Series: Were-Leopard Series Book 1 Genre: Crime, Fantasy Publisher: Azure Spider Publications Publication Date: September 15, 2018
Spine-tingling were-leopard fun
Leopard’s Daughter is a markedly original crime novel with elements of the occult. In a world where vampires and werewolves exist, but are extremely rare, Bobby Sandar, his wife, Olivia, and their two oldest children are were-leopards. Bobby and Olivia are Secret Service agents. Following Bobby’s death, Olivia feels the need for a fresh start. She takes a job as a detective in the sheriff’s department of a rural western county. Olivia’s first assignment is to go undercover as an exotic dancer in a nightclub run by gangsters. She has to battle mobbed-up criminals, a terrorist leader who is aware of Olivia’s history and abilities, and human traffickers to save her family and herself.
“That’ll just give them one more hostage,” Kardmelli protested.
“I can be very persuasive,” Olivia said with a feral grin.
Kardmelli stepped back and shivered. The hairs on his arms and legs stood straight up. The pulse on his neck was beating a mile a minute. Nickford was standing hunched over with his eyes wide open and his lower jaw hanging down.
I scared the crap out of both of them, Olivia thought. Nickford looks as if he’s about to pee his pants.
Kardmelli started to speak, but then had to clear his throat. “We’ll do whatever you want,” he said.
“You are ready to do what we asked?” an accented voice asked when Kardmelli buzzed the galley with the intercom.
“We have a woman who wants to speak with you.”
“You know what we want. We will not talk to anyone else, especially a woman!”
“Please just let her in to talk to you. She won’t be armed. What can another five minutes matter?”
There was a brief pause, and the voice said, “She wants to come in here? We will allow that, but five minutes is all she will get until time starts again.”
“You must assure me you’ll allow her to leave if you cannot come to an agreement,” Kardmelli said in mild attempt to remove suspicion of a trap.
“Of course, of course,” the voice said. Olivia knew he was lying. He wouldn’t want to pass up the opportunity to get one more hostage.
Olivia entered the galley, now very crowded with eight people in it. The door was slammed shut behind her by a man holding a gun. The captain was lying on the floor, clearly dead, with his throat slashed. So much for their promise to release him. Two of the attendants were crying, being watched over by a second man, standing to the side, wielding a knife. The third attendant, more defiant, was being held by a third terrorist who had one arm wrapped around her body and a knife to her neck. He relaxed slightly when he saw how small the new hostage was.
Olivia quickly assessed the situation, and decided she could probably handle it without changing and all the crap that would ensue if a leopard were to suddenly appear, apparently out of nowhere. She took two steps toward the man holding the attendant. He looked her over. An evil grin came to his face.
Moving so fast she was a blur, Olivia grasped the arm holding the knife, twisting it and breaking the wrist, grabbed the knife as it fell, and plunged it into the man’s heart. She shoved the body toward the man with the gun, and leaped toward the third man, who was too stunned to react immediately. She took hold of his head using both hands and twisted violently, snapping his spinal column. She caught his knife before it hit the floor and threw it at the terrorist with the gun, now entangled with his dead companion.
He ducked away from the flying knife. That gave Olivia time to move forward, grab his gun, and yank it out of his hand, dislocating his elbow in the process. He screamed in pain. Before he could react in any other way, she broke both of his clavicles with a two-handed karate chop, keeping him alive for questioning, but rendering him helpless.
“Holy Mary Mother of God,” one of the attendants murmured. Her eyes were opened wide. Her pupils were dilated. She was taking deep breaths and her hands were shaking. Beads of sweat were on her face, even though the room was cool. “Who are you?” she croaked.
“Secret Service,” Olivia replied as she opened the galley door.
Book Tour Schedule
November 28 – December 11, 2018
Visit each tour stop daily and discover more features, excerpts, reviews, interviews, fun facts and more! To check the latest tour schedule, visit the Leopard’s Daughter Book Page at Book Unleashed.
