About Author Pamela Swyers
Pam is a professional member of the Georgia Writers Association.
Find out more about Pam and her writing at her website pamelaswyers.com.
I see it when I close my eyes Between wake and sleep A faraway place where pain is absent And time is not. Light and color redefined The unseeable now seen The indescribable comes to life. Love fills every pore and peace Floods the mind and soul. There is that place, I have glimpsed And upon waking mourn the loss of it.
The Case of the Twisted Queen
It tickled, the drip of the rain going down the back of my neck. The storm had caught me unaware out here on this street in the middle of God-forsaken nowhere.
The day had started early with a double latte from the corner coffee house. I'd been out for three days straight, me and about fifty others, walking through fields, slogging through creeks and mud and muck, and then the rain. God, this rain.
It had all started when I got the call four days ago. A man had gone missing. Twenty years old, worked for his dad at the family-owned auto repair in town. The town was Macy, Iowa. I didn't know the population but it was the very definition of small town America. Main street consisted of several falling down buildings that had once been something and were now nothing, and two antique and gift shops, a barber, a small park, a grocery store, and most recently the coffee house I'd visited earlier. Grind Me Up it was called. Someone's idea of cute. I was just glad they had an espresso machine and seemed to know how to use it.
The missing man was one Tobias Collier. I was called in from Des Moines. With a population of just over a couple thousand, the town wasn't exactly a huge metropolis but it looked like NYC compared to Macy.
As a murder cop in Iowa, I'd been able to have a successful enough career. Successful in that out of the two murders I had investigated, I'd solved both. Most of my day-to-day had more to do with paperwork than murder. Macy doesn't have its own police force, thus I got the nudge when Tobias had turned up missing. Missing isn't necessarily dead, but given the circumstances, I agreed to come and head up the search for the missing man. The circumstances were that Tobias had a quiet habitual life. Girlfriend was Leila, the daughter of the owner of the local grocery store. She took some online classes and painted pretty pictures in her garage/studio. Tobias and Leila had moved in together, into a rental house owned by another local and by all accounts, the two were inseparable. Tobias was known to be level-headed, reasonably smart, good-looking and reliable as they come. He'd never been a teenaged rebel, never missed or even been late to work, helped old ladies cross the street, you get the picture.
The people in this town had painted a nice picture of the perfect couple in the perfect relationship in the perfect town. His disappearance caused quite an uproar. Everyone insisted he wouldn't pick up and leave town without telling anyone. More curious was that his car was left at his house, keys in a little tray in the foyer of his home, as usual. Leila woke up five days ago and couldn't find him anywhere. It was a Saturday morning and she'd last seen him the night before. She went to bed early, so she says, and Toby, as she called him, stayed up to finish watching an episode of NCIS on Netflix.
Sunday I got the call and now here I was, in the third such hunt for clues that had taken place since my arrival. The town was fully organized, posters of Toby on every lamp post, neighbors, friends and family members handed out flyers all over town. I had to admit his disappearance was strange.
My name is Callie Worth, and I hate rain, always have. I know the need for it, but have no love for being out in it. Divorced at thirty wasn't exactly what I'd planned for my life, but I'd always known I'd be in some kind of law enforcement. Grew up outside of Los Angeles and moved to Des Moines with my ex. I grew to love the place so I decided to stay. Max, the ex-hubby, and I had come to an understanding a long time ago. He'd stay on his side of town and my business, and I'd stay on mine. It had worked so far.
A whistle blew. It came from the direction of town, and we all began to slug back up the road towards the coffee house where today's hunt had originated. Sun was about to set and the whistle was our signal to quit for the night.
We'd managed to cover most of a twenty mile radius around town over the last few days. No clues, nothing had been discovered. Some conspiracy theorists had begun to claim alien abduction, and I had to admit, the thought had crossed my own mind, however briefly.
I knew that whomever or whatever had happened to Tobias likely had nothing to do with ETs. The bad guys I'd encountered in my life were all too human, though they acted otherwise.
Taking my cap off and pulling my wheat-colored pony tail out of its binding, I shook not unlike a dog once I was inside the cafe. I felt like a dog, a very wet dog.
"Ms. um Detective Worth?" a voice asked. I looked up and saw Toby's mom and dad headed my way. Mr. and Mrs. Collier showed their grief and exhaustion on their faces. Mrs. Collier covered her mouth with a tissue and seemed to be perpetually on the verge of tears.
