Blind Redemption by Denise Dearth and Amy Gillen
Release Date: 25 September 2015
Kidnapped and sold into the Chinese slave trade the survival of Annette Freder, the wife of University Chancellor, Charles Freder, depends on struggling psychic detective, Jackie Vaughn.
Crippled by grief over the unexpected death of her wife, Jackie deals with her anguish through pills and booze. While these coping mechanisms numb her pain, the growing addiction hampers her abilities, and places her health and livelihood in jeopardy. The missing person’s case of Annette Freder shifts Jackie’s focus, challenging her psychic abilities.
While on the job in China, Jackie finds herself with limited access to medication, resulting in bouts of withdrawal and depression. But that is just one of the many hurdles hindering Jackie in her quest to find Annette and return her to safety. Will corrupt police, maxed out credit cards, an ousted Greek intelligence officer assassin, and a revelation from an unexpected source prove too much for her?
Entangled deceit and unravelling lies Blind Redemption captures the essence of the human spirit and the power of redemption
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ANNETTE, A lanky, middle-aged Caucasian woman with hazel eyes, a smattering of freckles, and curly auburn hair, meandered, as if her spirit labored to exist. Hordes of mostly Chinese patrons maneuvered through wide concrete halls leading to meeting rooms and auditoriums featuring a variety of cultural festivities.
An elderly Asian woman winced, moaned, then slumped down in a wheelchair. Her tired almond-shaped eyes peeked out from behind a brimmed straw-braid hat that practically consumed her. Gesturing haphazardly for help she focused on Annette.
Annette greeted the older woman in Chinese and asked, “Are you okay?”
The old woman stifled a cry, reaching for Annette’s hand, their eyes locked.
“Ouch!” Blood oozed from a microscopic puncture swelling on Annette’s palm.
The woman sped the motorized chair down a crowded hallway lined with glassless mahogany doors.
“Wait!” Annette yelled.
She applied pressure to the wound and started out after the woman. One by one, conference-room doors swung open to throngs of participants in pursuit of the next venue. Entangled within the masses, people rushed by Annette, pushing her out of the way. A crescendo of panic immobilized her senses. She wanted to run but pangs of nausea negated the notion. She leaned against the wall; rubbing her eyes didn’t stop dense shadows from coming through the spectacle of an hourglass in the hallway. Voices once pronounced became garbled and distant.
As the crowd thinned, Annette became aware of approaching footsteps. Ceiling lights throughout the auditorium flickered off and on. A Chinese man she didn’t recognize squeezed her forearm. Her soft whimper lacked the force of the scream escalating inside. Although she thought her lips moved, her voice again fell still. She staggered, the numbness and a prickly pain in her feet unrelenting. The stranger remained silent, and with a detached confidence, he directed her down the corridor away from the festivities. Thoughts of her daughter, Cleo, swirled. Had she told Cleo she loved her before the trip? At the end of the hall, a door opened into a cramped dark room. The overwhelming smell of a musky-sweet scent, and ammonia mixed with dampness, intensified her pangs of nausea. A briny ocean aroma materialized from nowhere.
Strong hands pressing on Annette’s shoulders brought her down to the coldness of a vinyl chair, her feet landed on metal foot plates, chills shot throughout her body. Nervous oriental voices whispered. Warm sweaty hands gathered her fists and held them together with a vice grip as someone else bound her hands and feet with duct tape. A gray fleece blanket tucked around her body did little to ease the shivering. Her head slumped against her chest; heavy eyes drooped and focused on light filtering in from the bottom of the door. She strained to listen to inaudible chatter. What could they possibly want? A person standing behind Annette began twisting and gathering her loose curls, binding the hair with handfuls of bobby pins, a net cap concealing the handiwork. Two hard tugs secured a silver and grey long, straight wig.
The door shot open and the wheelchair with Annette in it moved swiftly forward toward the back of the arena. They passed by festival patrons and a few employees, all engrossed with a carefree life, or unconsciously deciding not to stare at the poor old soul in the wheelchair. They stopped at a small freight-elevator door and waited. The freight door opened with a jolt. A man reeking of citrus and ginger wheeled Annette inside. When the door didn’t close right away, he hit the elevator button so hard Annette hoped he’d broken it. She glared at the red emergency button. Tape squeezed against her wrist, the elevator clamored shut, and seconds later the door opened again. Two Asian men stood waiting. They wheeled her through a parking lot into a restricted delivery zone. A security guard stationed inside a white cube smiled at the men and looked away. He’s in on this. The men lifted Annette out of the wheelchair, and with a heave, she landed inside the back seat of a black cargo van. In an instant, the vehicle accelerated into traffic. With each aggressive lane change, Annette cursed. Twenty minutes into the ride the van entered a barren alley and stopped. Car doors slammed, another motor revved. The passenger door swung open and two men gathered Annette while another, dressed in black, leaned against the car with his arms folded. He flicked away a cigarette and calmly popped the trunk.