About Stephen J. Tillman
Stephen Tillman is an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Wilkes University, where he taught for forty-two years, and holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Brown University. As most scholars of mathematics, Stephen has always dreamed of writing a novel. Although he started writing fiction relatively late in life, he is still younger than the folk artist Grandma Moses when she began her artistic career. Stephen is an avid reader of mysteries and science fiction and has published short stories in both genres.
He’s a special forces operator, a trained assassin. He marries into an organized crime family. Not an ordinary crime family, but one with a tradition and specialty in murder for hire.
About the Author
Howard Weiner is a recent addition to the literary genre of fiction. Writing mysteries, thrillers, crimes—with a touch of romance—an approach described by one reader as “one bubble off.”
Many authors sharing the genre have characters whose fortune is determined by others. They literally have dodged the bullet that otherwise would have killed them. Weiner’s characters make their own fortune—good or bad—and they live with the results.
Weiner’s own experiences are blessed with no small number of noteworthy characters and events. He brings these slightly off-kilter individuals to life, complete with their own stories and dramas. Like the child prodigy in his first novel, “It Is Las Vegas After All”, who comes to the starting edge of adulthood and then loses the approval of his doting parents, the sponsorship of one of America’s great institutions of higher education, and gains the enmity of his girlfriend’s father—an international arms dealer—to become a home-grown terrorist operating on U.S. soil.
A survivor of rich, nuanced bureaucracies in the public and private sector, Weiner writes about characters whose career choices and decisions are morally questionable. A student of personal behavior in complex circumstances, Weiner brings these often cringe-worthy characters to life. Some are amoral, others immoral in a narrow slice of their lives, yet they otherwise look and act like people we all know from work or even childhood. Like one of the female leads in his novel, “Serendipity Opportunity”, an out-of-the-box thinker who flunks most of life’s basic relationship tests, yet she is someone you never want pursuing you in the cause of justice. There’s a former foreign security official who uses his protected status as a witness for federal prosecutors to provide cover for his own mayhem and murder in Weiner’s third novel, “Bad Money”.
Many of Weiner’s stories are born out of real life events: The mix-up in luggage claim at the airport in, “Bad Money”, the chronic high school slacker in “Serendipity Opportunity” whose one stroke of good fortune creates his opportunity to perpetrate a complex series of frauds, or the brilliant student in “It Is Las Vegas After All” who uses his prodigious talents toward an evil end.
As a former federal official, Weiner can neither confirm nor deny having the highest security clearances in classified security programs. Yet, his knowledge of the dark web, criminal organizations, and security organizations takes stories from the popular press to the next level.
Young radio reporter Lisa Powers has a lot to learn, but in her zeal to cover the big city crime beat, finds herself facing down criminals in addition to reporting on them.
From the dark streets of the metro Phoenix area to the peaceful red rocks of Sedona, Lisa dodges bullets investigating the cold case of a kidnapped bank executive found murdered, and discovers horrors she never imagined while tracking down a missing father.
She’s first on the scene of a massive fire that destroys the opulent mansion of a reclusive pharmaceutical heir, but her career is jeopardized when the story gets way too hot.
Young radio reporter Lisa Powers follows her hunches to help solve criminal cases, but at the risk of denying her own emotional health.
She comes face to face with a suspected cop shooter, but refuses to admit how the harrowing experience continues to haunt her.
She’s resolute in the search for a violent rapist in a 15-year-old cold case, unwavering in her mission to bring closure to the tormented young woman who was sexually abused when she was four.
Lisa introduces “L.N. Pane, P. I,” the lead podcast character in a 1940s film noir saga of a gritty female gumshoe gunning to finger someone trying to bump off a gent.
MONDAY, APRIL 8
“ … with mostly sunny skies and an expected high of about 87 today. More news from KWLF News Radio right after this.”
It’s still dark outside KWLF-FM, a small radio station in Chandler, Arizona, and I’m the only one at work at the ridiculous hour of 4:45 a.m. Most 20-somethings I know would’ve been out partying last night and would be sleeping in or at least going to work at the normal time of 8 or 9. I’m sitting here in this tiny anchor booth, all by myself, these headsets smashing my long hair, talking into a mic, probably to no one. I mean, who is up listening to the radio except for insomniacs and maybe the few surviving farmers in this mostly urban area?