I reached out and shook Mr. Collier's hand. I answered the questioning look on his face. "Nothing. Not a clue," I said. He sat hard on a nearby chair, his wife following his lead and sitting next to him.
"What's next? What do we do?" Mrs. Collier said.
"I'm going to look over my previous interviews, conduct a few more, continue the search until we find something. We are not giving up," I told her.
Back at my motel which was situated about twenty miles outside of town, I showered, threw on a pair of sweats and pulled a stale peanut-butter cracker out of my jacket pocket. I made a face then set about eating the cracker. Awesome supper. I'd spotted a Waffle House not-too- far away and made myself a promise to hit it at breakfast for a decent meal.
I checked in with my sidekick. Abby, or Abs as I called her was my contact back in Des Moines and my often-time partner. She was fierce, a few years younger than me and the best investigator I knew. She had been doing some research, making some calls for me as well as holding down the fort in my absence. I had her digging up any insurance policies or wills that may be out there and that might help offer me a motive. She promised to have something for me the next day.
I sat up in bed with files all around me, studying everything I had gathered so far. It wasn't much. Nobody knew anything, hadn't seen anything. Zip. Zero.
Leila's statement said that they had not had any fights or arguments in the days leading to Toby's disappearance. She'd noticed nothing out of the ordinary. I closed her file and got lost in thought. Leila was just a little too... what? Perfect? Cried at the right times, said all the right things, but ya ask me, there was something off about that girl. In fact of everyone I'd met since coming to this town, she seemed the most off... suspicious. Maybe. Maybe I was desperate and grasping at straws. I made a mental note to pull more on that thread after a few hours sleep and a good meal.
One of the two partners that worked the murders was in and agreed to speak with us. Detective Bill Bartow. He was in his forties, gray-haired and pot-bellied and looked horribly over-worked. He gave us the usual spiel about talking to anyone about anything in his town without his permission. Maura looked at him with a straight face and swore she would never do such a thing. I managed to stifle a grin.
After his boss came in and got in the middle of things and told Bartow to cooperate with us, we finally got a look at his files in a dark room the size of my closet. We took copious notes and I took pictures of the pictures, and we gleaned a ton of info we hadn't known before. Ha. No, really, we didn't know much more except the names and faces of the Florida victims were now more real to us than ever. Their files actually looked a lot like our own. Little or no evidence left behind, and what was found never went anywhere because as far as the internet and every known criminal data-base was concerned, the guy did not exist. Awesome.
Around eight-thirty we headed out to find a place to bed down for the night. Not far down the road from the police station was one of those trashy-looking motels that was in desperate need of a re-model. Much to my personal anguish, Maura pulled in and turned off the ignition. "Stay here. I'll go see if that vacancy sign is more than just decoration."
"Great," I mumbled, and pulled my sweater tighter around me. The temps in northern Florida this time of year beat Atlanta's by far, but in the evening a cool breeze would often blow in and cool things down.
About ten minutes later I spotted Maura heading back to the car, the pot-bellied proprietor following her out the door, still talking to her about all of the local tourist attractions. Maura waved him off and headed my way.
Great, there was a key in her hand.
The beds were lumpy and just plain gross. Yes, I was spoiled to the nicer things in life, like clean linens and being able to fall asleep without fear of a Volkswagen-sized bug crawling into my mouth. I shuddered.
"Really?!" I shouted for about the fifth time.
Maura sat up in her bed and glared at me. "Shut it, Louise, cuz I'm exhausted," she said, then fell back onto the pillow, and as far as I could tell was asleep within minutes. It took me much longer.
