normal for his age and that some of the things he did might attract unwanted attention; therefore, he was always cautious and meticulous in everything he did. As he became an adolescent and a young adult, his interests grew in intensity and he found that he had to be even more careful now that he was an adult.

Through high school, he participated in some student organization, never in a leadership role, but just as a member, a fly on the wall. He began to recognize that the more he adhered to the rules and the more he did what was expected, the less attention he was likely to draw to himself.

When he went away to college, he took his required course work, but he also always took electives in physiology, anatomy, biology and anything else that could assist him in his activities.

He began to dress better and take better care in his appearance. He bought stylish clothes and glasses and began grooming himself with more care. He also began to realize that there were people out there who had nothing and no one to care for them or to even know they were alive.

He trolled neighborhoods where he found such people simply lying on the street or against a doorway. It had not been too difficult for him to lure them with the promise of a meal or more alcohol. He was, as always, very careful not to go to the same place more than once, and he never did anything near where he lived.

Never curious about religion, he was nevertheless interested in the concept of the Holy Trinity. One individual, but three entities, he found it fascinating and decided that he too was a Trinity, one made up of intelligence, purpose and destiny.

By the time he graduated from Wisconsin University, Donald Riche had made more than 18 people disappear. He was never considered a suspect nor even questioned.

He moved to New York where he worked as a runner for a Wall Street firm, was well liked by his coworkers, had a nice apartment, which he kept in meticulous order, and he dressed the part to perfection.

After he began taking care of himself, he became not a bad-looking man. His suit and his poise attracted a fair share of female attention, but he had no sexual inclination whatsoever.

He had gone on a couple of dates, but more out of curiosity than because of any real sexual desire. He wanted to learn, to study, to see if he got the same sense from grown women that he got from the girls. In his mind, he believed women and adults were too far gone, too imperfect and could not be corrected, but still he wanted to test his theory for himself.

Both dates had been pleasant enough. After dinner they had gone for a nice stroll to let their food settle, and as they approached Donald’s van, he had made sure no one was on the street and overpowered them with the chloroform.

During one of these episodes, Donald had come dangerously close to being spotted, when a young couple happened to be walking by as he held the woman’s arm around his neck and pulled her to the van.

But it was New York, and when the couple looked, he simply said, “She couldn’t hold her Chardonnay…” The couple smiled and kept on their way, as they could relate to having a bit much at a wine tasting.

Donald went through his process. He took the women to his workshop and did his work, and as he suspected, it was not the same; they were too far gone, too far into a life of excess and waste and worry.

There was none of the innocence and purity that a child had, none of the opportunity to fix what had been done wrong.

The two women had never told anyone who they were going on a date with, and Donald had been careful enough to use a false name in any case.

They had both come from completely different parts of town and from different online dating services, so Donald thought they would most likely be added to the long list of women who disappeared from the streets of New York without a trace. He had been correct in that assumption and had never been questioned about either woman.

 

¨

 

Steven Loomis had a long day. Meeting after meeting kept him from returning calls or emails all day long. As he walked out of the building, he saw he had eight missed calls from his wife. He would call her back as soon as he got into a cab, which during that time of year in New York at that hour could be quite a while.

 Steven worked as a risk consultant for one of the largest security firms in the world. His job often took him to distant locations, where he would assess the risk situation of any number of companies or foreign government organizations before putting together a proposal on how to best address those risks.

It was a perfect fit for him after having spent 20 years in the Navy, the last 10 as a Navy SEAL. His travel now did not compare to those long tours of duty he would have to go on where he wouldn’t see his family for months. Now he would be gone for two weeks at the most, and while it still felt like a long time to be away from his wife, girls and his little boy, he considered himself lucky to have a job he loved and which he was exceedingly good at.

He was 48 years old and had dark brown hair, cut neatly and peppered with slight spots of grey. He had bright hazel eyes that reflected calm and intelligence, even from a young age. He was six feet tall and carried a solid 195 pounds of well-toned muscle on his frame.

He had played football in high school and received several offers to attend good universities, not because of his size but because of his speed and ability to come up with the big plays when he needed to. He had chosen Annapolis. His dream had been to become a Navy pilot, but a knee injury playing football kept him from that.