Time for a commercial. I touch a button and music starts, followed by a male announcer’s voice hawking cars for a used auto lot.
I gingerly push an antiquated square audio cart into the machine. One of these days we’ll get real digital equipment. Of course, I think that every time I handle a piece of this older KWLF equipment, afraid it will crumble in my hand and we’ll go off the air and…
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Grant Pope, our news director, enter from the back of the station. He takes off his hat and sticks it on a coatrack near the door. I wave, he waves back, but he looks tired as he heads to his desk. He’s a short, thin man, with graying hair and a lot of lines on his face. These days his step isn’t as springy as it used to be, and is he actually having trouble sitting down onto his chair?
He’s been an institution here for more than 20 years, and one who has a “nose for news.” I hear he came up through the ranks in the early days of radio as a reporter, anchor and then news director. He still writes frequent news stories, but several of my co-workers and I wonder when he’s going to retire. He looks up, but I pretend I wasn’t staring at him.
Another 30 seconds. I thumb through the news stories, change the order. The music and announcer’s voice ends, and I turn my attention back to the microphone.
“This is KWLF news. I’m Lisa Powers, filling in for Pat Henderson. In this exclusive KWLF story, an East Valley woman says her father is missing, and she suspects foul play,” I read from my script. “Joan Rogers-Hartley says her dad, 67-year-old Mark Rogers, took off early Sunday morning to drive to Northern Arizona for a bird watching trip—but never arrived. According to her, she thinks something is very wrong.”
I tap a red button on the cart machine marked ROGERS-HARTLEY SOT, which starts Joan’s voice.
“He was supposed to meet some friends of his in Clarkdale, where they were going to look for northern cardinals and red-winged hawks for a couple of days,” Hartley says, sniffling. “But they said he never made it.”
I continue. “Rogers-Hartley says Chandler police are quote ‘dragging their feet,’ unquote. KWLF Radio will follow this story and bring updates throughout the day. Anyone with any knowledge of the whereabouts of Mark Rogers is asked to call police.
“In other local news, the Chandler City Council meets in study session tonight to discuss rezoning of a large parcel of land initially slated for commercial development to be changed to residential. Grant Pope has details.”
I hit a button and Grant’s voice is heard. I lean back and listen.
Grant opens the door to the booth and pokes his head in.
“Was that missing man story on the wire?”
Uh-oh, I knew he’d ask that.
“Nope, the daughter called last night while I was here working on another story.” I could tell by Grant’s frown he wasn’t pleased. “I know, I know, we don’t usually do missing person stories until the police are called in, but that woman was really spooked. She seriously thinks he’s in trouble. And we did get the exclusive…”
“All right, stay on it.”
Yes! “Of course, I’ll follow up as soon as Pat gets here. He is going to be in today, right?”
“As far as I—”
I hold up a finger to indicate silence, as the tagline “Grant Pope for KWLF Radio” is heard. As Grant slips out the door, I turn back to the mic and continue to read more news.
About the Author
Laurie Fagen is a long-time “writer by habit” who has written for radio and television news; corporate video, films and documentaries; and magazines and newspapers.
An honorable mention in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine’s Mysterious Photograph short story contest and a life-long love of reading whodunits led to three published short stories in Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths Chapter anthologies. She’s published two crime fiction mystery novels, “Fade Out” and “Dead Air,” and has book #3, “Bleeder,” in her “Behind the Mic” mysteries out in Spring 2018, along with a “Tawnee Mountain Mysteries” multi-author series novella called “Deadly Misfire,” also due in Spring 2018.
Former publisher of a Chandler, AZ community newspaper with her late husband, Geoff Hancock, she is also a jazz singer and artist.
A member of Sisters in Crime (SinC), Fagen lives in the Phoenix metro area.
