Posted by Leslie at Sep 4, 2012 6:00 am
I haven’t talked a lot lately about what’s going on with my Leslie Parrish career. That’s because, essentially, I’ve felt like it’s over, at least here in the U.S. For NOW.
But I know it won’t be forever. I’m working on a futuristic thriller series for my German publisher (book 1 comes out on the German Kindle in November–whoop!!!) I LOVE this series. It’s not a romantic suspense, it’s a straight suspense with some romantic overtones. I fully expect to self publish this book next year, when I have a few more titles in the series (and when I hopefully will have the rights back to at least my Black CATs books so I can continue that series!) But I’m just so excited about it I wanted to talk about it a little bit here. I’m also hopeful that some of my German readers are finding me here, so I thought I’d share a little bit about it.
The heroine of this book (series) is Veronica Sloan. She’s a cop but she’s also a member of a super-elite investigative team that is utilizing a new technology to solve crimes. She’s been in training but she’s never worked a real case…until now. The book is set in 2022, almost five years after a devastating terrorist attack wiped out…
Well, you know what? I don’t want to say anything else and give it away. Here’s your first chance–the first time anywhere–for you to find out more. It’s a little long and there’s a bit of language, but it should definitely give you a good feel for what this book and this series is like. Please click and read the excerpt…I’d love to hear what you think!
â€œThis is gonna take forever.â€
Detective Veronica Sloan glared out the windshield of her car, mentally cursing the heat, and the crowd. Though traffic in the nationâ€™s capital was always a bitch, the lines to get through the Pennsylvania Avenue checkpoints were longer than usual on this wickedly hot summer morning.
A queue of pedestrians wound from each of the heavily-guarded entrances, through Lafayette Park, all the way to H Street. Throngs of other people milled around them, selling cold drinks, packaged food or souvenirs. Some held protest signs, some formed prayer circles.
A bunch of them blocked the damn road.
On any day there would be discontent. On this particularly sweltering July one, tempers were flaring. Hers not the least of them.
In the time it had taken to crawl two blocks in the unmarked sedan, sheâ€™d seen one woman faint, two fights break out, and a group of children sprawl on the sidewalk in exhaustion. Flag-draped rednecks glared at Japanese touristsâ€”the slanty-eyed foreigners just as unwelcome as the burqa-wearing ones in their minds. Everyone sweated and cursed and bitched and shouted.
But they didnâ€™t leave. Morbid curiosity always ensured they wouldnâ€™t leave once theyâ€™d made it this far.
She could have roared in on full emergency response, dispersing the crowd spilling into the street with her siren and her horn. She didnâ€™t. Because if the people heard about the murder, they might get a little itchy. Might start stampeding, in fact. Washington was quick to panic these days. And she didnâ€™t particularly want to add any boot-crushed grandmas from the Midwest to her already backbreaking caseload.
â€œChrist, I think there are as many people in line now as there were yesterday for the rededication.â€
Ronnie glanced over at her partner, Mark Daniels, who looked as impatient as she felt. The cynic in her couldnâ€™t help saying, â€œYeah, but this is nothing compared to the crowds who lined up to gawk at the rubble that first year.â€
No, it definitely wasnâ€™t. As soon as the military had begun to allow visitors to view the destruction wrought in October of 2017, D.C. had become the hottest tourist destination in the world. People had clamored for the chance to say they had seen the site of the worst terrorist attack in history.
â€œI guess youâ€™re right.â€ He leaned back in the seat, crossing his arms over his brawny chest and closing his eyes. â€œWake me up when we get there.â€
She laughed softly. â€œWho was she?â€
Her partner didnâ€™t bother looking up. â€œA stripper from the Shake And Bake. I always thought it would be fun to be the pole for a walking pair of jugs, but I think Iâ€™m gettinâ€™ too old for that stuff.â€
He wasnâ€™t even forty. Nowhere near old, in brain or brawn, though his weary tone hinted at his recent late nights. Daniels had been edgy lately, pushing limits, taking risks. She couldnâ€™t say why. Nor could she say she wasnâ€™t worried about him.
â€œHard living. Youâ€™d better slow down.â€
â€œLook whoâ€™s talking.â€
â€œHey, my ass isnâ€™t hanging off a bar stool seven nights a week. And the only poles I see are the ones holding up the lights in the park where I run.â€
Markâ€™s lips twitched a little, though his position never changed. â€œI keep telling you Ron, a bodyâ€™s only got so much runninâ€™ in it. You better save it for our visits to the East Side. One of these days when youâ€™re chasing some banger, youâ€™re gonna run out of run.â€
Ahh, Daniels wisdom. What would she do without her daily dose of it?