So instead, he had decided to go into the investigative branch of the Navy, where he spent his first 10 years in the military police and eventually moving into the sensitive investigations unit, often liaising with the better-known NCIS.

Longing for something more adventurous and which would test him in a more rigorous way, he applied for the Navy SEALs. He’d been old by SEAL standards, 31, but he was in supreme shape and he had honed his mental toughness during his time at the investigative group. He made it through the infamous SEAL training program with no problem at all.

Within his first year he was assigned to the Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) team, one of the most elite units in the program. SEAL Team Six, as it had been commonly called, was the team called when the missions were critical and difficult. Most people would be surprised to find that SEAL Team Six was made up of men in their mid- to late thirties. No one could be considered for the team without years of experience in the field.

In spite of exemplary evaluations throughout his career, Loomis had only risen to the rank of lieutenant commander. He knew that higher rank meant more likelihood of having to sit behind a desk, and that was not something he’d signed up for. He enjoyed the camaraderie and sense of accomplishment that came with being an operator.

After showing his mettle once and again and participating in hair-raising operations, it was time for Steven to retire. He had a fulfilling career where he made lifelong friends and learned more than he had ever imagined.

He raised a family along the way and understood that his priorities had changed. He could no longer go charging into whatever a situation demanded without regard for his safety. He now had people who depended on him, people he loved more than life itself.

That’s when Lieutenant Commander Steven Loomis knew it was time to hang it up. After leaving the Navy, he’d dedicated himself to helping veterans coming home from ‘the sandbox’ of Afghanistan and Iraq, men and women who came home injured or depressed, most suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder.

He procured exercise equipment and therapy from a number of companies wanting to help and had taken a few men under his wing to help them to get back into a normal life. He’d also helped organize events to raise money for wounded veterans.

It was during one of these events that he had caught the attention of the CEO of an international security and intelligence firm. After their first meeting, Steven knew he’d found a place and the CEO knew he’d found the man that would eventually take over for him.

 

The air felt cold but good on his face. After sitting in meetings all day, it was good to feel the fresh air. It was early Christmas season, just after Thanksgiving, and getting a cab at that hour was going to be a nightmare. He stood on the corner of Madison and 52nd waiting for 20 minutes, allowing an older woman to take a car that had stopped for him along the way.

Finally he saw a couple coming out of a cab and ran before anyone else could snag it. He entered the cab, gave the cabbie his address and shook off the cold. Now in the comfort of the cab and with the noise significantly reduced, he could finally call his wife back.

He dialed the number and she picked up immediately, she was hysterical and Steven knew instantly that something was wrong. “Why the hell haven’t you been answering your phone?”

He tried to calm her, “Beth, Beth, calm down, what’s the matter, what’s wrong?”

Beth had to take a couple of breaths before she could answer, “Tracy, it’s Tracy, she’s gone, I can’t find her! She was right with me and now she’s gone!”

Steven took this in and had his mind racing to think of possible answers to where Tracy could be, “Maybe a cop found her and she’s at some station or maybe someone else found her and they’re taking her there.”

But she could not be consoled, “Steven, she’s been gone for hours. The police have an alert out, they’ve checked with every precinct, every hospital, she’s just gone!” Beth was sobbing on the other end of the phone.

He could tell she was barely functional and knew he had to get to her immediately, “Beth, where are you?”

At that point Beth continued to sob and could not speak or answer Steven’s questions, “Beth, if there is a police officer around, let me talk to him, pass him the phone, Beth!”

On the other end Steven could hear the phone rustling and then a male voice came on, “This is Detective Mullins, Mr. Loomis. We’re here with your wife and your other children. They’re fine. We’re at the precinct closest to Central Park. It’s the…”

Steven interrupted, “I know where it is. Where is my daughter?”

Mullins answered, “Well, that’s what we’re trying to find out. We have all units notified of a missing child and we have the missing persons unit notified already. There are three detectives at the park interviewing people and retracing your wife’s steps. We’re doing about as much as we can right now, Mr. Loomis. I would suggest you come and pick up your wife and your children. We will stay on this and let you know as soon as we have something.”

After hanging up with the policeman, Steven gave the cab driver the new destination.

