UPDATE 8/27/20: The NEW cover is finished. The synopsis for the back cover is below. I’ll be sending the manuscript off to my editor in September. In mid-September and October I’ll be posting my book launch ads and presale announcements. The publication is set for November, 2020.
I would like to give credit to the woman who designed this fantastic cover. Art of Donika is the name of her book cover design company. Donika is very talented and pays attention to every detail. She takes the time to make sure the cover design is exactly what the customer wants. Her prices are fair and reasonable. Here is the link to her site. https://www.artofdonika.com/process
Phoenix, Arizona Police Chief Daniel Akumo received a call from Jeff Sooner, owner of the Sooner Campground near the police sub-station asking for assistance. Jimmy Roystat, age 10 and his sister Rhonda, age 7, disobeyed their parents and sneaked off with Jimmy’s new friend Troy Grunell, age 12, to explore an old abandoned gold mine in the adjacent foothills. Apache-born Chief Akumo and his partner Officer Calvin Mauer sped to the cave, fearing the children might encounter dangerous predators that inhabited the vast dark internal labyrinth.
While exploring the tunnels, the children made a discovery resulting in terrifying consequences. Officer Mauer entered the cave to begin the search and met the same fate. Outside, the Chief waited for results of his inquiries to headquarters regarding the children’s fathers and Jeff Sooner’s son. Upon receipt of the information, he hurried into the cave to join his partner only to find they had all vanished, The only evidence that proved they had been there were obviously recent directional arrows pointing back to the entrance crudely scratched low on the walls and Officer Mauer’s cap on the floor of one of the tunnels.
It was now up to the puzzled and deeply concerned Chief Akumo to unscramble the mystery of what happened to the children and his partner.
“Why are the parents afraid their two children disobeyed and sneaked off to explore the old abandoned gold mine in those dangerous foothill caves? Are they sure they’re not just wandering around the campground? Have they checked the playground and the pool area?”
Phoenix Police Chief Danial Akumo leaned forward in his leather swivel armchair. Holding his cell phone to his ear, he listened closely as Jeffrey Sooner, Jr. explained the purpose of the call. As the owner of the nearby Sooner Campground, during seasonal camping, Jeff Sooner had occasion to call the Chief at the substation of the Phoenix, Arizona Police Department. Children or adults lost in the caves, narcotic overdoses, thefts, accidents, and fights were the usual reasons for the calls.
Chief Akumo cringed as a chill came over him. He grimaced and shifted in the chair as his mind flashed back to that fateful day several years before when he received a similar request. Jeff had called, asking for help in the search for three pre-teen boys lost in these same caverns. The Chief, his partner, Officer Calvin Mauer, and a team of volunteers searched the vast dark labyrinth for days before they made their grim discovery.
They found the boys deep in one of the many tunnels. The three pale, stiff bodies were sitting upright on the damp dirt floor, heads leaning together, their backs against the cold, rough-hewn stone wall. They still held hands. Cell phones and flashlights with lifeless batteries lie in their laps. Open dirt-covered Batman, Harry Potter, and Star Trek backpacks lie nearby. Empty plastic water bottles and torn paper wrappers that once held candy bars and assorted snacks littered the floor.
Their open eyes stared vacantly down the passageway as though they still expected someone to appear and rescue them. Any previous attempts to cry out had reverberated through the shafts and faded away days ago. Tee-shirts and jeans on the three lifeless bodies infested with holes and teeth marks served as evidence that rodents and insects had begun their sacrilegious desecration. The stench of decomposing flesh permeated the air.
The sight of those children and the foul telltale scent of death haunted Chief Akumo and Officer Mauer to this day.
Seated at his gray metal desk in the back left corner of the concrete block substation, Chief Akumo tilted his head, placed his elbow on the desktop, and rested his cheek on a fisted hand. Steam and the aroma of freshly brewed morning coffee rose from the dark-blue Police Department mug placed on a coaster in front of him. An open laptop computer occupied space to his right with the police department logo displayed in the center of the otherwise blank screen.
As the police chief listened, his black eyebrows began to bow toward the center of his forehead. Worry creases formed. His expressive black eyes narrowed with growing concern as he sighed out loud.
He cleared his throat and in a deep, gravelly voice with a western drawl, Akumo responded, “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. How old are they, Jeff?” Pause…
“I see. So there are three children, a ten-year-old boy, a twelve-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl. I thought you said the parents told you it was their son and daughter that were missing. Who is the second boy?”
“The other boy is also staying in the campground with his father and uncle. As of now, we don’t know his last name. Mr. Roystat said his son just met the boy last night at the family barbeque. I hope to be able to give you more details about him when you get here.”
“Okay. Understood. So it’s just the three children. They’re alone, right?” Pause…
“As far as Mr. and Mrs. Roystat are aware of, yes, the three children are alone.”
“I see. How long has it been since the parents realized the children were missing and reported to you?” Another brief pause…
As Chief Akumo heard Jeff’s response, he leaned back, drew in a deep breath and blew it out between clenched teeth, producing a faint hissing sound. His lips pursed in anger.
He raised his voice and said, “Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Three kids have been missing for almost three hours, they’re only seven, ten, and twelve years old, and they’re in those dangerous caves all alone? Did I hear you right?”
When Mr. Sooner responded in the affirmative, the Chief sat bolt upright and smacked the palm of his hand on the desktop. The impact caused the mug of hot coffee to jump, slopping some of its contents onto the coaster and desk blotter. The sound reverberated in the quiet room.
Officer Mauer sat behind his desk across from the Chief completing reports on his laptop. Startled, he stopped typing and glanced over at the Chief.