Ronnie didnâ€™t have time to wonder, because theyâ€™d finally reached the turn-off for heavily barricaded 17th Street. Ignoring the glares of the pedestrians who grudgingly got out of the way, she turned and drove past a picket line of armed soldiers dressed in urban fatigues.
This was the only vehicular route into or out of the north quadrant of the area once called the National Mall. An area that had, just yesterday, in a ceremony full of as much pomp and ceremony as could be accomplished behind a wall of bulletproof glass, been rededicated by the president as Patriot Square.
The place had another name on the street. Just as most New Yorkers still called the 9/11 site Ground Zero, most people around here called this The Trainyard.
â€œStop the car,â€ a stern voice ordered as she slowly cruised toward the iron-and-barbed-wire fence. The voice had come out of one of the dozen body-armor wearing troops fronting the gate, every one of whom had a weapon aimed directly at her face. Talk about a welcoming committee.
Eight years ago, when sheâ€™d been just a rookie cop and the U.S.â€”more than a decade after 9/11â€”had seemed relatively safe, a flashed badge would have gotten her past any roadblock. Times were different now. Much different. So without a word, she threw the car into park, killed the engine, and put her hands up.
â€œLetâ€™s go,â€ she told her partner.
Daniels put his hands up, too, and opened his eyes. The bags under them spotlighted his weariness, not to mention his hangover. Ronnie was seriously going kick his butt later for showing up on the job in such a pathetic state, especially on a day like today, which was shaping up to be a really shitty one. Bad enough on any normal day when they were rounding up the latest gang-enforcer or Pure V dealer, Pure V being the hottest new street drug, a cheap variation of Vicodin. But it was much worse now, when they had to come to this side of town and undergo a thorough inspection.
After they had been given the nod by the sergeant in charge, they stepped out into the bright sunshine, and were each immediately approached by different security teams.
â€œSloan, D.C. Police,â€ she said as soon as one of the men reached her, his weapon still trained on her head. Another soldier stood directly behind his left shoulder, and a third was holding the leash of a thick-chested, sharp-toothed K-9.
Never lowering his semi-automatic, the first soldier held out his other hand. She passed over her badge and photo I.D., then moved away from the car for a thorough search. Both of the vehicle, and of her.
He examined her badge. The gun came down. But he didnâ€™t holster it. His mouth barely moving, and his face expressionless, he asked, â€œWeapon?â€
She nodded. â€œGlock. Rear holster.â€ Ronnie knew better than to reach back and offer it up herself, which was why she hadnâ€™t made any proactive move toward it before exiting the car. Her head would have been a slushy pile of brain and bone on the sidewalk the second these hard-nosed troops had seen a weapon in her hand.
â€œTake off your jacket.â€
She did, glad to lose the extra weight of the dark, city-issued clothing. Ronnie missed the way she had dressed during her early years as a detectiveâ€”the pre-2017 days of wearing street clothes on the job. But the way the whole country demanded confirmation and re-confirmation of every personâ€™s identity, she figured it wasnâ€™t surprising that every cop now had to be in uniform. All the way up to the Chief of the National Department of Law Enforcement.
Assuming a customary position, she went completely still, arms extended at her sides, legs apart. Without saying a word, the men got to work. One of the soldiers removed the 9 mm and spare clip off her back and stepped away to examine them. Another appeared out of nowhere with a digital scanner. He passed it over her upper arm like it was a can of beans at the grocery store, looking for the microchip that was implanted in the arm of every law-abiding American citizen.
The non-law-abiding ones didnâ€™t like them so much.
Neither did the civil rights fanatics who had been among the loudest screaming against the idea several years ago when the government had first tried to get its citizens to voluntarily submit to implantation.
Glancing at the data on the tiny screen, the soldier nodded toward the sergeant. â€œIdentity confirmed. Sloan, Veronica Marie, born Arlington, Virginia, January 5, 1993.â€
One step closer. But still not done.
Clipping a state-of-the-art, super-powerful sensor to his hand, the sergeant moved in beside her. He was so close she could feel his breath on the side of her face and smell the sausage heâ€™d had for breakfast.
â€œDonâ€™t move.â€ He bit the words out from a jaw so tight it could have been used to crack a walnut.
She was tempted to promise she wouldnâ€™t, but that would constitute moving her mouth and she really didnâ€™t want to get shot or clubbed today. So she just stood there waiting for him to finish.
Showing no emotion, he ran the miniscule device over her entire body, his hand less than a centimeter away from her clothes. If he got any kind of thrill off of scraping his palm across her nipples, he at least had the courtesy not to show it.
