Thursday, June 23, 2011

Featured Author for June 23

Welcome to the Cozy Corner Reading Room!

For more great books, visit The Book Shelf tab above^^^

This week's Featured Author:
Traci Hohenstein, author of
Burn Out 

Read an interview with Traci on the Chair to Chair Page >>>>>>

Lt. Samantha (Sam) Collins, a firefighter, vanishes after a warehouse fire the week before she was to testify at her estranged husband’s trial for drug charges. The only clue to her disappearance is a firefighter helmet that was left behind at the scene.

Rachel Scott founded Florida Omni Search after her own daughter disappeared when she was four. She has worked with law enforcement agencies all over the United States in locating missing people. Sam’s mother calls Rachel for assistance in locating her daughter. However, the search for Sam takes her on a journey that she never expected.

As she digs deeper into Sam’s past, she finds out more about the marijuana operation her husband Ken, a former police officer, was involved with.
In her desperate, terrifying search for Sam, Rachel also discovers clues about her own missing daughter, Mallory.

Will she locate Samantha in time and also find out what happened to her own daughter?

Chapter One
Samantha Collin’s story
Santa Rosa Beach, FL Thursday 6:36 PM

Just breathe. Stay focused. I said the mantra over and over to calm myself. This wasn’t my first fire, but my heart still beat a thousand beats a minute as I made my way through flames so vivid I thought I was in hell.
I crawled along the hallway gripping the fire hose tightly. The
smoke was so thick I couldn’t see past my gloves. I led my crew towards the rear of the building where the victim was last seen.  The angry, orange flames danced up the walls and I could feel the intensity of the heat, even through my protective gear. We should be getting really close. I thought back to what little information dispatch had given us about the fire.
When the call came into the station fifteen minutes earlier, I
thought it would be a small fire. Quick, get in, get out. But this was a doozy. Campbell’s Farmers Market was totally engulfed in flames when we arrived. According to dispatch, the owner’s son was last seen in his office at the warehouse.
I pictured the layout of the market in my head. I’d been to
Campbell’s many times to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for my family.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be crawling on my hands and knees in the dark trying to find my way around.
Moving through the dense smoke, I lead the crew to the office
which was supposed to be straight ahead. My knees ached badly and I desperately wanted to stop and take a break. But I knew every second counted when a person was missing.
At last I found what I thought was the door to the office. I stopped and felt the door before pushing it open. The smoke was not as heavy in here as it was on the main floor. I slowly made my way around the office and motioned to Kevin and Mack, the guys on my crew, to look around the desk. I felt around the floor and found something hard near the back of the door. I called out to Mack and showed him the body.
“Command. Occupant located. We’re heading out. Conditions are worsening,” I spoke into the radio.
Mack and Kevin carried him out while I followed close behind
holding the line. I heard a loud noise and turned around to look. It was hard to see with all of the heavy smoke, but in the distance I saw a sliver of light. What the hell was that?
When we got within a few feet of the front door, I noticed
something was out of place. At first, I thought my eyes were deceiving me. Was that someone standing in the distance?
I needed to get closer to get a better look. It was now or never. I checked to see if the crew and victim were safely outside. When I turned back around, I saw a figure heading towards the rear of the building. I knew it was against protocol, but I made a split second decision to follow. I made my way back through heavy smoke. The air tank suddenly beeped, sending out a signal I was running low.
I could barely make out who it was, but as I got closer I realized the person had firefighter gear on. I quickened my pace, bumping into furniture and equipment trying to catch up. I tripped over something and landed hard on my side. Within a couple of minutes I heard the frantic call through my radio.
“Mayday!” Command called in a desperate tone. “One firefighter unaccounted for. Mayday!”
My last thought was of Bella and Gracie, my sweet little girls,
before the roof collapsed into a fiery crash all around me.

