Since a mental breakdown put him on medical leave from the squad he was once hand-picked to lead, Frank spends his days drinking and chain-smoking, and his nights waking up screaming from a horrific recurring nightmare.
Until one day, by chance, he stumbles on a monstrous plot to kidnap children.
When he shows up at the squad with his wild story, the guys pat him on the back and tell him to go home. But after the mother of one of the missing children commits suicide, Frank stamps down his demons, and together with the dead woman’s sister Rebecca, plunges into the case.
The clues lead to a shadowy cabal lurking behind one of the richest and most powerful Pharma corporations on the planet. When Frank finally unravels the mystery, the truth is more bizarre and deadly than he ever imagined, and telling Rebecca would put her life in danger. Soon even she comes to question his sanity.
The world needs to be warned of the treacherous plot. But can Frank stay alive long enough to find someone to buy his story?
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
It was a combination of thinking about how drug side-effects might play out in society, and the idea of a secret set of 'non-standard' people living hidden within 'normal' society.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main character, a homicide detective on stress leave, is a character who might not be believed, and who's driven to prove himself. He partners with a woman who not only helps him with his case, but helps him with his psychological problems.
It was Friday afternoon. Dinner was at 5:30. At 5:35 Frank Langer pulled up in front of his sister Janet’s house in the suburbs. At 5:40 he stood fidgeting in front of her door. At 5:42 he finally rang the doorbell. A few seconds later he was turning to leave when the door opened behind him.
“Frank! It’s so good to see you!” It was Janet’s voice. “I was afraid you wouldn’t show.”
Frank turned back and attempted a smile. “Hi, Sis. Long time no see.”
After a quick hug he stepped across the threshold and the door slammed shut behind him. It was hard to breathe; the air was thicker than outside, like the house had been pressurized. He tugged on his tie, trying to get his breath. Janet took his coat and he plodded after her down the hallway to the living room.
He glanced over at the couch and the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. Seated where he’d expected to find Janet’s husband Chuck, was a woman. She smiled and brushed back a lock of impeccably coiffed hair. Her skin was as smooth and immobile as a department store mannequin, and the colour of her eyelids matched her purple dress exactly.
He turned, hunting for an escape route, but his sister was blocking the hallway.
“Gloria,”Janet said, turning to the woman. “This is my brother, Frank. Frank, this is my friend Gloria Hanon. Gloria works with me at Garland Cosmetics.”
Gloria rose and presented her hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Hi,” Frank said, shaking the tips of her fingers.
Janet headed for the kitchen. “I’ve got to check on the roast,” she said. “You two get acquainted.”
Frank excused himself and followed her.
“What the hell is this!” he whispered when they were out of hearing. “You said dinner.”
“Don’t be mad, Frank. She’s just a friend. She’s lonely, like you…”
“I’m not lonely.”
“Sheila’s been gone for six months,” she said. “You’ve got to move on – get out there – start a new life. Gloria’s a single mother and…”
“You’re setting me up with a single mother!”
“Please don’t call it ‘setting you up’ – I’m just introducing you, that’s all.”
“What did you tell her about me?” he said. “Did you happen to mention that I’m a loony?”
“You’re not a loony, Frank. I wish you wouldn’t say things like that. I told her the truth – that you were on stress leave from the force.”
“For a year?”
She turned away and grabbed a dish towel off a rack by the stove. “What happened to you would be enough to drive anybody a little crazy. Then Sheila leaves you. You just need time, that’s all.”
“Why didn’t you say anything about this before?”
Janet stared at the tiles on the kitchen floor.
“You knew I wouldn’t come, right?”
“Sometimes you have to help people help themselves,” she said to the tiles. She turned back and looked up at him. “I know I should have told you. But please stay. You don’t ever have to see Gloria again if you don’t want to.” She smiled. “Just relax and we’ll have a nice time together.”
Frank glared down at his sister. She was trying to help him, as she always had.
“Okay,” he finally said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Forget about it. Let’s eat.”
There were four of them at the table: Janet across from Chuck, Frank across from Gloria.
"So how've you been doing?" Chuck said, digging into his mashed potatoes. "Any news about getting back with the squad?"
Chuck winced as Janet kicked him under the table. "Well, what do you want me to talk about?" he said.
