What does it take to survive when the Triad wants you dead?
Zoey McFarland’s massage therapy business is thriving on referrals from local physicians. So when a new spa offering massage opens nearby, she isn’t concerned—until she sees a young girl crying outside the place.
Investigating the girl’s plight, Zoey uncovers an evil hiding in plain sight. But city officials won’t believe a human trafficking ring exists in their town, and law enforcement accuses her of trying to eliminate competition.
Then, taken by the ring and immersed in the very nightmare she’s fighting, Zoey discovers the true fate of the victims is more sinister than anyone imagined.
Can Zoey pierce the veil between good and evil, and find a way to survive?
This novel of hope and courage is inspired by true events.
Targeted Age Group:: trade (adult)
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This is based on the true story of helping law enforcement close a human trafficking ring. It opened in my small town and operated in plain sight, but no one recognized it. I hope my story will help people recognize what to look for to shut down these rings that are operating all across the country.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters are based on real people. However, they have been fictionalized and given different names so as not to be recognizable.
Biting cold air and darkness surrounded her. Zoey remained still, eyes closed. Lying on her side, she inhaled deeply, preparing for what she was about to open her eyes to. The beat of her heart escalated. Silently demanding her eyes to open, she cautiously lifted her lids.
It took a moment to come to center. Her heart rate was now palpable. The cold metal container felt like ice. Was this a coffin?
Confusion battled with the feeling of impending doom. She struggled to stay calm, deliberately inhaling and blinking to clear her thoughts. Her vision seemed as cloudy as her brain.
Burning numbness in her neck and shoulders demanded a change of position. The container was too slender. No room to bring her knees up to her waist or arms down from above her head. Panic crept in as she twisted her bound wrists and ankles. The plastic zip ties restraining her threatened to flay her skin with every protest.
What’s happening to me? Terror took root in her stomach and grew into her chest.
Convulsive sobs pushed up in waves, choking her throat, strangling her. She had to get out.
“Focus; your life depends on it.” The whisper in her head wasn’t a voice but a profound awareness. Zoey clung to it, her only chance.
She concentrated her attention on the tears tracking down her cold face, the only warmth in the frigid space. She clenched her teeth to choke back the sobs. Making it out of this alive depended on regaining her composure. She closed her eyes. Slow, deep breaths. An attempt to slow her heart, which seemed to echo in the confines of the small metal box.
“Focus. Take stock.” The prompt came from deep within. She did as it asked.
Her joints and muscles ached, stiff with cold and cramped from immobility; but nothing was broken or sprained. All her senses worked.
She forced herself to breathe quietly and listen. Indistinct sounds rushed in.
Zoey strained. A chime. Like the ones on convenience store doors. The box shook slightly. Clicks—someone removing or replacing a gas cap. The pulse of gas pumping through a hose and into a tank.
She must be in a vehicle. But whose? Where were they taking her? What did they want?
A slight squeak as the sound of a car door unhinged, then latched shut, cleared her head instantly. This was real.
Her body trembled, lightly at first, then shaking uncontrollably. February in Texas was bitter and cold, yet sweat soaked her body.
Zoey was able to bow her head a bit, resting her forehead against the box. The chill of the metal calmed her nerves. Her head spun as if keeping time with her heart. Grateful for the slats in the metal coffin, she continued to focus on breathing. Silently a prayer reached her thoughts.
Please God, help me. Biting her lip, she fought the urge to break down. Her gut told her she would have to endure a lot more before this was over. The hum of the engine fluctuated. Where was she going? Who was she with?
“Focus.” Images floated in and out of her consciousness. She deepened her breath. Her memory didn’t cooperate; the images wouldn’t settle into recognition.
“What’s happening now?” The pace of the vehicle had steadied. They must be on the highway. Nothing to hear but the rumble of the motor.
When she breathed through her nose, the scent of tomato sauce and pepperoni tickled her nostrils. A pizza delivery truck? Nothing made sense.
A whiff of motor oil drifted in, adding more questions. Where was it coming from? There—small slats, like the ones in piggy banks, near the edges of the box. She angled her head to peer out of one.
Darkness limited her vision, but squinting she made out the item closest to her. A circular saw.
Her breath chugged as if to force the saw further away. Would that be her fate? Panic again ignited within her and she squirmed in terror.
“Focus.” The fabric of her clothing brought awareness. The soft cotton of the gray polo shirt and matching yoga pants provided an ounce of comfort. Her work clothes. She’d been at the studio. Zoey chased her thoughts back to the last thing she could remember. Images of her office darted by. She wrinkled her forehead, opening her eyes wider to clear the haze.
Start at the beginning. This morning. She and her office neighbor usually met first thing to compare notes of the activities at the office complex. Yes, I saw Kitty. She’d definitely been at the studio. So who was the last client she’d seen?
Her thoughts began to drift as a wave of exhaustion encompassed her. Her eyelids drooped and she couldn’t push them up again. Did somebody drug me? Almost certainly, gauging by this uncontrollable urge to sleep. Awareness faded.
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