A New Game Excerpt

Chapter 1

The Introduction

“Oh crap, it’s six o’clock already?”  Detective Lucinda Mackey groaned and then rolled over to hit the snooze button on her alarm clock.

“Five more minutes is all I need.”  She was tired, and her body ached.  Yesterday had been a rough day, much more than usual because she had finally gathered enough evidence to bust the group running the mobile meth labs in the area.

They had gone in silent, to use the element of surprise, but while getting in position around the RV, a dog had alerted the suspects of their presence, and all hell broke out.  One of the suspects had decided to run as the other three stayed behind and began to fire on the approaching officers.  Mac, as she preferred to be called, noticed one of them escaping out the back door, and gave chase.

He had a good start on her but got himself tangled up in some barbwire when he tried to climb over a fence.  As she caught up to him, she saw him thrashing around and howling like a wounded animal trapped in the sharp, torturous wire.  He was frantically rolling on the ground and fighting to get free, but this only caused the wire to cut into him deeper with each movement.

Mac knew if did not stop thrashing about, he would seriously injure himself.  Always known for doing things her way, Mac sometimes found herself in trouble, but she knew she had to act fast to keep him from further injury.

She took the club off her belt and hit the man on the back of the head, knocking him unconscious.  “Hold still while I get you free, dumb-ass!”

As the man lay unconscious, she loosened the barbwire and gently pulled it away from his bloodied body.  It amazed her how badly he was cut up, but none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.  She was about to put the cuffs on him when he suddenly rolled over and hit her squarely in the jaw.

“Get off of me, bitch!”  He yelled, fighting to get on his feet.

Mac reacted immediately and pinned him in a chokehold.  She was able to get a handcuff on one wrist then she twisted his other arm to get the second one locked in place.  “Shut up asshole!  You messed with the wrong bitch today!  Now sit there, and behave yourself!”

“Mac, are you all right?”  Officer Jay Ramirez yelled as he ran up to the scene.

“Yeah, I’m all right.  Nothing I couldn’t handle.  He wasn’t as tough as he thought he was.”  She stood and brushed the dirt off her clothes.  “Are the others secured?”

“Two are, but the third one is dead.  Boy, this one looks like a pit bull chewed on him.  I guess no one ever told him to leave barbwire alone,” Jay laughed.

Jay looked at the chunks of meat hanging from the wounds all over the arrestee’s body and shook his head at how foolish people could be.

“Come on; let’s get you to the hospital, and once they get you put back together, you’ll get to have a little visit with the judge.”  Jay reached down and helped the man to his feet.

“Good job, Detective.  I sure wouldn’t want ever to piss you off.”  His words floated on the air, as he led the bloodied and battered man back to the others gathered by the RV.

Mac looked around on the ground to make sure nothing had fallen out of the man’s pockets, and once she was sure the area was clean, she rejoined the group.

***

Mac groaned when she heard the alarm on her clock.  Shit, it’s six o’clock already.

She turned off the alarm and then sat up on the edge of the bed.

“Damn, my jaw is sore.  I should have hit the bastard harder,” she laughed to herself.  “Well, I guess I cannot put it off any longer.”

She walked to the bathroom and turned on the water in the shower to let it get warm.

While she waited, she noticed the bruise on her face in the mirror.  “Damn, that looks like crap.  No wonder it hurts.”

She knew that no amount of makeup would ever be able to cover the large, dark bruise on her swollen jaw.

“Oh well, I’ve had worse,” she snickered as she stepped into the shower with the warm and inviting water.

Mac knew the people at the Department would have something to say about her new look, so she was not looking forward to all the jokes and smart-ass comments.  “Well, no sense in delaying the inevitable.”

***

Once Mac had parked in her parking space at the Department, she looked at the bruise on her jaw in the rear view mirror.  “Shit, it’s worse in this light.”

She had left home early with the plan to work out in the weight room before hitting the paperwork stacked on her desk.  After her little altercation, she hoped some exercise would help relieve the tightness in her muscles.

Mac had always enjoyed an early workout in the weight room at the Department.  Usually, no one was using it that time of the morning, so she could do her routine without being bothered.  She walked straight to the weight room, doing her best to avoid eye contact with anyone.  The last thing, she wanted to hear, were comments on her appearance.  Unfortunately, you do not always get what you want.