Chapter Two
Miami, FL Monday 8:30 AM

The office for Florida Omni Search was located a block off the beach in Miami. Rachel Scott, the founder of the company, had converted an old souvenir shop into their office.
She walked through the door juggling her briefcase with one hand, and three coffees and a bag of bagels in the other. “Good morning, everyone,” Rachel said with a smile. She dropped everything onto the reception desk.
“Coffee. You’re my savior,” said Janine.
“Good morning, Ms. Scott,” Red Cooper said as he reached into the white bakery bag and pulled out a bagel.
“I forgot to pick up a new coffee maker this weekend. I was too busy doing nothing,” Rachel said.
“I don’t blame you. After the hellish month we’ve had, you
deserved a break,” Janine said.

Janine Jensen was the co-founder of Florida Omni Search and
Rachel’s closest friend. She was a few years older than Rachel and wore her wavy hair shoulder-length. She had a hippie look and favored long skirts with flip-flops year ‘round.
Rachel had been travelling the last month on two back-to-back difficult searches for missing people. It kept her mind busy and her karma bank account full.
“Anything come in over the weekend?” Rachel inquired. She took a sip of her caramel flavored latte, savoring the sweet taste and the hit of caffeine.
Florida Omni Search was a search and rescue company which
specialized in finding missing people. It was a non-profit organization that was manned twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The tollfree hotline was run by volunteers. They took calls from law enforcement agencies and family members requesting assistance in finding missing persons.
“We only had a couple of calls. One was for a runaway teen from Orlando, but she was found safe and sound with her boyfriend. They were found at a hotel about an hour away from home. The other call you may want to look at. A firefighter was reported missing from Santa Rosa Beach,” Red said while looking at the call log.
Red Cooper was her top investigator at Florida Omni Search. His real name was Winston, but he earned the nickname Red during his childhood because of his thick, curly red hair. These days Red was short, beefy and bald. He was also an ex-cop from Miami PD, divorced three times, no kids, and an avid collector of Harley Davidson motorcycles.
He ran Cooper Investigations out of the Florida Omni Search offices and in exchange for free rent, worked on all of Rachel’s cases when she needed assistance. He was a jack of all trades – background checks, surveillance, and sometimes, body guard. Rachel had known Red for a long time and trusted him with her life.
“Santa Rosa Beach is up in the North Florida Panhandle right?
Near Panama City Beach?”
“Yes. It’s about a twelve hour drive from here.”
“Who called it in?” Rachel asked while flipping through the call log. Most calls were routine. Runaway teenagers usually topped the list, followed by adults who were thought to be missing, but turned up a couple days later. Some calls were from law enforcement agencies. It wasn’t uncommon for the FBI or other agencies to request assistance.
She worked with some pretty high profile cases and had sophisticated equipment most agencies didn’t have the budget for.
“This came in from the missing firefighter’s mother. According to her, the daughter was on duty when a call came in for a warehouse fire.
She went into the building with her crew to search for a victim and during the rescue, she disappeared. The roof collapsed and she was presumed dead,” Red told her. “But here is the kicker. Her body was never found.”
“When did this happen?”
“The fire was Thursday evening. The firefighter’s mom, Nora,
called us on Sunday. There is a little more to the story and I think you should hear it from her,” Red said as he handed her the number.
“Here’s to a busy morning!” Janine said, raising her coffee cup.
“Enjoy. I’ll be in my office,” Rachel said.
Rachel’s office was covered with artwork and letters from children of family members she helped find. She found artwork motivated her more than any other motivational poster – like the ones she had in her former real estate office.
She had come a long way from the days when she was a Miami socialite and real estate mogul. Back then, her days were filled with multi-million dollar business deals, nightly parties and shopping. She was always dressed to the nines in outfits such as Dolce and Gabbana, Tori Burch, and Gucci. She had weekly manicures and facials, and visits to the hair salon. It had cost thousands of dollars a month to maintain her lifestyle.
It took the disappearance of her three-year-old daughter Mallory to change all that. The day she vanished was the day Rachel’s life changed forever.