“Let me out of here,” she screamed, the demand coming out as a raspy whisper. She struggled with the tape, but her muscles refused to obey her mind’s commands. Her stomach lurched forward when the car took off.
“God help me,” she whispered.
JACKIE PARKED her ten-year-old sedan and walked across the street to a dingy gray limestone building with no windows. Pounding her fist on the locked metal door, she waited a minute and then pounded again until a younger black woman let her in to the tavern.
“I’m feeling red,” Jackie said, pulling herself onto the bar stool.
Darcy pulled a mug off the shelf and filled it with Irish Red beer.
Jackie took a small sip, then a larger gulp.
“Girl, you look like shit. The booze ain’t gonna help, you know,” Darcy said, quietly. “It ain’t gonna bring Loren back, and it ain’t gonna change the way things are.”
Jackie couldn’t escape the image in the mirror behind the bar. Windblown style might work for models but her short dark hair had a wavy hot-mess look. She almost didn’t recognize the mournful bloodshot brown eyes with dark circles and looked away as her cell phone played a cheerful melody.
“Hey, Warren, I’ll be there in a bit.”
“Mrs. Kelly is on the warpath. I need you here pronto, boss. She left a nasty message on voice mail, said she would be here within the hour.”
“She’s going to bitch about the bill. I’m on my way,” she said, clicking the phone off.
Darcy retrieved the mug and started to place it in the sink. Jackie smacked the bar and gestured for another draft.
An hour later, Jackie sat in her office and watched the thin blond woman pace the floor in front of her desk.
“My husband is cheating.”
“Mrs. Kelly, I’ve had your husband under surveillance for six weeks. He doesn’t have a girlfriend. This is good news.”
The woman turned on her, frowning. “Well, your investigation is wrong. What kind of accreditation is CDI?”
“I completed the Certified Detective Institute requirements fourteen years ago. I’m certified in Indiana and all other states to work with individuals and law enforcement on investigative procedures.”
“A certificate on the wall doesn’t mean anything.”
Jackie stifled a sigh. “Mrs. Kelly, we discussed all the possible outcomes when I took your case. I’m sorry you’re not pleased with the results, but I assure you—”
“You’ll get your damn flat fee, whether you deserve it or not. I should have known better.”
Mrs. Kelly spun on her heel and left the office, slamming the door behind her.
“Boss, you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Jackie assured her assistant. She choked down a persistent emptiness that kept her up at night and overwhelmed thoughts throughout the day. For relief she pulled out a prescription bottle from the desk, and when the lid relented, she popped a Xanax without benefit of water. “When will the life insurance rep reschedule?” she asked.
“I hadn’t gotten the chance to tell you. The rep left a message on the machine this morning. He said background checks are on hold because of company cutbacks. Sorry, boss.”
“Sorry doesn’t pay the bills,” Jackie said, rubbing her eyes. “Now I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get bitchy.”
“You’ve still got the teaching job, right?”
“Yeah. Thanks to the dream analysis class, I won’t go hungry, and we can keep this place going, so long as you can hang in there.”
“I’m good for a while, thanks to my police pension. Can you do some psychic readings to help with the cash flow?”
“I’ve never done readings, and I never will.”
The phone rang, interrupting their conversation.
“Vaughn Detective Agency, can I help you?” Warren asked.
“This is Drake Electric. Your account is in arrears, and this is a courtesy call before we disconnect.”
“I mailed that check last week. Check your records.”
Jackie sighed. They were running too close to the edge again. Thank God she had Warren, who was more valuable than gold. On one side, he kept the office going and managed to get all the bills paid and keep her credit record clean, in the event she ever needed to increase her card limit or get a loan. On the other side, he was a master at research, and the contacts he had within police departments often cut through a lot of red tape that would have delayed investigations.
Warren hung up the phone. “We’re clear.”
“Right,” she muttered. “I’m leaving for the day.”
JACKIE EDGED the car into traffic on Meridian Street and immediately saw the detour sign, directing traffic to one lane. She rolled down the car window. Water rippling under the old stone bridge paralleled with the bumper-to-bumper traffic of downtown Indianapolis. Traffic let up at Pennsylvania Avenue, and she slowed the car when the turn to her house approached. It had been over a year since the death, but Jackie couldn’t quell the guilt she felt, nor could she get over missing Loren. She had no desire to attend the theater or concerts the two had previously enjoyed together. Fixing a meal for one held no appeal. Loren was an executive chef and had enjoyed surprising Jackie with special meals for no particular occasion. Jackie tapped on the gas, passing the turn, opting instead for the neighborhood watering hole. A man driving a light grey SUV accelerated and followed.