When asked to look into the death of a man in a town known for pagan connections, Haszard quickly makes progress, and it isn’t long before matters become dangerous. With little to work with, Haszard makes progress, yet the task is a daunting one, and not everyone he encounters is friendly.
Collating interesting and significant information from various sources along the way, Haszard has to link factors linked with the past, and as he does so, he realizes that in order to save someone from certain death, he is in a race against time.
Other Books in A Haszard Narrative Series
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
Unfortunate in life and unlucky in love, the mysterious Haszard is intrigued by the death of an acquaintance at the local hospital, in which he works. Suspicious about the circumstances, he begins to look into the matter, meeting the woman of his dreams along the way.
After joining forces a local businessman, he speaks to a number of people, discovering irregularities in the life of the murdered woman. As he makes progress, he realises that the key to the matter lies in the dark and murky world of drug dealers, and has to face the possibility that the killer may well be someone he knows . . .
MAPS, LEGENDS AND MISDEMEANOURS
When asked to frame an old map, Haszard discovers that it’s linked to lost valuables from the past. Intrigued, he begins looking into the legend, discovering there to be cryptic clues on the map that must be deciphered. Unfortunately, though, Haszard isn’t the only person interested in the whereabouts of the missing items, and the other contingent resorts to violent tactics, which leads to a chilling climax . . .
PHOENIX FROM THE FLAME
When told by a former colleague that she saw her dead husband walking around a quaint market town, Haszard’s curiosity is engaged. As he begins to look into the matter, he unearths a number of facts that lead him to believe that there’s more to the sighting than merely a dead man walking. Also, there are people who are prepared to kill for something that’s worth a lot of money . . .
THE HEIRLOOM REPOSITORY
Haszard is asked to look for a family’s missing inheritance. Guided by words provided by a medium, he goes about the case with his typical fervour. Side-tracked by other matters, and spooked by a mysterious man in the woods, Haszard soon comes to realise that he isn’t alone in his quest, and persons unknown are not afraid to kill . . .
RACE FOR THE PRIZE
When on holiday with his friends, Haszard sees a girl who went missing a number of weeks previous. Fuelled with his usual determination, he sets about looking into the matter, although all is not as it appears, and it isn’t long before matters become eventful.
Having befriended a local artist, Haszard moves closer to an answer, yet the odds are stacked heavily against him. In order to win through, he must endure his most arduous and perilous challenge yet . . .
NO REASON FOR INSANITY
Intrigued by the bizarre events surrounding the murder of a friend, Haszard is asked by the family to look into the matter. Against the advice of his friends, he begins making enquiries, and is disturbed when he realizes that it may well be someone he knows. As progress is made, further events occur, endangering the life of Haszard and his friends, and he is forced to delve into the deepest recesses of his resourcefulness . . .
Driving away we agreed that a chat with Ed Loughmann, a friend of ours who owned a number of pubs, clubs, and gyms, along with a security protection service for the local businesses, would be of value. My immediate thought was to look obviously at what had been said, therefore finding out something about Paul Tudor should be the first move. If anyone could find out anything about him, it would be Ed. Once we had some facts on the table, we’d then be able to look at the situation differently.
Another immediate thought was the fact that Dean had been in Lamesford, a place that he was unfamiliar with. With him being a creature of habit, this threw up a major question, possibly even being the key to the entire affair; however, it was far too early for blind conjecture.
Our destination was a pub owned by Ed—the Railway Tavern, the jewel in Ed’s crown. A grand old building in the area of the main rail depot, the Tavern stood out as out of place. Ed had refurbished every aspect of the establishment, from the interior and exterior decor through to the catering, which was among the finest around.
After parking up we made our way in to see Ed sitting at his usual table, grinning as we approached. Ed was ex-British Special Forces, and in his early forties. He had short light-brown hair, and stood at around six feet, his features somewhat rugged, though they brightened considerably when he smiled.
