THE UNFORGOTTEN

 

Only the most determined, or the most damaged, will ever uncover secrets of the most evil…

 

Alison White is crippled by grief after losing her only child, David to cancer. Unable to deal with the disabling grief, she feels isolated in her marriage, rejecting her husband Michael’s attempts to seek religious counselling. The situation deteriorates further when her job as a SOG officer is threatened after an operation she was responsible for goes wrong. Alison is sidelined, working cold cases until she clears a psychological assessment.

 

Angry, isolated and fighting depression Alison throws herself into her work, discovering some of the disappearances have chilling similarities, missed in the initial investigation. She digs deeper and finds links to a strange group known only as ‘The Way to the Light’. Alison builds a tantalising picture of the group and its mysterious, charismatic leader, Adrian Lazar.

 

Alison’s desperate need to know her son is safe and happy in the afterlife leads her to blur professional boundaries. Alison reaches her limit and is lured by Adrian Lazar into leaving her life to find the answers she desperately seeks.

 

But as Alison quickly discovers, the group has a dark and deadly purpose at odds with its simple life and altruistic philosophy, and she’s already under suspicion.

 

Men, women and children are chosen to ‘ascend to heaven’ by Adrian Lazar who claims to know the ‘correct’ time for his followers to die and join their loved ones in the bliss of heavenly life. However, Alison discovers Lazar’s real purpose. 

 

Without knowing how to contact the outside world, where she is being held or how to escape the village, Alison must stop Lazar from murdering hundreds of people. But Lazar foils her attempts and sets his sights on her ‘ascension’.

An Excerpt From: THE UNFORGOTTEN

Copyright © CHARMAINE ROSS, 2016

All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.

 

“You coppas get your arses off my lawn or I’ll shoot ’er. You hear me? I’ll shoot her head right off.”

 

Allison’s fist clenched around the butt of her M-4 carbine, giving her comfort. The figure of her target disappeared behind the locked screen door into the depths of the standard three-bedroom brick veneer in Doveton. At first glance, it was one of many similar houses on the street. However, the front yard the dirt-bag inside called a lawn took many years of neglect to achieve. Tufts of scraggly couch-grass decorated otherwise bare dirt. A hot wind barely lifted strands of the tough grass, the fierce heat too strenuous for a breeze to be bothered. The only green grass to speak of was a patch beneath the rusted-out husk of a Ford, slap-bam in the middle of the front yard.

 

It took a special type of man to shit where he lived. It also took a special type of arsehole to bail up his ex-wife and child at gunpoint. It was this special brand of male that made her blood boil hotter than the stifling heat of the sun that had been cooking her shoulders for nearly four hours.

 

Her long ponytail was stuck to her skull, soaked with perspiration beneath her helmet. Luckily she kept herself fit. Long runs and hours at the gym paid off for her job. She had to be constantly fit and always ready for whatever the day brought. And today it was dealing with a dirt-bag father who kept his ex and son hostage on a blistering hot day.

 

Four shitty hours and her target had kept yelling obscenities to anyone who was listening. It had been awhile since the wife stopped crying. At first she’d hurtled obscenities back at her ex, using the English language with as much finesse as he did. Then she’d crumpled into muffled sounds of crying. The rottweiler in the backyard had stopped yapping its throat out, the heat even too much for the animal.

 

Allison hoped like hell the kid inside was holding up okay. She’d got the intel. One boy. Eight years old. Domestic situation. Father had come to pick the boy up for his weekly visit, saw the current boyfriend sitting on the couch with his son and went psycho, punched the boyfriend who went straight to the local cops. It had escalated from there.

 

Her orders were to help defuse the situation without casualties. In reality she didn’t give a shit about parents like these. The kid would be better off without them. So many other people deserving of children. So many people who would do anything to have a child, and these were the type of breeders the human race sprang up time after time. The thought made her wince.

 

Allison blinked away the sting as a bead of perspiration trickled into her eye. She remained locked in her position, guarding her little corner of the house. The sun had wound its way across the sky and hit her full tilt. She was pressed to bricks, shoulders locked to keep the gun from sliding from her perspiring hands. Gun ready, finger flexed to unlatch the safety clip. She fondled the well-worn butt, liking the feel of it against her palm. Someone once told her she should have been a model, not a cop, but then she wouldn’t get to have a gun in her hands every day and God she loved her job. It was all she had nowadays. She was thankful she was as tall as most of the men on her team. It made keeping up with them easy. Where they were stronger, she was lean, although her recent weight-lifting regime had helped sculpt muscle on her otherwise slender limbs.

 

The kid had to be going crazy in there. It was hot outside but it must be torture inside. His father had cut the electricity, which had wiped out the air-conditioning. As far as she could determine, the mother and son were locked in the small bedroom without even the shade from a tree to stop the beating sun.

 

The kid could be dying of dehydration while they all waited outside to negotiate. This was bullshit. They should have been in there three hours and fifty-five minutes ago. Five minutes was more than enough to negotiate with a man who kept his own child hostage. Get in, get the kid, get out. Simple.

That’s how Captain Mike Jones should be looking at it. He was a new captain for the team, but they’d often crossed paths on the job before. A couple more hostage situations like this, and he’d send her blasting in no problems. But he was by-the-book. Testing his dick out in his first position of power. He’d learn. If he wasn’t such a pussy, she’d have been the first in the door and the kid wouldn’t be inside suffering with the likes of two half-brained parents.

 

Allison’s gaze remained wary, flitting from the door, to the windows, to the police behind their vehicles across to the street. She was still, but she was so ready to move her heart hadn’t stopped racing since she’d set foot in the yard.