When he got there, Steven Loomis could see that this was indeed a serious situation. The level of activity, the number of people on the phones with copies of a picture his wife had given them told him this was not a simple lost girl situation, something else was going on.

He looked around for his wife and his children and found them sitting on a wooden bench in the middle of the precinct. Marybeth was a total mess, her face streaked with makeup, her eyes still full of tears.

As soon as she saw Steven, she launched into his arms and began weeping, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, it’s my fault! But she was right with me and we were going skating, and she was gone, just gone!”

Steven tried to calm his wife down in order to get a more cohesive story, but it became clear to him that he was going to need to take his wife to an emergency room to be sedated because she was on the verge of a complete breakdown.

“Beth, breathe, breathe, just relax, baby, and breathe. That’s it, slowly, just calm down and breathe, honey, that’s it.” Slowly Beth began to calm down.

Steven spoke softly to her, “I spoke to the police, honey, and they are doing everything they can.”

Beth looked up at him and began crying again, “But it’s my fault, she was with me and…and I let her out of my sight…it was just a minute…Bethany fell…”

She couldn’t finish her sentence before she broke down again. “Honey, it’s nobody’s fault, it happens, children break away from their parents all the time. Let’s not think the worst yet. She is probably somewhere with someone who is trying to get her back to us.”

Beth looked up again, “You really think so?”

Steven kept his composure and answered his wife with a lie, “Sure I do, honey. Now just relax and make sure Bethany and Chris are okay. They must be scared.”

Feeling a bit calmer, Beth went back to the bench and started comforting her other two children. But Steven Loomis was certain there was something else going on, something serious. His business was security and risk assessment, and he spent 20 years in the Navy doing nothing but investigating and learning how to notice things other people did not notice, and something was going on here, something he intended to get to the bottom of.

He asked around and finally found Mark Mullins, the policeman he had spoken to on the phone. “Detective Mullins? I’m Steven Loomis. We spoke on the phone.”

They shook hands and Mullins told Loomis, “I sure am sorry about this. I have two girls of my own and I can’t imagine what you are going through.”

Steven appreciated the man’s sentiments, but at the moment he just wanted to get as much information as he could, “I appreciate it, detective. It is incredibly difficult. I’m still trying to process everything.”

Mullins nodded in understanding, “So what can I do for you?”

Steven needed to be careful how he approached this if he wanted to get as much information as possible, “Well, I wanted to get an update on what’s going on with my daughter.”

Mullins responded without much preamble, “Nothing new to report. We have had a couple of sightings we followed up on, which unfortunately turned out to be dead ends. Every patrolman has a physical description of Tracy and we have detectives building a file.”

Loomis listened to Mullins telling him all of this, all of which he already knew, but he also knew there was more. “See, that’s the thing, detective, I was an investigator in the Navy and I work in security now, and I can’t help but notice that there is a lot of activity for a child that’s been missing for a few hours.”

Mullins immediately got defensive, “Listen, Mr. Loomis, we take missing persons very seriously, especially when it is children. Actually I’m surprised. Most people never think we are doing enough. I’ve never had someone complain that we are doing too much.”

Steven raised his hands trying to appease the officer, “I apologize, I didn’t mean to come across as complaining. I just noticed that for the time she has been missing there is a lot of activity. It seems as though a case has been already developed and like it’s much further along than I would think if it was just a missing girl at Central Park.”

Mullins looked at Steven’s eyes and could tell the man was not lying; he had the look of a cop, of an investigator. He knew if he lied to him he would see through it, and having the parent of a missing child not trusting the police during an investigation was no way to investigate anything.

Mullins considered it for a moment and then told Steven, “Alright, you did not get this from me. It could mean my job, do you understand?” Steven nodded.

Mullins went on, “You need to speak with Detective Grady, Robert Grady. He’s on the floor above. He should be able to give you more information.”

Steven looked back at his wife and kids and once he made sure they were okay began to make his way to the floor where Grady was. After a few inquiries, he was asked to wait until Detective Grady could see him. Steven sat down and again observed a lot more activity than he would expect for a case like this.

After 20 minutes, a short and stocky man came out to talk to him, “Can I help you?”

Steven stood up, “Yes, I’m looking for Detective Grady and I was told he worked on this floor.”

The man looked him up and down and responded, “I’m Grady, what can I do for you Mr. …?”