“Okay, Jeff. We’ll grab our gear and head on over right away. See you in about thirty. Bye.”
As Chief Akumo ended the call, Officer Mauer frowned and asked, “What’s up, Chief? Trouble at the Sooner Campground again?”
Akumo reached over and closed his laptop computer as he grunted his response, “Three kids have gone missing. Jeff Sooner and the parents fear they may have gone exploring in the caves. I’ll explain the details in the car on the way there.”
Cal Mauer had been the Chief’s partner long enough to know when not to pursue a more detailed answer to his questions. True to his Apache nature, Chief Akumo was short on words but long on action. Respected by everyone who knew him, he was a serious, composed, no-nonsense officer. Mauer closed down his computer and began to clear his desk.
Daniel Akumo was born of Apache parents and raised on an Apache Indian reservation north of Phoenix. He finished high school in Phoenix and went on to Arizona State University, majoring in law enforcement. After graduation, the Phoenix Police Department recruited him. While he attended the police academy, because of his Apache heritage, everyone called him Chief. The title stayed with him.
He rose to the rank of Chief of Police in charge of the remote substation on State Route 17 between Phoenix to the south and Camp Verde to the north.
Now 35, his high cheekbones, sunken cheeks, broad nose, and bronzed skin reflected his proud native ancestry. His long charcoal black hair fastened in a ponytail hung down his back.
As he bruskly pushed his chair back, Akumo glanced at the silver-framed picture sitting on the left edge of the desk. He sighed. The parents must be out of their minds with worry, he thought as his gaze lingered for a moment on the picture of his wife, two sons, and daughter.
He glanced up at the clock mounted over the front door. It read 11:45. The bright late morning sun shining through the mini-blinds hanging over the large plate-glass windows on either side of the door left an elongated striped pattern on the dark laminated wooden floor. The quietly turning blades of a ceiling fan cast moving shadows on the sand-colored walls. On the back wall hung a large map containing pushpins. The pins marked the locations of the Sooner Campground, ranches, housing complexes, and other pertinent landmarks within the station’s territory that covered a100-mile radius.
He swiveled his chair around, stood, and shoved his cell phone deep into his pants pocket. A large tall man at six foot three, his muscular frame almost filled the space between his desk and the wall behind him. He straightened his dark-blue uniform tie, turned and reached behind to the rack on the wall. The Chief removed the regulation baseball-style cap that bore the Phoenix Police Department logo embroidered on the front. He set it on his head with his large hands and yanked the brim downward.
Akumo turned and removed the belt containing his gun, holster, and other equipment from the rack. He wrapped the belt around his waist, adjusted it, and fastened the buckle then fastened a two-way radio to his shirt’s left shoulder. He reached over to the desk, picked up his laptop computer, and tucked it under his left arm.
Almost as tall as the Chief, Officer Mauer rose from his chair, expanding his lean, tan, and physically fit frame.
Chief Akumo looked over at his partner. “Hey Cal, would you go ‘round back and bring a patrol car to the front door? I’ll join you in a minute. Here, catch”. He picked the car keys off the desk, turned, and tossed them to Cal.
Cal responded, “Sure thing, Chief,” as he reached out and caught the keys midair. He reached over to the rack on the wall behind his desk, grabbed his cap, two-way radio, and the belt with his equipment, and buckled up.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, 32-year-old Calvin Mauer enlisted in the Marines right out of high school and served two two-year tours of duty. After his Honorable Discharge from the service at age 28, he applied to the Phoenix Police Department Academy. After he graduated, his assignment was the sub-station. Officer Mauer had aspirations of moving up the ranks in the main office in Phoenix. However, for now, he enjoyed working for and learning from the experienced and highly regarded Chief Akumo.
Of the many situations the two officers encountered, they dreaded searching for children lost in the caves the most. Each time they prayed this time, it wouldn’t turn out as tragically as did the search for the three boys.
The Chief’s long legs strode past Mauer’s desk. His belt and holster emitted the distinctive squeaky sound of leather. The heels of his black hand-tooled cowboy boots made a clip-clopping sound as he hurried across the room and down the short hallway past the restroom and the interview/conference room to the small break room.
Officer Mauer slid on his regulation sunglasses, walked to the rear door, unlocked it, and entered the area behind. After locking the door behind him, he moved past four unoccupied jail cells (two on either side), a bathroom, and out the rear exit door to the parking lot behind the building.
The sun relentlessly beat down from a cloudless sky. A slight breeze from the northwest wasn’t enough to mitigate the steamy May ninety-degree temperature.
Officer Mauer approached one of the two patrol cars parked near several palm trees that afforded little shade. He opened the driver’s side door, slid in, and shut the door. The heat inside the vehicle was stifling. The leather seats were hot to touch. Cal started the car, buckled his seatbelt, and turned the A/C on high.
Thinking about the missing children and the search ahead, Cal Mauer backed out of the parking space and drove around the building to the small parking lot in front. He parked the patrol car by the front door, leaving the engine running with the A/C on.
Cal leaned his head back against the headrest and placed one arm over closed eyes. As he sat and waited for the Chief, he thought back on the fate of the three boys. He sighed and mumbled, “I pray we’re able to find those kids in time.”
Inside the station, Chief Akumo entered the break room and switched off the electric coffee pot and overhead lights. He turned and hastened to the wall next to the front door, adjusted the A/C thermostat, and set the security system alarm. He turned off the ceiling lights and went out the front door, locking it behind him.
Chief Akumo and Officer Mauer’s concerns included the unspoken fear that if the children were in the caves, they might encounter predators more dangerous than nature’s.
I hope you enjoyed the Prologue. Be sure to check out the Schedule of Future Posts and Past Articles for publication news.
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