The metal detector trilled as it passed over her holster, the button of her pants, the microchip implanted in her arm, the hook of her bra, even the metal eyelets of her shoes. It also gave a soft beep as it moved near her right temple, which made him pause for a moment, double-check the reading, and tug her hair out of the way to study the side of her head. He obviously saw nothing…the incision had been tiny and right up against her hairline.
â€œIf you check my records, youâ€™ll see a code for that,â€ she explained, risking the mouth move.
The soldier stared at her, then stepped away to glance at his scanner screen. He might be curious about why she was authorized to proceed into highly secure areas when she obviously had some kind of unexplained metal in her head, but he was professional enough to not ask.
After a moment, he stepped back. His stare shifted to her face. A beat. Then he moved on.
â€œClear,â€ he said as he stepped back for the next part of the inspection.
The K-9 had just finished in the car. He now made quick work of sniffing her crotch, her ass, and anywhere else he could stick his nose to make sure she wasnâ€™t wired to blow herself up with some kind of bomb stuck into a body orifice.
When the dog was done, another soldier finished the job the old-fashioned way, feeling her up so thoroughly, she wished he had at least bought her a cup of coffee first. She didnâ€™t suspect heâ€™d appreciate the smart-ass comment, so she kept her mouth shut. These guys had a tough job to do, and she, for one, wasnâ€™t going to say anything to make their lives any harder. Or to piss them off.
â€œYouâ€™re authorized to proceed, Detective Sloan,â€ the sergeant said, returning her I.D. as the other guard returned her weapon. â€œYou know the way?â€
Tucking the I.D. in her pocket and her 9mm into its holster, she thought about his question.
Did she know the way?
Why was that such a difficult one to answer? She had been born and raised right across the Potomac, just a few miles from here. Sheâ€™d attended Georgetown University and currently lived a block away from Rock Creek Park. This was her town.
But the answer to his question was no. She hadnâ€™t been on these streets in a long time. Most Washingtonians stayed clear of this quadrant, the wounds still too raw, even after nearly five years.
Not that she was about to admit that. So she took a guess. â€œThe old security entrance off State?â€
He replied with a brief nod, then stepped away, watching every move she made as she re-entered the car. Daniels got in on the other side, buckled up and muttered, â€œJesus, I think that private just squeezed my dick harder than the stripper did last night.â€
She had to grin. â€œYeah. Join the club.â€
Driving through the slowly opening gates, still under the watchful eye of the troops, she barely noticed Markâ€™s evil chuckle. â€œJoin the club, huh? So, you telling me some of the guys at the precinct are right about what youâ€™ve really got in your pants?â€
â€œScrew you,â€ she shot back, her voice holding no heat.
She wasnâ€™t really offended by her partnerâ€™s jab. Ronnie knew better than anyone that a lot of the men she worked with hated her guts. First, because sheâ€™d turned a lot of them down. Second because she had made detective when some of the guys sheâ€™d gone to the academy with were still writing tickets. Third because most of them knew she could not be intimidated.
Fourth, most recently, because Ronnie had made it onto the Optical Evidence Program Investigative Squadâ€”O.E.P.I.S.. If testing went well, members of the newly formed, national-level unit would someday be in place in every law enforcement agency in America. For now, however, it was virgin territory. Only five-hundred investigators had been chosen from the entire countryâ€”a one-to-ten ratio to the five-thousand test subjects whoâ€™d had devices implanted in their brains as part of the Optical Evidence Program. So it was a highly sought-after assignment, even though few people actually knew the full scope of the experiment. Ronnie getting in hadnâ€™t earned her a lot of friendly thoughts back at the squad. Or in the whole D.C.P.D. Not that she cared. And not that it seemed to matter a bit, since she had yet to actively work on that kind of case.
The thought flashed through her mind, like it did every time she was personally called out on a case. So far, it hadnâ€™t happened. But today could be different. Considering she and her partner were heading out of their jurisdiction, by special request, and given where the victim had been found, this really could be the day. As a rush of nervous excitement shot through her, Ronnie took a deep breath to disguise it from Daniels.
She should have known his mind was still a few steps back. In her pants.
â€œYou know, just in case you forgot, partner, Iâ€™m here for you in any old way you need, including giving testimony about how much of a woman you are.â€
Her eyes narrowed. â€œCut it. Weâ€™re past that shit.â€
â€œI know, I know,â€ Mark said, his voice low. No longer laughing. â€œCanâ€™t say I donâ€™t think about it, though.â€
â€œStick to your strippers, Daniels. One freebie a life is all I give.â€
Her words werenâ€™t exactly true, since she still occasionally had a sex-only date with an old lover, just as a mutual stress reliever. But Daniels didnâ€™t know that. Nor would he. Because though he laughed and mouthed-off and flirted with her, deep down she knewâ€”had always knownâ€”that heâ€™d never stopped thinking about what had happened between them that October day in 2017. The entire world had changed in one sweep of the minute hand on a clock and theyâ€™d fallen into each otherâ€™s arms to sob over the horror of it. Theyâ€™d reached out to grab anything that felt human and alive. Sheâ€™d needed a pair of arms around her shoulders and heâ€™d needed a pair of legs around his waist and theyâ€™d both needed to fuck away the reality of the day.