"It's okay," Frank said to Janet.
He turned to Chuck. "I’m not thinking about that right now. But who knows? Maybe I'll make it back there someday."
"Gloria’s District Sales Manager at Garland,” Janet said, changing the subject. “We’ve been through some brutal marketing campaigns over the years."
“That’s very interesting,” Frank said. He wanted a smoke.
Janet and Gloria talked about work. The pressure from before intensified, as if he was sliding underwater. The lights in the room started to buzz and flicker. Gloria’s voice became muffled then faded away completely. He stared at her, hypnotized by the bare curve of neck connecting her head to her shoulders, and the movement of her silent lips. He laid down his knife and fork.
“Frank,” he heard somewhere far in the distance, and began to surface. He shook his head to clear it.
“Frank?” It was Janet. He scanned around the table. The others were staring at him. His clenched fists were trembling on the place mat in front of him.
“Frank, are you alright?” Janet said.
“I’m fine,” he said, warmth rushing to his cheeks.
All through dinner Gloria chattered on about her baby, Ralphie – how cute Ralphie was, how he was moving his head already, the lovable sounds he made. Frank half expected her to start in about Ralphie's adorable upchucks or bowel movements.
Frank had forgotten what a good cook Janet was, especially when it came to their mother’s favourites – comfort food from his childhood. He and Gloria had nothing in common, but beneath her paint job and annoyingly nasal voice, he could see that at heart she was a good person, who deserved love. It was sad, because he knew that she would never get that love from him. Anyway, he wasn’t even close to being ready for a relationship.
To Frank’s relief, they had no sooner finished an after-dinner drink when Gloria checked her watch. “My, it’s almost seven-thirty already. I’m sorry, but I have to be going.”
“Oh, what a shame,” Janet said.
Frank did his level best to look disappointed.
“Ralphie likes to be home and in bed by eight o’clock,” Gloria said. “He’s very particular.”
As if in response to her statement, an ear-splitting wail erupted behind the door of the spare room.
“Oh, Frank, you haven’t seen Gloria’s baby!” Janet said. “Here, come with us.”
Janet stood in the doorway, while Frank followed Gloria into the tiny room. A baby carrier rested on the bed. Frank moved next to the carrier and peered inside.
Ralphie had been screaming a few seconds ago, but now showed not the slightest hint of distress. It was as though he’d literally been calling for his mother, and now that she’d come there was no longer a need.
The child’s face shone like yellow wax in the halo of the table lamp. His eyes, strangely alert, scanned Frank up and down as if compiling a record for future reference. The eyes glowed with an inner fire, like a cat sizing up its prey.
“How old is he?” Frank asked.
“Three months,” Gloria answered.
“He seems very precocious.”
Her eyes opened wide. “Oh, yes! He surprises me every day with the clever things he does. I think he might be one of those ‘gifted’ children they talk about. The doctor said it’s too early to tell, but a mother knows…”
Frank caught a flash of white, as the glow from the lamp illuminated the child’s open mouth. He bent down to look. He could clearly make out two tiny stubs like white flower buds emerging from the top gum.
“Teeth,” he said, half to himself.
“Oh yes, two are coming in already,” Gloria said. “That’s very unusual. See – he’s special in so many ways.”
For some reason he couldn’t explain, the baby made Frank nervous.
“Well, that’s a beautiful baby you’ve got there,” he said, straightening up.
“Thank you, Frank,” Gloria said. “I sure think so.”
Links to Purchase Print Books
Link to Buy The Arx Print Edition at Amazon
Links to Purchase eBooks
Link To Buy The Arx On Amazon
I've traveled the world, passing through many places in the news today, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and the Swat valley in Pakistan. I've also worked at an amazing variety of jobs, from cab driver to land surveyor to accordion salesman to software developer.
I'm the author of six novels, and a number of short stories. Two new novels are in the works for 2021. My stories always skirt close to the edge of believability (but hopefully never cross over). I'm attracted to characters who are able to break out of their stereotypes and transform themselves.
I loves both reading and writing, both listening to and playing music, and working with animals. I'm crazy for any activity relating to the water, including swimming, surfing, wind-surfing, sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
I'm married and live in Vancouver, BC, Canada.