“Holy crap, what happened to your face?”  Officer Jake Preston cried out when she walked into the room.

“I heard you had some trouble yesterday, but damn.”  He rubbed his chin, as though trying to ease an imagined pain.

Mac ignored the question, as she walked to the treadmill and set her duffel bag down on the chair beside it.  All, she wanted to do, was to work off her sore muscles and bruised ego.  It had been difficult for her to gain the respect of her fellow officers, but after eleven years of service, she had finally achieved her goal.

Mac climbed on the treadmill, adjusted the digital settings and pushed the start button…nothing happened.  “Come on, did someone break the damn treadmill?”

“No, it worked fine a little while ago,” Jake, laughed as he added more weights to his machine.

Mac reset the machine and pushed the start button again, but what appeared across the digital screen took her by surprise.  You have been chosen for The Game.

“What the hell?  Okay, you got me.  What game was I chosen for?”

“What did you say?  You’ve been chosen for a game?  Where did you hear that?”

“I’m talking about this damn message on the treadmill.”  She looked back to the screen, but it had disappeared.

“It was right there!”  Mac stared at the screen dumbfounded when a new message appeared on the screen.  Enjoy your workout, as we have much to do.

Mac reached for her cell phone hoping to get a picture of the message, but when she turned back to the screen, it was gone.

“What is going on here?  Who’s making those messages appear on the treadmill screen?”  Mac was in no mood for jokes this morning.

Jake walked to the treadmill and looked at the screen.

“I don’t see any message.  Maybe that guy hit you harder than you thought?” he laughed and then realized his mistake.

Mac shot him a disapproving look.  “No, you have to push the start button first,” she reached for the button again.

“Watch this,” but as soon as she hits the red button the treadmill jumped to a start, causing her to lose her balance and fall to the floor.  “Damn it!”

“Mac, are you all right?  Here let me help…”  Jake reached for her, but she brushed his hand away.

“I can get up myself!”  Mac stood and looked at the screen again, but everything was as it was supposed to be.

“That doesn’t make any sense; I know what I saw!  It said I was chosen for some sort of game, and I should enjoy my workout because I had something to do!  It was there, I swear it was!”

Jake was not sure what to say, as he looked at the screen again.

“I’m sorry Mac, but there isn’t any message on here.  Maybe you need to go home and get some rest,” he held his breath and waited for the reaction he knew would come next.

“I don’t need to go home because I’m just fine!  I have no idea how they did it, but someone is screwing with me.  They may be laughing now, but you can bet your sweet ass they won’t once I find out who it is!”

Mac never enjoyed being the target of someone’s sick joke, and she had full intention of making him or her pay.  She stepped back up on the still-running treadmill and increased the speed without saying another word.

Jake took this as a sign she was through with him, so he walked back to the weights and restarted his workout in silence.

***

The sweat was pouring off Mac when she stepped off the treadmill and reached for her bottle of water.  She was the only one left in the room now because Jake had finished his workout and left.

She placed her duffle bag on the floor and sat down to relax a moment.  What was that all about?  I know what I saw, but how did they do it?  “Crap, it’s getting late,” she moaned.

She grabbed her bag and walked into the shower room to clean up, but as she stood with the water flowing down her body, a thought flowed into her mind.  What if it wasn’t a joke?

***

The call came into the police station of a five-year-old boy who was missing from his backyard.  The frantic mother said he had been playing with the family dog when she heard the dog whimper as though he was in pain.  She said she had looked out the window to see the dog lying in the yard, and the back gate wide open.

The mother said she had run outside immediately and called to her son, but he never responded, and none of her neighbors had seen him leave the yard.

“I can’t find him anywhere!  He has never done anything like this before, and he knows not to leave the yard.  Besides, Rex is dead!  I cannot tell you how, but he is dead.  Rex would never have let someone take Joey!”

When Mac pulled up in front of the house, there was a large group gathered around an officer taking statements.  When she walked to the group an older man came up to her, “You will find him, won’t you?”

“Thank you for your concern.  I can assure you we will do everything we can to find him.”  Mac knew they wanted answers, but she needed some answers first.

“You can handle this one; I need to go talk to the mother,” Mac nodded to the officer then walked toward the front door.

***

“I told you I have no idea what happened!  Joey was playing in the yard, then suddenly he was gone, and the dog was dead!” Cheryl Afton sat on the couch, hugging Joey’s pillow to her chest.