 

The waiting was beyond excruciating. Mike was behind the foremost police car speaking with the negotiator, the boyfriend silently going out of his mind next to them. Allison sneered. Mike glanced at her and she gave him the hand gesture indicating action. He shook his head, keeping his gaze locked with hers. She gestured that she should go inside. Again he shook his head, exaggerated this time. Indicated to halt. Wait. She hissed out a breath between her teeth, bringing her gaze back to the front porch and keeping the gun steady in her hands.

 

There was a hollow thump from deep inside the house. A raised male voice cursing. A woman’s scream, muffled then cut. Silence. Then the kid started crying. The tinny taste of blood spread on Allison’s tongue as she bit her cheek.

 

“Come back ’ere, you slut!”

 

The screen door flew open and crashed into the outside wall. The woman bolted from the house. Every nerve in Allison’s body snapped alive. Muscles tensed. The woman stumbled down the first step and then her head cracked back as her ex grabbed a handful of hair. She screamed, pulling her hands to her head. She twisted, falling to her knees, her face contorted, sobbing. In her awkward position, her heel struck the empty beer bottles that had been left on the corner of the concrete step. They scattered onto the dirt with loud chinks.

 

“I’ll show you what I think of ya, stupid bitch. Show you and all a them out there!”

 

“No! Please help me,” she sobbed.

 

The ex stepped from the protection of the covered porch. He looped the woman’s hair around his hand, yanking her this way and that. The woman had nowhere to go. He wasn’t being gentle, making every movement as excruciating as possible. Allison eased from the corner of the house, nerves stretched, wholly focused.

 

“Allison, wait. Move on my order only.” Mike’s voice sounded in her earpiece.

 

“I have a clean shot.” She sighted the target with her gun.

 

“Stand back. No one discharges without my order.”

 

“This is bullshit, Mike,” Allison muttered.

 

“Tell ’em what you did, you dirty slut. Sleeping with me best friend right under me roof. Me own roof.”

 

The target tilted the woman’s head back so that she had no option but to look up at him. He towered over her, placing his skinny, denim-clad legs on either side of her shoulders in a purely dominant stance. He was the hunter and she was the unfortunate prey. It was all about possessions, and she was one of his.

 

“I didn’t. I swear I didn’t,” she whispered.

 

Allison caught the whiff of his potent perspiration and gagged. His bare torso was tattooed almost black. She recognized the local biker gang symbol across his collarbone. There was lean muscle beneath the ink. Power. And he knew it.

 

“Like suckin’ dick? Here you go, slut. Suck this.”

 

His biceps bulged when he tugged her close to his groin. He stepped onto the edge of the step away from the house, a rifle held in his other hand. The clip was off. Loaded and ready. Allison tensed. Nerves tingled. Adrenaline punched. She edged closer, cupping the butt of the carbine into her shoulder. A neat fit.

 

“White. Stand down.”

 

“I can take him. I’m right here.”

 

“White. I said stand down.”

 

Allison took another step. So close now and the target hadn’t even seen her. “He’s got a loaded sniper. Safety’s off.”

 

“Shit. Anderson, back up White. Now. White, if you don’t stand down now I swear…”

 

“Swear all you want, Captain. I’m here and I’m ending this,” Allison whispered on a breath.

 

“White, you’ll be in the middle of a fuck-storm if you don’t stop now!”

 

Allison winced and snatched the earpiece from her ear. She could still hear Mike screaming from the nub hanging off her collar. Another step.

 

“Me own son in the same house while you’re in the next room fucking like an animal. You know what we do to animals? We put ’em down.” He aimed his gun at the woman’s head, finger on the trigger.

 

A scream from inside, a flash of blond hair and the child was hanging off his father’s elbow. “No, Dad. Don’t do it!”

 

The woman screamed, “Run, Jake. Go!”

 

The boy clung to his father, sobbing as the target tried to shake him off. He lost his balance, pulled to the side by the weight of the boy. An explosion as the rifle fired. A wild shot.

 

Allison fired, clipping the target in the arm that held the woman. He was whipped to the side with the force of the bullet, hand disconnecting from the clump of hair as she fell to the ground. In an instant the mother clawed at the boy, trying to yank him toward her.

 

The target grabbed the boy by his arm, wrenching him out of his mother’s reach. He clamped the boy in front of him, blood streaking over the tatts and onto the shoulder of the child. His wild gaze found Allison’s and he pressed the end of the rifle to his son’s temple.

 

White-hot tornado in her head. Allison fired as she ran toward the man, the bullet finding his leg. He jerked, swinging his rifle toward Allison. She threw her gun to the ground, launching herself at the boy.

 

Yelling, screaming. Black-clad figures emerging from nowhere. An explosion. A punch in her chest that plugged her breathing. She covered the boy’s body with her own, kicking the man’s feet out from under him. He toppled backwards. Another discharge. A black-clad figure close to her side smacked to the ground.

 

Her team-members landed on the man, tossing him onto his front. A knee on his back didn’t stop the obscenities from his mouth. She lost the boy from her arms. Didn’t see where he went. Her world whirled around her.

 

A hand on her shoulder. “Allison. You hit?”

 

Her gaze found a teammate’s concerned stare. Her lungs didn’t work. Couldn’t breathe. Gray edged her vision. “Where’s the kid?”

 

“The kid’s okay, White. He’s okay.”

 

She gripped his arm. “You sure?” Used the last of her breath.

 

“He’s with his mother.”

 

Allison let the pain roll through her. The shrill siren of an ambulance. Paramedics at her side. They could do what they had to do to her. She’d take it.

 

The kid was okay.

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