The Mind Sleuth Series #6
Date Published: 05-02-2023
Publisher: Mind Sleuth Publications
Bullied to death in the boardroom?
Private Investigator Rebecca Marte doubted it. Since when would the
president and CEO of a highly successful company find the criticisms of his
subordinates so destructive to his self-image that he would commit suicide?
That, however, was what her new client, Nicole Veles, claimed.
Nicole painted a toxic, if not criminal, picture of defamation leading up
to the man’s death. His problems were more than just the
company’s bottom line. They ranged from public ridicule of some of his
out-of-date marketing concepts that had been leaked to the press to a police
report from a young man who claimed the president and CEO had propositioned
him. And after his demise, one of his most vocal detractors ascended to his
position. That was enough to raise Rebecca’s suspicions. She took the
But as she began her investigation, hints that Nicole’s beliefs were
tainted by her history became difficult for Rebecca to ignore. Two years
earlier, Nicole had been kidnapped, and she still bore the mental and
emotional scars of abuse and captivity. She’d cut all connections to
her friends and fled her past by relocating to Colorado where no one knew
her. She took a job where long-term relationships were impossible, save one
stubborn older woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer—and who
just happened to be the wife of the suicide victim
While everyone else thought the man’s death, while tragic, was just
the consequence of high-pressure business and depression over the loss of
the company he had founded, could Rebecca trust anything to the contrary
that her new client told her?
“Tension is well-developed, whether it's psychological revelations
that involve Rebecca more deeply in her client's life than she'd imagined,
the wedge between client and investigator driven home by the victim’s
wife, or the probe of a business structure that supports dangerous
-Midwest Book Review
It’s not what you look at that matters,
it’s what you see.
Henry David Thoreau
American naturalist, poet, and philosopher
FRIDAY, MARCH 26
Midnight, Jen’s Place, Lone Tree, CO
Conditions were far from ideal for what Kyle Logan had in mind.
He pulled a pint of whiskey from a back pocket and leaned on the front
fender of his battered brown pickup truck to consider his options. His gaze
tracked up and down the lonely road. Empty, as he expected at this hour. So,
he tipped his head back for a long pull on the bottle, his gaze following
the tilt of his head. The moon, although only three-quarters, shone like a
searchlight, its rays unfettered by the thin cold air of the high
His eyes came back down to the ghostly outline of a massive old house
across the road, previously the home of a local rancher. Now, it was
Jen’s Place, a temporary shelter for survivors of domestic
In the front, a porch ran the length of the building. Two sconces carved
arches of light in the darkness cast by the porch’s roof. Their rays
revealed two doors—a larger main entrance to the shelter and a smaller
door well to its right. Otherwise, the porch lay in shadows, the windows
mere rectangles of still darker voids. Having seen the structure by day,
however, Logan was under no illusion that the feeble rays of those two bulbs
were the only security for the building. He’d seen two
cameras—motion-sensitive no doubt—on each corner of the
structure. There were almost undoubtedly other cameras on the sides and back
of the building.
A gravel driveway cut through a xeriscape yard, ending in a circle in front
of the house. The native shrubs and grasses of the plot were brown and
brittle from the long winter, matching the vacant lots on either side of the
building. The area behind was undeveloped, although whether it was just
waiting for a new housing project or was part of the Colorado Open Space
Alliance, Logan didn’t know. And he didn’t care because the wind
that might have covered the sound of his approach through the dry
landscape—a wind that had howled down from the mountains or across the
face of the front range most of the month—was eerily quiet.
Yes, the conditions were far from ideal. But since the shelf life of
Logan’s information was limited—probably measured in hours
rather than days—he had to act soon. And since he couldn’t
hasten the new vegetation of spring or command the wind to blow, tonight was
as good a night as any. He drained the bottle of whiskey and tossed the
empty into the bed of his pickup.
“To hell with sneaking around,” Logan snarled into the
darkness. He pulled a knife from its cover, admiring the sheen of the blade
in the moonlight. Growing up, knives had been his weapon of choice against
his peers who always seemed bigger and stronger. Now, it would serve him
well once inside.
But to get beyond the front door, he needed another of his tools. He
returned the knife to its sheath, walked to the back of his truck, and
lowered the tailgate. Laying on the bed was a post driver—a
thirty-inch, weighted section of pipe with handles used to drive metal posts
into the ground. Though lighter than the equivalent law enforcement
battering ram, it was much cheaper and considerably less incriminating. And
unless the new owner of the ranch house had seriously upgraded its door, the
driver would work. He picked it up and quietly closed the tailgate.
As Logan started up the drive, lights mounted below the cameras came on.
The beams overlapped on the drive, and Logan had to pause a moment to shade
his eyes with a hand. He broke into a slow jog. His quickened pace
wasn’t to limit his time in view of the cameras. After all, before the
night was over, it would be clear to everyone who had visited the home.
There would be no doubt because, one way or another, he’d be leaving
with what was rightfully his.
Logan hit the porch steps at a full run, only slowing to ready his
makeshift battering ram. He slammed it into the door just above the knob.
The door held although he could hear the frame crack. He hit it again and
the door exploded inward, splinters from the shattered wood flying across
the entry hall. He dropped the post driver on the floor and pulled the knife
from its sheath.
There were rooms on the right and left with their double doors open. Their
interiors were dark, but even so, Logan could tell they were large communal
areas with chairs, couches, and desks. Beyond the doors, the hall split with
a stairway on the left while a narrower hall continued on the right toward
the back of the house. From his surveillance earlier in the day, he knew he
wanted a room in the front right corner of the second floor. He took the
stairs two at a time, reversed direction on the landing, and sprinted to the
door. He turned the knob. Finding it unlocked, he burst inside and switched
on the lights.
A woman was sitting up in bed, covers gathered up around her neck. Her eyes
blinked under a hand that partially shaded them, her understanding of the
situation coming slowly. But when it did, she screamed. Logan sprang forward
and slapped her hard across the face. With her head turned from the force of
the blow, he grabbed her roughly by the hair, sat beside her, and held the
knife in front of her eyes. She froze, her sobbing the only sign she was
“What the hell am I going to do with you, Linda? I thought after the
last time you’d forget all this crap. You belong at home. With me.
What do I have to do to make you see that?”
“Please don’t hurt me,” Linda whimpered.
“I’ll do better.”
“Like hell, woman.” Logan raised his hand again, this time
slowly closing it into a fist. He drew his hand back.
“Don’t you dare touch her,” came a voice from behind him
About the Author
Until ten years ago, I was a human factors psychologist doing research on
cutting edge technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence
at a major aerospace company. The aim? Fit these technologies to the way
people learn, remember, and do their jobs, not the other way around. But if
the world can be shaped to work with us, it can just as surely be molded to
Now, I’m an author writing “The Mind Sleuth Series”,
stories where the evil side of research and science too often surface.
Sometimes the devastation is unintentional. Sometimes, it’s motivated
by greed or passion, but it’s always a race to see if and how my
heroes—Doc, Nicole, Rebecca—can turn the tide.
For special features, giveaways, and previews of my upcoming books,
subscribe to my newsletter at brucemperrin.com.
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