Mac estimated her to be in her late twenties, but the worried look on her face made her seem much older.  “Is my husband here yet?  I called him at work, so he ought to be here by now.”

“No, Mrs. Afton, he isn’t here yet, but as soon as he arrives, we’ll make sure he comes in.”

Mac walked into the living room and sat in the chair next to the couch.  “My name is Detective Mackey, and I’m here to figure out what happened to your son,” her voice was calm and reassuring.

“I know you’re tired of repeating yourself, but it’s important that we have every detail.  It’s the only way we can find your son and get him home to you,” Mac smiled.

“I need to get into my house!  It’s my son that’s missing…let me go!”  The front screen door swung open, and in ran an obviously upset man.

“Cheryl, where is he?  Where’s Joey?” Brian Afton rushed to the couch and grabbed his wife, holding her tightly in his arms.

“I don’t know; he just vanished.  He was in the back yard playing with Rex when I heard Rex whimper and cried out as if he was in pain.  I rushed outside to see what had happened, but Joey was gone.  Oh, my God, someone killed Rex and took Joey!  I tried to find him, but he’s gone!”  She sobbed uncontrollably on her husband’s shoulder.

Mac looked at Brian.  “Mr. Afton, I’m going to the backyard and have a look.  Your wife needs a few moments to compose herself before she can answer any more questions.  I know this is a difficult time for you both, but I promise we will do everything in our power to find your son and bring him home safely.”

Mac felt horrible.  She knew if they did not find the boy soon; it decreased the chance of returning him home unharmed were slim.  She walked out to the backyard and over to where the dog was lying.

“Has anyone figured out what killed the dog?”

Mac put on a pair of gloves and knelt down for a closer look.  “Damn it, what a shame.  It sure was a beautiful golden lab.”

She reached down and stroked his silky coat, “Ouch, what is that?”

She pulled her hand back and checked her finger for blood.  “Can I have a pair of tweezers over here, and an evidence bag?”

One of the investigators brought the items to her.  “Okay, let’s see what we have here.”

She gently moved the dog’s hair out of the way and found a small tip of something hard sticking out of the dog’s skin.  She grasped the tip of the object with her tweezers and slowly pulled it out.

“What is it?” the investigator asked as he strained to see the small object.

“Well, I’ll be damned!  It looks like the tip of a dart from an air gun.  I bet tests will show this is what killed the dog.”

She carefully placed the tip into the evidence bag, and then tightly sealed it for the trip back to the lab.

“It must have been some powerful shit to take down a dog of this size so quickly.”  No sooner had the words left her mouth than a new terrifying thought came to her.  Oh God, did they use the same thing on the boy to keep him from crying out?

“Detective Mackey, are you okay?” Officer Ed Taylor walked over to see what was going on then leaned down to get a closer look.

“Yeah, I’m okay.  Has anyone arranged to have the dog picked up yet?  We need to find out what was on that tip I pulled out of him.”

She handed the tweezers back to the investigator.  “Tag this, and add it to the rest of the evidence.”

“I’ll do that now,” he took the bag and walked away.

“Are you thinking that he used the same stuff on the kid?”  Ed was worried.  The idea someone would use a poisonous dart to kill a dog simply to get a child out of the yard without alerting anyone was unsettling.

Mac had the same feeling.  She glanced around the rest of the yard, trying to see if anything was out of place.

“If the dog was killed first then why didn’t the boy cry out, and alert his mother?  She said she heard the dog whimper, and then cry out, but she never said she heard the boy.  Was he still in the yard when the dog was killed, but then why didn’t the dog alert the mother of a stranger?”  Mac walked to the gate and checked for anything out of place, but everything appeared to be fine.

She decided to dust the latch for fingerprints, even though she was sure it would be a waste of time.  The only prints she found appeared to be old and worn, but she took them regardless.  This does not look good at allI sure hope someone comes forward with some information soon.

***

On the drive back to the station, Mac wondered if they would find the boy.  She had gone back into the house to question Mrs. Afton, but she had nothing more to add.  “He was only out there for a short time.  I don’t understand how this happened!”

The whole thing gave Mac a bad feeling.

“That dog ought to have barked if a stranger opened the gate, unless…” a new sense of excitement surged through her.  She parked her car and rushed to her desk.

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