The next morning I sprang out of bed, having gotten maybe five hours of restless sleep. I looked at my phone; it was only seven. I made a dash for the bathroom, contemplating a shower. Once I got a look at said shower, I quickly changed my mind. I gave myself a quick bird-bath and sniffed under my pits. Do-able. Neither of us had packed anything, so the same clothes would have to do. I popped out and walked to the lobby for their complimentary breakfast, which was a tray full of stale-looking donuts, and I grabbed several, wrapping them in napkins and stuffing them into my purse. I poured two cups of their trail coffee and headed back to the room. Maura was singing away in the shower. Seriously? How could a person sing in that shower... scream, maybe, but never sing. Her voice left much to be desired. I choked down a donut, knowing it was not in any way a part of my normal diet, and prayed I wouldn't get sick. Maura popped out of the bathroom followed by a plume of steam and looked magnificent. How did she do that? She'd give Debra Messing a run for her money with that skin and hair. Soon we were well on our way to one Mary Anne Mercer's home, the older lady who had described seeing a dark sedan leave the area at the time of Tina's murder. We pulled into the driveway of a ten-story condo that was nowhere near the murder house. Perhaps she had moved since then? We took a rattling elevator up three flights and rang the bell to number 310. A lady that looked a lot like my own grandmother, God rest her soul, opened the door and grinned, toothless, at us. "Mrs. Mercer?" Maura asked with her winning smile. "Yes? What are you selling?" the lady asked, while at the same time opening her door wide to us. "Actually," Maura said, sheepishly, "We're police." She flashed her badge, half expecting a door slammed in our faces. "Oh! Come in, come in. Would you like a cup of tea? Or coffee? I have Seattle's Best!" She turned and headed for the coffee maker. I drooled. At the exact same time, Maura said no and I said yes. Mrs. Mercer grinned and winked at me and set about loading the coffee maker. "We'd like to ask you about the murder of Tina Pierce. You were a witness?" I said like a question. The light dawned on Mary Anne. "Ah, yes. Did you ever catch that guy?" "Not yet, ma'am, but we're trying hard. Could you tell me--us--again what you saw?" I was watching the heavenly brown liquid ooze down into the pot as Mary Anne answered. "Sure, let's sit," she said, and we all did, around a round Formica table that had seen better days. "I remember that day clearly, never mind that I'm nearly eighty-four. My mind is sharp as a tack. I don't wear antiperspirant, y' know," she said with a knowing wink. Maura got a confused look on her face. "Aluminum, causes Alzheimer's," I whispered. "Oh, anyway, will you walk us through that day?" Maura asked. "Well, at that time I was staying with my daughter, Alicia, she's a mess. I wish you knew her. She was half-dead with a bad flu. I had to go nurse her and take care of that brat boy of hers." We both nodded encouragingly. "So we were in the house right across the street. The boy had the TV up real loud, but I thought I heard a commotion and I looked out the window." I stared hard at the coffee pot until the powers of suggestion made it into Mary Anne's sharp mind. She stood and began to fill three cups as she talked. "I saw a medium-built man with dark hair, and just a little facial hair, y' know, like he hadn't shaved in a few days? Well, he jumped into a car, a mid-sized sedan... don't recall if it were a Ford, a Chevy, or what." The blessed angel brought our coffees to us and I sipped thankfully. "Two doors or four? Remember the color?" Maura asked, scribbling in her notebook. "I think four doors, dark, maybe gray, could have been brown, but I think... dark gray." Mrs. Mercer was enjoying her part in this, bless her heart. "You didn't say near this much to the other cops. May I ask why?" Maura asked. "Why, I saw your shield. You're from Atlanta. My dear departed husband was from Atlanta. I love it there." She grinned. "Sorry for your loss," I managed, between gulps. "Oh, honey, he ain't dead. He just departed. Took off with the housekeeper some twenty years past." I tried to stop from choking on my coffee, but still spilled a bit on my top. We said our good-byes, drained our cups, and left. "Well, she was a hoot," I said when we were back in the car, fastening our belts. "A helpful hoot." Maura turned the engine over and we were off toward home.
The Tryta Chronicles Epic Conclusion
The Dream Dweller
Detective Maura Newcome -- As a rookie Maura gets called out on a homicide case and finds a teen girl named Haley Jo covered in blood and bruises. There is a man beside her, dead. Blood everywhere. What a case to cut her teeth on!
Haley Jo Smith -- raped and brutalized as a teen, Haley grows up to be a productive member of society. She becomes a fitness instructor and stays in close contact over the years with her friend and mentor, Maura Newcome, who eventually works her way up to detective. Haley fancies herself a bit of a crime-solver herself and often offers up help to Maura.
Shala, Haley's lifelong BFF -- Shala has stuck with Haley through thick and thin. When Shala's finace' dies, Haley investigates the crime.
Detective Jack Grammer -- Maura's newest partner and a hunky cop. He has his sights set on Haley.
Sherry and Alton Pettit -- Owners of the cafe' in Haley's building with secrets of their own.
Tryta Chronicles | Promote Your Page Too
Other Titles by Pamela Swyers