“Sabrina, you survived the weekend with this lunatic. Congratulations,” Ed said, raising himself, holding a seat out for Sabrina, and leaving me to fend for myself as always. Ed was an imposing figure, feared by the local criminals. He ran a security service for local businesses and select private residences. “No mishaps or misdemeanors we should hear about?”
“Other than eyeing the waitress up, no,” Sabrina said, smiling at me.
“I was only returning her admiring glances,” I defended. “Is it my fault I’m irresistible? Who’s for a drink?”
Ed told me what he’d like, and I returned minutes later to see Ed with a serious expression. “Sabrina’s told me. Why don’t you leave this one alone?” He paused and looked around the room. “Did you hear that? That was the sound of me wasting my breath!”
I grinned. “I don’t think there’s anything dangerous this time.”
“Haszard, you say that every time, and every bloody time it gets worse,” Ed said bluntly. “What’s more, this happened in bloody Lamesford of all places!”
“I don’t know Lamesford; what’s it like?’ I said, realizing that I’d regret asking.
“It’s full of inbred bloody sheep-shaggers that still consider cows lying down as a weather forecast. They’re all as mad as March hares, worshipping and sacrificing God alone knows what!”
“It can’t be that bad,” I said, suddenly thinking back to the name. Lamesford, I should point out is actually pronounced lambs-ford. I thought, there can’t be anything in that, surely.
“I’ve heard a few things about it,” Sabrina said. “I’ve a cousin who lived there. She didn’t for long. She couldn’t get away fast enough.”
I shook my head. “All we’re doing is finding out why he was seen in Southington at the moment of his death. If anything, we’ll be concentrating our efforts there.”
Ed didn’t look convinced. “If laddo did the big splat in Lamesford, I’d say that Lamesford is where you’ll be looking, unless Old Nick had a hand in it, of course.”
“Ed!” Sabrina snapped. “Dean was the brother of an old friend of mine!”
Ed held his hands up. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I can’t see his death having anything to do with Southington, that’s all.”
“I suppose you’re right,” I said, “but I’ll have to bear Southington in mind. It may hold the key as to why he was seen by another party, but why he was killed—well, that’ll be another matter. Maybe it is something to do with Southington, maybe it isn’t. You putting the feelers out on this Paul Tudor would come in handy, though.”
Ed raised his eyes to the heavens. “How did I know that was coming? When do you want the info for?”
“Tomorrow would be great,” I said.
“No pressure, then,” Ed said with a wry smile. “On one condition.”
“We’ve a twenty-twenty match next Friday. You’re captain.” For those not in the know, twenty-twenty is cricket.
I smiled. “You just try stopping me.”
I thought back to Grace’s call and the request for Phil to pick her up from Cardiff. “Ed, can you get Phil to call Grace? She wants him to pick her up from the airport and says to take his overnight bag. Apparently, there’s a party on.”
Ed grimaced and sighed heavily. “If it’s anything like the last one, we may not see him for a few days, and I need my members of staff here.”
“I’m sure it won’t be for long,” I said.
Ed looked me in the eye. “Haz, that bloody mad woman creates chaos wherever she goes. Yes, Phil has a few days of leave, but I’d like him compos mentis when he gets back. Whoever has shares in rubber, I’d say they’re in for a decent payout. Anyway, now for some good news, your car should be ready in the next week or so. I had a sneak preview and it looks better than it ever did.”
“Great,” I said excitedly. My car was badly damaged due to a fire a month or so back. I used to work part-time at the hospital and spend the rest of the time at my shop, but I’d been working in theatres full-time of late, having to use Sabrina’s cabriolet, or Grace’s V12 five hundred-horsepower rocket of a car, when I wasn’t cadging lifts here and there. “Ed, I could kiss you.”
Ed shook his head. “Haz, I know how much you love that roadster, but there’s no need to come across as a bloody pansy.”
About the Author
Kevin E. Hatt is the author of the Haszard series of narratives. His interest in writing began at school, and he carried it on into his twenties, writing for fun. He wrote the first two Haszard stories in the late eighties, but shelved the project until 2009, when he revived and updated it, going on to write seventeen stories. With the stories having been well received by friends, Kevin published the first five books, and after good reviews is furthering the project.