Chapter Three

Rachel replayed the morning Mallory disappeared. Just like she did every day. That day was hectic. The nanny who normally cared for Mallory called in sick. Rachel was trying to close a big real estate deal which involved a commercial piece of property. If it closed successfully she would net a ninety thousand dollar commission. Her husband Rick owned several luxury car dealerships throughout Florida and was on his way out of town.
After breakfast, she quickly got Mallory dressed. Mallory insisted on wearing her princess costume complete with tiara and little highheeled shoes. Everyone always told Rachel that Mallory looked like a miniature Little Mermaid with her long curly red hair and bigger-than life emerald green eyes. It was a beautiful day so she took Mallory outside to play. While Mallory was playing with her dolls on the front lawn, Rachel sat on the porch crunching numbers, trying to find a way to
save the deal.
Mallory kept asking over and over, “Mommy, will you please
come play with me.”
“Baby, Mommy is busy working. In a little while, okay?”
“Please, Mommy. I’ll let you be the princess if you want.” Mallory pleaded.
“In a few minutes, honey. Let me finish this. Okay?”
Mallory poked her lower lip out. “Please?”
She heard her phone ringing inside. “Mallory, I’ll be right back.”
She ran inside to answer it. It was probably Rick calling to say he made it to the airport. She was only gone a couple of minutes. When she came back outside, Mallory was gone.
Frantically she looked everywhere for Mallory. Front yard, inside the house, back yard, garage, and up and down the street. Everywhere.
No Mallory. Her world came crashing down all around her.
That’s all it took. Two minutes and her daughter vanished. No
leads, no witnesses, nothing. It was like she fell off the face of the earth.
Weeks later, when the story got hot and received national attention, all the wacky leads came in. The police followed up on as many as they deemed reasonable. It wasn’t enough for Rachel. Mallory was never found.
She felt the guilt of not spending enough time with Mallory. She cursed herself for not paying attention the morning she was taken.
Rachel’s obsession with finding Mallory took a toll on her marriage.
Rick eventually moved out and their divorce soon followed.
Rachel took all her anger and grief and turned into a positive thing.
She would never stop looking for Mallory, but she realized she had the money and resources to help find other missing people.
After a year of putting together her team – forensic experts,
experienced search and rescue volunteers, and top investigators – she started Florida Omni Search. Now, three years later, she had located over a hundred missing children and adults. She rarely turned down a case and would help just about anyone who needed her. With over 2300 Americans, including children, reported missing every day, how could she not?
Rachel sat down at her desk and picked up a picture of her and Mallory she kept in a silver frame. The picture was taken at Disney World the year Mallory disappeared. They were standing in front of Cinderella’s castle and Rachel was holding Mallory in her arms. Mallory was wearing her pink tutu and was eating an ice cream cone. She had chocolate sauce dripping down her little arm and a huge smile on her face. Rachel had tears in her eyes as she put down the photo. She hardly recognized the woman in the picture. The woman she used to be. The beautiful, well put-together woman with long auburn hair that hung straight and shiny down her back and makeup that was always perfect.
Staring at the picture, she longed to hold Mallory again in her arms. “I will always, always look for you. I will never give up.” She repeated those words every day as she looked at her daughter’s smiling face. She missed her little girl so much it physically hurt.
She wiped away her tears and took a deep breath as she refocused her energy on helping the missing firefighter. She dialed the number on the paper Red gave her, and after several rings, a child answered the phone.
“Hello. This is Rachel. May I speak to Nora?” The phone clunked down with a clatter. After a few seconds, Nora picked up.
“Nora, this is Rachel Scott from Florida Omni Search. I’m
returning your call about Samantha.”
“Oh, Ms. Scott.” Nora cried on the phone. “Thank you so much for calling me back. I’ve seen you on that TV show about missing people. I hope you can help me find my daughter, Samantha. I just know something bad happened to her.”
“I will help you in any way I can, Nora. Why don’t you tell me
what happened?” Rachel leaned back into her chair and listened to Nora’s bizarre story.

Romantic Comedy author of Special Delivery
release date May 1, 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment

Meet our Featured Author and leave a comment or ask a question today!