It was a miracle their partnership had survived the crazy, unexpected sex in the squad car. Maybe if she hadnâ€™t fallen right out of public hell into personal one, with the discovery of just how much she and her family had lost in the tragedy, it would have been a problem. But because of that, Mark had segued right into concerned partner and friend, so theyâ€™d skipped the whole we-had-sex-and-what-are-we-going-to-do-about-it bullshit.
Ronnie was incredibly grateful theyâ€™d moved past it, and wouldnâ€™t let anything happen to disrupt their partnership again. Not even Markâ€™s seemingly inexhaustible need to try to get under the skirt of any woman in his line of sight.
Besides, if she ever did take him up on it, heâ€™d probably back up so fast his ass would come out his stomach. No way would Daniels risk their working partnership, not when it was so good, the pair of them having the highest case-closing percentage in the precinct.
â€œThis is weird, like science fiction weird.â€
She thought for a minute Daniels was still talking about them. But seeing the way heâ€™d craned forward in his seat to stare out the reinforced windshield, she knew what he really meant.
Because it was weird. Surreal, almost, to drive into what had once been a bustling, traffic-laden area overflowing with tourists and politicians, buses, dog-walkersâ€”and see no pedestrians. No cars. No vending trucks hawking ice cream or cheap souvenirs of the good old U.S. of A. made in the good old Republic of China.
Now there were primarily military vehicles and soldiers. Bulldozers and front-end loaders buzzed around the dozen construction sites dotting the entire area surrounding the reflecting pool. Overlooking all was a long, raised, enclosed, horizontal tube through which thousands of tourists passed every day, making the pilgrimage. A bunch of them were in there now, looking like bug-eyed fish in a tank as they stared through the Plexiglas while slowly rolling along the flat people-movers.
Science-fiction-like indeed. Sometimes, she still couldnâ€™t quite believe this wasnâ€™t a post-apocalyptic dream from which sheâ€™d awaken to find the country sheâ€™d known early on the morning of October 20, 2017.
Slowing for her turn, she spared a glance ahead and up, unable to prevent a gasp at the close-up, head-on view of the Washington Monument.
Her stomach rolled and rebelled. Her whole body clenched and she blinked several times to convince her brain she could handle it. Sheâ€™d seen the structure as it was being rebuilt, catching glimpses of it out of the corner of her eye from across the Potomac when she went down to Virginia to visit her mother. She just hadnâ€™t been this close in so long. Not since that day.
Hereâ€¦this was the place where her world had died. Everyone had one particular place that tortured them about 10/20. This was hers.
It was beautiful, though, she had to concede that. Tall, straight, inspiring. Ringed by American flags and fronted by a big, new bronze plaque from yesterdayâ€™s ceremony, it was brilliantly pale against the cloudless, blue summer sky.
The structure proudly proclaimed that monuments could be rebuilt and America could not be kept down. As the organizers of yesterdayâ€™s patriotism-personified Independence Day event had hoped, the simple obelisk was a vibrant symbol of all that was right with this country.
Still, she hated it. Loathed it with every fiber of her being.
She had to look away, concentrating on the site coming into view as she turned left onto State. It was a cement monster, rising out of the barren ground, encircled by scaffolding and surrounded by bulldozers and other heavy equipment. Taller on each end, with months worth of work still to be done in the center, it gave the appearance of an enormous, open-jawed beast, ready to snap up and devour anything above it, from a low-flying plane to an entire nationâ€™s dreams.
The east sideâ€”the only portion of the structure not completely destroyed in the blastsâ€”was farthest along. Congress had decided to repair and re-build from that point, rather than demolish what was left of the famous landmark and start from scratch. They said it was to maintain a link to the historic past. Personally, Ronnie figured seeing the last of it torn down would have been bad for public morale or something like that.
Whatever the reason, when all of this was finished, the east wing would be the famous one, the historical one. Not the west wing.
â€œIt hurts to look at it,â€ Daniels whispered, sounding serious for a change, almost wounded.
She nodded silently, understanding his reaction, and mirroring it. Because even after almost five years, seeing the decimated remains of the White House, where the president of her country had died, was still painful beyond imagination.