In 1984 he commenced his training as an Operating Department Practitioner, rising to the height of deputy head, before leaving the profession in 1999 to pursue his other love, that of art. Kevin worked as an art consultant, demonstrator, teacher, retailer and framer, but returned to the medical profession in 2010. His main passions are cricket, running, humour, ale and curries. He lives with his wife of twenty-five years and his twenty-three-year-old daughter. Kevin has never been to Ipswich. Or Scunthorpe.
Danny Lahti had it all: fame, fortune, friends, love – and an obsessed stalker.
Obsession can be a powerful curse. What happens when you think your world is perfect, but someone behind the scenes is determined to test you in every way possible? As the clock ticks toward the year 2000, Danny’s world starts unraveling without explanation. An unknown hacker unleashes a digital attach on his Internet company just months before its public debut. A prowler attempts to break into his historic mansion which houses, according to Hollywood rumor, secret vaults. A long-time friend goes missing. Is it all coincidence, or are these just the first feats by a crazed admirer determined to force the truth from Danny?
And what is the truth? The complicated days that follow force Danny to have another look at his own relationships, misdeeds, and damaged past. But will he ever learn the lesson that will satisfy the devil who taunts him?
C H A P T E R O N E
Twenty minutes to midnight, and the ice on the frozen lake outside cracked. The loud reverberations of winter echoed through the night and invaded Danny Lahti’s peace.
Danny was prepared to let time move forward in whatever incremental way it chose. At that moment . . . sitting on a sofa in an enormous room near midnight . . . huddled within a century-old hunting lodge of a long-dead lumber tycoon . . . on the shoreline of a lake nearly forgotten in the isolated woods of northern Wisconsin, Danny Lahti was not concerned about the potential for a technological apocalypse as time turned to the year 2000.
But he did feel on the brink. Something was about to happen. Things should change; they needed to change. He couldn’t really say why. Danny never felt he was the introspective type. But he had always felt connected to a larger universe, one in which he received premonitions of what was to come.
The end of the century. Or maybe the start of a new millennium. It depended on the pundit. But computers only knew what they were programmed to know, and they weren’t programmed to deal with changing from 1999 to 2000. Maybe early computer scientists never thought about a century starting anew. December 31, 1999 could prove an existential threat. They called it “Y2K.” Who knows, maybe every generation deserved its opportunity to restart the clock.
For Danny, his past was too painful, but the future felt too uncertain. In a way, his life could be the snowdrift-covered lawns that surrounded this house. On the surface, the drifts were unblemished and glistening in the weak moonlight. But beneath their surface, under the shapeless accumulated flakes, were the remains of years of living. If Danny had the time and the tools and the energy, he could shovel his way into discovering the dead flowerbeds, the abandoned lawn furniture, and the century’s worth of trails across the grounds. But who could be bothered? Eventually, the warm sun of spring would surely melt the snow. Just wait. The past would be exposed.
Danny had always been the kind of person willing to wait. When he was only twelve, his mother committed suicide and he found her dead body. He waited then, always expecting someone would eventually arrive to explain what had happened and why. When his father withdrew into a hermit-like life that barely acknowledged his adolescent son’s existence, Danny still waited. Someone would surely make his father forget his dead wife and remember his child. He was still waiting.
And when Josh came into his life, promising an escape from these cold woods into the warm, loving life of the Los Angeles sun, Danny followed and waited for Josh’s direction.
He waited. He always had. Perhaps he always would. It was his nature not to rebel and not to question, to try to be good and not rock the boat. A new year, a new century, a new millennium, not even “Y2K” could change that. Because Danny Lahti had never been able to find the energy to grab the reins of his own life. And he didn’t intend to start now. And yet something was changing. He felt it.
The ice cracked again. Nineteen minutes to midnight.
Dennis Frahmann is a former journalist and marketer,who now resides in Cambria, CA. He is the author of two other novels: Tales from the Loon Town Cafe and The Finnish Girl.