Steven stuck out his hand, “Loomis, Steven Loomis.”

As they were shaking hands, Steven saw a sign of recognition in Grady, who became extremely uncomfortable at the same time.

“Detective, to be honest with you, what I’m trying to get at is what’s going on here. My daughter is missing and I appreciate everything your department is doing, but I’m in the business, in the security and intelligence gathering business, and there is clearly something more going on than just my daughter missing.

“I just wanted to get the full update, I’m sure you can understand this is my daughter we are talking about and I want to know everything there is to know that is pertinent to my little girl.”

Grady considered Loomis. He could also tell the man wasn’t lying, he was in the business.

He also thought about his own daughters and what he would do and what he would want if one of them went missing, “Follow me.”

They went past the rows of desks manned by investigators and other detectives and went into an office at the far end of the floor. After they were both in the room, Grady closed the door behind him, “Have a seat, please.” Steven sat down across from Grady and waited for what the detective had to say.

“Mr. Loomis, I’m about to share something with you that has not been released for public consumption and I am going to trust that you will keep it that way. It is not something that is easy for me to tell you, and I imagine it will be even more difficult to hear it.”

Steven was now losing his patience, “Can you just tell me what’s going on?”

Grady leaned back in his chair and went on to tell Steven, “We have been working on a number of missing person cases over the past three weeks. At first no connection was made because the missing people came from completely different areas, but we are fairly certain now that all of the cases are related.”

Steven was puzzled and did not quite understand, “What does that have to do with my daughter?”

Grady was clearly uncomfortable with what he had to say next, “Mr. Loomis, without going into too many details, the reason we are fairly comfortable that the cases are related is because all of the missing persons are little girls, between four and seven years old.

“The M.O. is exactly the same in every one of the cases, the little girls were there one minute and gone the next, always with a parent nearby, always without a trace, no witnesses and no clue as to where they went. We have a task force working on this, but we have not yet gotten anything significant.”

Steven Loomis was speechless, he thought there was something else going on, but he never imagined that there might be a serial kidnapper or worse, a murderer, on the loose in New York. “Let me get this straight. You guys have known there might be someone out there snatching little girls off the streets and you’ve decided to keep it from the public?’

Now it was Grady’s turn to lose his patience, “What exactly would you have us do, Mr. Loomis? Huh? Tell the public we have a serial kidnapper on the loose when we haven’t fully developed a firm connection between the cases? Create a mass panic only to find out that the cases are unrelated?

“So far, everything we have is based on speculation, we do not have one single iota of physical evidence to go on, and let’s not forget that we are still speculating about these being kidnappings. Everything points to that being the case, but again, we do not have a single shred of concrete evidence that someone took these kids. So I ask you again, what would you have us do?”

Steven held his head down as he listened. He knew the detective was right; they were doing the right thing by keeping this an internal matter until they had something else. “How many girls have gone missing?”

Grady answered, “Six so far. We are scouring the system to see if there are any other cases whatsoever that could be related. Nothing’s come up so far.”

With his hands interlaced on the back of his neck, Steven asked, “And you think that my daughter might be the seventh, is that it?”

Grady knew how hard this must be for the man, so he tried to soften the blow, “We’re not counting her as the seventh. Like you said, she has only been missing a few hours, so it could be that it is completely unrelated.”

Steven looked up at the detective with a knowing look, a look that said, ‘You think she’s the seventh one and you think the rest of those girls are dead,’ but he didn’t say anything. He stood up and thanked the detective for his time and for his honesty.

Grady tried to reassure him, “I will keep you posted on anything we get as soon as we get it. I’m really sorry about this, Mr. Loomis, I really am.”

Steven nodded and left the office. On his way back down he had to decide whether this was something he would share with Beth. He decided that if he did share it with her it would not be until she was much calmer. Right then, she was teetering on the edge and he knew something like this would just push her over.

He also had to decide what he was going to do. He just couldn’t imagine himself going back to live life as if nothing had happened with his little girl missing. For the time being, he had his kids and his wife to take care of.

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Print Length: 534 pages

Publisher: Barola Press (November 3, 2014)

ASIN: B00P72UZRE

ISBN-10: 099089911X

ISBN-13: 978-0990899112

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